17 December 2010
BUSINESS & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
JISC TechDis promotes inclusive practice relating to the use of technology across a number of sectors. The Service’s resources are already being used extensively to enhance business and community engagement and examples of these include Xerte, an award winning open source content creation tool and In-Folio, a uniquely accessible e-portfolio application.
JISC TechDis - Open for Business By Caroline Ingram
JISC TechDis is the leading UK advisory service on inclusion and supports the education sector in achieving greater accessibility by stimulating innovation and providing expert advice and guidance on disability and technology. JISC TechDis promotes a culture of inclusive practice through engagement with senior managers and specialist staff. The Service supports research programmes and stimulates innovation in the development of sustainable resources, materials and tools, with the aim of ensuring an accessible and inclusive experience for students and staff. The challenge for BCE JISC TechDis is helping learning providers bring a fresh approach to the use of technologies within business and community engagement activities, particularly in the support of social inclusion as the move towards ‘Digital Britain’ gathers pace. Working with the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) and other organisations is crucial to ensuring that the resources from JISC TechDis, including the Acumen website, an online toolkit to help SMEs, are available to organisations that contribute to the UK economy. Within the FE & Skills sector, work based learning has become
a hot topic and JISC TechDis has re-contextualised staff development materials for national programmes and, by working with the JISC Regional Support Centres (RSCs), has delivered many staff development sessions and provided resources which are ideal within the employer engagement arena. The Service works extensively with partners such as the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and works closely with the RSCs to enable better support for organisations delivering training and work related learning across the UK. JISC TechDis has a suite of universal productivity tools and techniques that are freely available to access.
The team came across Xerte as a result of JISC TechDis input to the Advanced E-Guides training sessions run through NIACE and realised that it could help them to overcome many of the issues they faced. They also saw the potential for accessibility enhancements through using Xerte, as they found a series of very useful tools embedded within the program to help their learners. This inclusivity, together with the ease of use of Xerte for learners, was something that appealed to them so they made the decision to invest in Xerte; as Jane Carter Dunn, an eLearning Development Officer, reported, “I think Xerte is a really brilliant tool, I would definitely recommend it. I can see that over the next year this will really take off, and we have everything in place in terms of building skills.”
Facilitating Engagement The Adult Education Service in Gloucestershire has utilised Xerte, an Open Source content creation tool created by Nottingham University in partnership with JISC TechDis, to enhance its resources and access to learning materials for both learners and staff. The Adult Education team has used Xerte to develop a resource that is already realising great educational benefits for their learners.
Adult Education in Gloucestershire sought advice from the JISC Regional Support Centre South West, which supplied a USB stick containing Xerte and Moodle, which it used to create its learning resources. They also had help from the JISC TechDis website, which has useful toolkits and a range of help materials for Xerte.
BUSINESS & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT 17 December
individually they have created a resource that is continually being “The response from tutors has built on to help their staff. been excellent. When they see the Henshaws College, an Xerte resources that have been independent specialist college in created they are really excited and Harrogate, is using In-Folio with can clearly see the benefits”, work based learners to help them Amanda Cooper, Tutor and Trainer. manage their personal records Some of the positive examples whilst on work placement. In-Folio is of how Adult Education in an accessible e-portfolio application Gloucestershire is using Xerte developed especially for use by and include a genealogy object, which with learners with learning has a timeline of generations of difficulties and disabilities. In-Folio family members and dates of birth. was created and developed by the This activity involves the learner Rix Centre in East London for JISC trying to work out which family TechDis with the UK's leading members belong to a certain section specialist colleges. of the timeline. In doing so, the John Mitchell, Skills for Life tutor learner can 'drag and drop' the at Henshaws College, first became family members into the timeline. familiar with In-Folio during a pilot When they complete the timeline it project when they hosted a ‘roll out’ will tell them how many are correct event for JISC Techdis and or incorrect and the learner can rediscovered a useful template start the activity. function in the application that lent In order to help their staff with itself to how it could be used with creating Xerte objects, JISC students. In-Folio could be TechDis run ‘Xerte Fridays’, a series structured around tabs, which of online sessions to allow users to include details on work experience, further explore the online Xerte mapped against the College’s toolkits. The Adult Education team ‘Transition Passport’, a paper based has delivered face-to-face training record containing important themselves and also created a information relevant for when the Xerte course area on Moodle for student leaves Henshaws and staff to use. This has had great moves on. John comments, “The benefits for them, rather than students have really embraced Inanswering the questions or issues Continued...
Folio and gone with it. They have the satisfaction of being able to do things for themselves and we hope it will become a lifelong learning showcase.” In-Folio allows learners to arrange their own images and video clips along with their other materials, documents, drawings and so on. It allows tutors and support colleagues to upload materials which they can allocate to groups and classes. InFolio is now in the second stage of being piloted at the college which involves portfolio building and working with the Vocational Department to incorporate student work placement diaries. http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk
A case study highlighting just some of the ways JISC TechDis can support the Business and Community Engagement community across further and...