The Beginnings of an Online Distance Learning “Manifesto”!

A few weeks ago I was asked to contribute to a discussion which sought to classify how the University of Derby should approach its online distance learning provision in an ‘ideal world’, and whether or not we could align this approach with a wider ethos. Speculating about what an ‘ideal’ distance learning module should comprise of, I began to systematically work through what I deemed to be the best bits of innovative content on our VLE, hoping to be able to formulate the bare bones of what I will pretentiously call a manifesto.

From a learning technologist perspective I’m particularly interested in whether or not this manifesto can potentially define a set of principles to support tutors in uniformly structuring their content, and in-turn influence how that content is delivered to students. A threshold standard designed principally for our online provision, if you like.

Having never lived in anything resembling an ideal or perfect world, the seven points below were as far as I got with said manifesto, but if anybody in the blogosphere has any thoughts about how I can improve or build upon these points then I’d love to hear from you.

So, without further ado.

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Threshold Standards Staff Development

Threshold Standards Screen GrabThis week the Learning Technology team started to roll out a staff development programme to support tutors through the process of making sure they are meeting the university’s recently introduced threshold standards. From September 2011 these standards aim to ensure a degree of uniformity of student experience across modules, based on existing good practice of student usability.

To make sure that you, as tutors, are fully supported, we have a variety of staff development resources on offer, all of which can be accessed by visiting For the first time ever, the Learning Technology team are also introducing virtual support through Wimba Classroom, ensuring that even if you aren’t available to meet us face-to-face we can take you through the finer points of the threshold standards remotely.

We recognise that many of you will already be meeting and exceeding the threshold standards and because of this we would like to reiterate that we are very much continuing  to encourage and support additional module development and further adoption of Technology Enhanced Learning. To formalise this support we are introducing four new strands of“continuing improvement”. These strands are:

  • Improving student induction
  • Improving active learning
  • Improving learning content
  • Improving assessment and feedback

If you feel that you are comfortable with the threshold standards then we would very much like to engage with you around these four broad strands of continuing improvement. As such, we are in the process of setting up staff development sessions and other additional support resources which will guide you through these strands on your own terms.

As ever, if you have any questions about these standards or strands of improvement (or anything TEL related for that matter!) then pop down to B111 and talk to us directly and we’ll happily provide bespoke staff development sessions for you and/or your team.