D. Nielsen1, A. White2, L. Zhou1

1The University of Greenwich (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Middlesex University (UNITED KINGDOM)
Many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) use a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to facilitate the teaching and learning process. Over time, the supported VLE will become “dated” and a newer and more versatile replacement will have to be implemented. Before this happens, a chain of events within the implementation plan will include training of end users such as the teaching staff (also referred to as lecturers), the school administrators and various other categories of support staff that are required to interact or use the system.

The University of Greenwich is currently undergoing such a change process where teaching staff are being trained. This work discusses and analyses the experience of teaching the teachers. To prepare for widespread adoption of the new VLE, management mandate, various marketing, education and constructivist training strategies are employed within a specific timeframe to ensure readiness by the time the VLE goes live. The HEI implementers in charge of end user training will have to determine who and at what stage they should be included in this part of the process. The end user lecturers comprised of local full time and part time staff, and affiliate staff coming from Further Education Partners such as local and overseas Partner Colleges.

Management mandates identify high level needs, teams of trainers and the “minimum” scope and body of knowledge required (that includes the conscientious weaving of pedagogy into the course development). They also determine the high level structure of group training, information dissemination approaches and the minimum development and use of the course site in the new VLE. Periodic marketing involves widespread publicity and up to date accessibility of information through a range of channels. Education creates awareness, encourages collaborations, group collaborative learning and helps draw lecturers in to embrace the new capabilities of the VLE. Strategic and creative design of the training sessions which target specific “peer champions” and clusters of interest groups with a shared focus can help create a second wave of trainees. Additional provision of support online resources assists the trained lecturers in developing self-learning strategies, recall and reinforcement of knowledge.

The challenges for the HEI training implementation team lies in ensuring that all lecturers are included in the process, develop the required technical skills and awareness, and can potentially, sufficiently, maximise the use of the new VLE. The management mandate articulates the need for the VLE platform to support lecturers in their course site development and preparations and later on, in their teaching and learning activities to encourage student engagement.

The success rates and uptake of the training sessions and extent of the usage and adoption of the VLE are determined by various factors, some of which are not obvious from the beginning. Lessons learnt from the early training sessions provided the opportunities for revisions and improvements to the later training sessions to further engage the lecturer learners and assist them in their subsequent tasks.