CELE stands for ‘Centre of Excellence in Learning Enhancement’ at Coventry University. This is where I visited Andi Brooks and three of his friendly colleagues on 3 May 2012. It was good to be in a room where learning technologists have room (and I do not mean the physical space alone!) to develop, explore and research technologies which can be beneficial for the learning and teaching process, as well as creating artefacts. Andi and I talked about a whole variety of software packages to create visually attractive multimedia applications. Currently he is trialling 3D, the open source tool Blender. Of course, he uses an iMac for his development work. He's got a PC on his desk as well, but the layer of dust on it makes it rather unlikely that it's being used much. (Will we ever have an iMac in the LT department here at HLS in Brookes?)
It's not all about 'playing', there are real projects in the pipeline, for 'real' customers. But the focus is definitely on development as opposed to servicing. There are a couple of other learning technologists in the faculty, whose job it is to look after the VLE, and they also support lecturers in all things learning technology related.
Andi and I discussed previous projects, where he identified free and easy to use software to develop case studies and scenarios - packages like Muvizu (animation software), SketchUp (3D modelling software) in combination with 3D warehouse, as well as Poser (3D character animation). When deciding on the tools it's always a matter of combining them in whatever way is practical and brings good results, and often appeal (3D or 2D?) has to be weighed against feasibility. A huge factor are always time constraints, of course. In this context, the limited choice offered by free packages, especially with regard to characters, makes them unsuitable for healthcare scenarios (example: Muvizu), and finding work-arounds is exactly what can be so time-consuming. Additionally, different platforms have to be taken into account, hence some energy also goes into exploring and working with jquery mobile.
Examples of products Andi worked on are listed in the CiPEL Learning Object Catalogue, look for example for a title called "The Street", a collection of family scenarios suited to explore inequality issues within interprofessional learning in health care.
Complementary role share
What struck me during my visit was how useful it is when members of a team can take on different roles while working on a project. This kind of complementary expertise is for example shared between Andi and his colleague Sean Graham. Sean is strong in coding, while Andi's focus is on digital filming and visuals, but in fact they both are also good in each others specialities!
Some resulting thoughts and questions
For potential future developments, I would like to put a strong emphasis on visuals, to attract users. How does time investment come into this? How can this be sustainable? How about using tools literally (almost) everyone can work with, like for example Articulate Studio? This can make things look rather streamlined - boring? Using templates is in principle good, and increases consistency. But variety is also necessary to keep learners awake. How to achieve a good balance?
Last but not least
Where should the learning technologist (or DMELD) role tend towards: Servicing or creation? What's better from the student perspective?
And very very last, my very own little bit of jealousy again. (Before reading on please note: I don't care if this sounds like plugging a specific product!) Andi introduced me to ibooks author. Used to create beautiful multi-touch books for iPad. That's something I'd like to try, definitely!