Figure 1 Map of Scotland showing locations of colleges and research institutions
Figure 1 Map of Scotland showing locations of colleges and research institutions

The University of the Highlands and Islands is a federation of 13 colleges and research institutions in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland delivering higher education to students within and beyond the region.  The University’s Educational Development Unit (EDU) designs and develops digital learning materials for teaching staff to use with their students.   This is achieved through collaborative short-term projects which bring together subject experts – usually teaching staff, employers and sector representatives and specialists from within the EDU team.  Together these teams produce digital learning resources which contribute to the provision of high quality student learning experiences in a diverse and distributed environment.

To date over 500 digital learning resources (ranging from 1 – 12 hours of learning) have been created.  Teachers use these learning resources in the classroom, virtual learning environment, virtual classrooms including web and video conferencing.

Essential Student Skills

The University of the Highlands and Islands identified a need for students to be better prepared for learning in an online or blended environment – a key aspect of study at the university. Research undertaken within the university highlighted that effective induction is key to successful learning and aids student retention and achievement. The Educational Development Unit (EDU) worked with key staff from across the university’s partner colleges to produce a portfolio of high quality induction resources that could be used throughout the partnership.

The resources are generic in order to be applicable to students on all courses. This flexible model allows students to become familiar with the resources and return to them as often as required throughout their studies with the university. The key outputs from the project was a portal to enable a single point of access to the resources (http://induction.uhi.ac.uk/).  The easily accessible web portal currently contains over 40 topics ranging from using university technologies to referencing and plagiarism to enhancing your employment prospects.  A set of guidance notes has been created for staff on how the resources could be used to best effect.  The design of the content is easily accessible and updatable.

To date the resources have received acclaim within and outwith the university winning the University of the Highlands and Islands Student Support Initiative 2015 and being nominated for the Guardian University Awards 2015.

eTextbook Institutional Publishing Service (eTIPS)

eTIPS is a three year Jisc funded collaborative project between the Educational Development Unit (EDU) of the University of the Highlands and Islands, Lews Castle College UHI, and also colleagues at Edinburgh Napier University. The objective of the project is to investigate the development of the university as a publication service for etextbooks by answering the question:

 

 “Will the institution as e-textbook creator help students by providing a more affordable higher education, and promote a better, more sustainable information environment for libraries, students and faculty?”

bookThe project will publish two etextbooks; “How to write a research dissertation” and a second book titled “Undertaking your research project.” Also created was a complementary website, based on the Creative Commons licence, with open access resources and activities to link to the books, supporting further learning and the formation of a community of learning (http://www.etextbooks.ac.uk/dissertation/).  A strand of research evaluating the impact of the etextbooks will run throughout the project.

 

In parallel, etextbook initiatives are being researched at the universities of London, Nottingham, and Liverpool and the four projects will share technical and pedagogical options for etextbook production for the benefit of the UK higher education sector as a whole.