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Impact Activities: Case studies

Project impacts: Across the lifecourse | Improving outcomes | Improving practice | Developing dialogue | Informing policy
Programme impacts: Public debate | Principles into practice | Westminster showcase | Electronic resources | Widening participation

 

TLRP Website and Electronic Resources

Comprehensive resources

The TLRP has developed an extensive electronic infrastructure and a wide range of resources designed to support the work of networks, projects and individual researchers. The TLRP website, developed over the lifetime of the Programme, includes news; details of the Programme, of its management, strategies, and investments; details and outputs of all events; all Programme outputs; thematic resources; user and capacity building resources and tools; access to tools for collaboration and communication and to bibliographical tools; and a network of hyperlinks and cross-references mapping the wider context of teaching and learning research, policy, and practice.

The news feature on the website serves as a diary of the main notable points from the years 2000 to 2009. Images and short headlines are used to make the news section easy to browse and more in-depth information is provided via hyperlinks within news stories. RSS Feeds enabled syndication of news, publication lists and content from projects within and beyond the Programme.

The D-Space digital repository contains all publication outputs of the TLRP, including those from projects, thematic groups and research training fellowships. It also contains programme-wide publications such as reports, research briefings and press releases.

The project database enables users to search for TLRP projects and investments by sector and by funding phase, and gives them access to project summaries, up-to-date catalogue and/or repository of all project outputs, including full reports, and links to project websites.

The user and audience-specific pages provide targeted information, detailed thematically-organised practitioner applications, and support for the engagement of users in different roles throughout all stages of research (and beyond), from design to transformation of findings for practice and policy.

Extensive usage

In the period 01/04/07 to 31/05/09 the website received a total of 20,313,259 hits. Total downloads of TLRP Commentaries now exceeds 750,000 and is growing by over 20,000 per month.

Interactive technologies

The website and electronic infrastructure reflect the general development of the Web, over the lifetime of the TLRP, from a flat data source to a more dynamic interactive environment, using Web 2.0 technologies. Web 2.0 technologies are not purely “broadcast”-oriented, but interactive and aimed at social participation. Various types of “social software” make possible user-generated and shared content and collaboration between users. With these technologies, play, expression, personal reflection, and exploration become “socialised” (see TLRP commentary “Education 2.0?” , p. 8) .

The VRE (Virtual Research Environment), developed within the TLRP and now maintained by BERA, is one example of how such technologies were incorporated and adapted by the Programme. It has been used by TLRP research projects for project management and communication and as part of innovative designs allowing recurrent online engagement of participants. In addition, it has been used, for example, by seminar series convenors and contributors to allow communication between events; by small groups of researchers to enable collaborative work and the sharing of research resources and working documents; by training networks as virtual learning environment; and by communities of enquiry to support agenda-setting, discussion, collaborative writing, analysis and engagement of research ‘users’ in and with research activities. TLRP’s VRE services were adopted by Scotland’s AERS with exceptional use in one of the networks in particular.

Sustainability

TLRP’s contribution to developing electronic resources for the education community will be perpetuated through at least two means. First, further substantive research will explore the use of new technologies to support educational practice, policy, and research. Second, arrangements have been made or are in the process of being made to transfer the storage, maintenance and development of some of the electronic resources to the British Educational Research Association. In addition, project websites will continue to be hosted by individual departments in universities across the UK.

Exploring the educational potential of Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies is a central aim of the Technology Enhanced Learning phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP-TEL). This phase was launched in 2007 with funding for eight interdisciplinary projects from the Economic and Social Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The TEL phase of the programme is working with the British Educational Research Association and other partners to continue to support the development and use of the electronic resources developed through the TLRP. A pilot project funded by ESRC is exploring how social software could be combined with existing VRE functions, and resources from the TLRP, the Applied Education Research Scheme in Scotland, and the Research Capacity Building Network, to form the nucleus of a sustainable Social and Professional Network for Education Researchers. The initial focus of the network will be on early career researchers. Using a participatory design process, the project aims to “identify the most useful features of existing Virtual Research Environments and Social Software platforms, and the customised 'gadgets' which would add most value and make the work of education researchers easier and more productive” (see http://groups.tlrp.org/access/content/public/new_network.html) .

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