LABplus contains a range of laboratory and field equipment and bespoke resource boxes. Each resource is designed by academic and technical staff to support modules and enhance students’ understanding of laboratory and field techniques.
In addition to the physical resource boxes and equipment housed in LABplus, virtual resource boxes are available through the LABplus website. The Experiential Learning, Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (ELCETL) learning technologist initially developed these virtual resource boxes from 2006-2009. Each virtual box contains copies of all documentation associated with the resource, links to recommended student reading, links to recommended websites, videos, interactive maps, images where applicable and supporting academic content. These virtual resources were previously accessible on the former LABplus website.
After introducing the Digital Learning Environment (DLE) in 2014, I transferred the academic content and resources from the former ELCETL website onto DLE subject sites. The main driver for this decision was ensuring that the resources remain sustainable.
The former website became outdated and began affecting the student experience. The main feedback points from a student survey carried out in 2012 were:
- The website was complex to find
- The website was difficult to navigate
- The resources on the website were useful; however, links and videos did not always work properly.
- Videos and interactive maps did not work with Google Chrome.
- resources not linked to modules.
The business and pedagogic reasons behind the move to the DLE were very clear, as the existing set-up was not performing.
What are the benefits?
The main benefit for me is how user-friendly the DLE is. I find adding new content and material so much easier than through Dreamweaver. It is a more collaborative tool as I can add academic staff as teachers so they can edit and add content to the courses, too.
The benefits for the students are that the content is far more accessible. Students are familiar with the format of the DLE; they can search courses easily, and I have been able to link the LABplus DLE courses directly to the appropriate module course.
The functionality and flexibility of the DLE have enabled me to re-create most of the learning resources that were designed through the ELCETL and create new resources.
What lessons did I learn?
The main issues with the project related to the former website. I had difficulty sourcing the video files that had been embedded, and I needed to recreate the interactive maps from scratch. The content transfer took around three months of me working on it part-time, amongst my other responsibilities. The DLE is very user-friendly and intuitive, making the process far easier. It was an enormous benefit to have the support of the University Learning Technologists working on the DLE to answer questions and solve problems.
The students have reacted positively to the new courses, and the content is used more frequently. The time I spend updating and editing resources has greatly decreased as I feel confident using the package.
The LABplus DLE pages are easy to access and have a surprising amount of resources on them. It is set up in a clear and organised way and it’s simple to navigate. I only wish I had known and made use of this facility earlier in my course as its a great help.Biological Science student, Stage 2.
The LABplus DLE has a range of helpful sources and guides, which are tailored to specific modules. It is very easy to navigate as its grouped by subject area. It’s also very useful as the resources can be accessed at uni or at home.Biological Science student, Stage 2.
My future plans
I intend to keep adding new content to the existing DLE courses whenever new resource boxes are designed for use in LABplus.