UniServe Science News Volume 14 November 1999


Is there life after the CTIs?

Mary Peat
Visiting Fellow, University of Bristol, UK
Gill Butland
CTI Medicine, University of Bristol, UK

The Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) centres were established in 1989 with the remit to encourage the use of computers for teaching and learning. In his opening remarks at the last CTI Biology CUBE conference, Peter Miller, Director of the Centre, alluded to the changes in the funding of support within the higher education sector. During the 10 year history of the CTIs there have been three Prime Ministers, three funding councils and three CUBEs. Three is considered to be a significant number to the Biology group!

In 1997 there was a major CTI review to:

  • determine the extent to which the CTIs had fulfilled their terms of reference;
  • capture some of the lessons learned; and
  • make recommendations for the future.
  • The CTI review was extensive, taking over six months to complete. The findings showed that:

  • the CTIs had fulfilled their terms of reference;
  • 88% of users surveyed described the service as good or excellent;
  • 90% stated that changes made, as a direct result of CTI activities, would be sustained over time; and
  • there had been a paradigm shift to using the web for teaching.
  • The downside showed that:

  • there was under-utilisation of CAL (Computer Assisted Learning) and C&IT (Communication and Information Technology);
  • there was still a resistance to using IT in teaching; and
  • there was less success in persuading middle managers to support IT at institutional level.
  • From their early years the CTIs have been "godparents" to many of the major projects funded by the UK higher education funding councils, namely: the three phases of the TLTP (Teaching and Learning Technology Programme); the LTDI (Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative) in Scotland and the FDTL (Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning) in England and Northern Ireland. This illustrates that CAL and C&IT are now seen as essential tools for all teachers and not just the small minority. Today's needs are to establish the effective integration of existing good practice and its appropriate use, and to demonstrate convincing evidence of learning enhancement.

    The outcome of the CTI review was that all CTI centres would close at the end of this year (1999) and be replaced by 24 subject specific Learning and Teaching Support Network Centres (LTSNs) and one Generic Learning and Teaching Centre. The management of these new centres would have to be bid for, with 3 stages of formal bidding covering a 9 month period. The new LTSNs would be broad-based, comprehensive one-stop shops and information gateways, with the emphasis on learning and teaching in the broadest sense, not just IT. This will see a marriage between learning technology and teaching pedagogy.

    The subject areas of the new LTSNs has been extended to represent disciplines that were initially more significant to the new universities (post 1992) and that previously were not adequately covered by the CTIs. This means that there has been a rationalisation and condensation of areas, e.g. CTI Biology will be replaced with a Bioscience LTSN that is essentially the size of one and a half CTIs and includes the Agriculture & Forestry section of the present CTI Land Use & Environmental Sciences and CTI Biology. Environmental Sciences is joining with CTI Geography, Geology & Meteorology to become the Geography, Earth and Environmental LTSN. There is substantial input from 19 of the former CTIs into the new LTSNs, with the sciences likely to be represented by:

  • Bioscience (Biology, Biochemistry, Agriculture, Forestry and Food Science);
  • Physical Sciences (Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy);
  • Psychology;
  • Geosciences and Environmental Sciences;
  • Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research; and
  • Computer Science.
  • The medical sciences will be represented by:
  • Medicine; and
  • Subjects Allied to Medicine, Nursing & Midwifery.
  • There will be a lead site for each LTSN - for Bioscience this is likely to be in Leeds with input from the former CTI Land Use in Aberdeen and CTI Biology in Liverpool; for Physical Sciences this is also likely to be in Leeds, with input from the former CTI Chemistry group in Liverpool and CTI Physics group in Surrey. The LTSN for Medicine (replacing CTI Medicine at Bristol and moving to the University of Newcastle) will continue to serve the areas of Human Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry, and the new LTSN for Subjects Allied to Medicine, Nursing & Midwifery (replacing CTI Nursing and Midwifery) will now also cover Pharmacy (previously covered by CTI Medicine).

    The major emphasis of the new LTSNs will be to encompass all areas of pedagogy. This in itself is a challenge. However, it also includes the dissemination of the various UK funding councils projects to the widest audience. At the same time there is a move towards funding larger projects at one host site, thus gaining better ongoing support for the projects and reducing wastage of projects when the support funding disappears.

    The overall management and coordination of the LTSNs will be the responsibility of the Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT), established in June 1999 and based at the University of York. Further information about the ILT can be accessed from:

    Watch this space! We at UniServe Science will continue to interact with our colleagues in the UK and bring you their latest developments. The final selection process for the LTSNs is yet to happen. We wish our UK colleagues our best wishes in their new endeavours.

    Mary Peat
    Visiting Fellow
    University of Bristol
    United Kingdom
    Gill Butland
    CTI Medicine
    University of Bristol
    United Kingdom

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    UniServe Science News Volume 14 November 1999

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