UniServe Science News Volume 8 November 1997


The UK's Higher Education Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP): From Development to Implementation

Sarah Turpin, Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP)

Background and Introduction

Some four years, two phases, seventy-six projects and £40 million down the line, the worldıs largest technology based initiative is shortly to embark on its third phase. In July this year, the higher education funding bodies issued an invitation to UK institutions to bid for funding under a third phase of the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP). Having focused, for the most part, on the development of new technology based materials for teaching and learning in the first two phases, the emphasis has now shifted to one of implementation, evaluation and dissemination.

Launched in February 1992, by the UK higher education funding bodies, TLTP has delivered one of the most comprehensive ranges of innovative new technology based materials for teaching and learning in higher education. The materials which cover a wide range of subject disciplines offer new and exciting approaches to teaching and learning. The majority of the materials have been developed to meet the needs of students entering their first year of undergraduate courses but some of the materials are also suitable for use in post-16 education and work-based learning programmes.

What does TLTP offer?

The seventy-six projects, covering business and economics, medical sciences, staff development and study skills, science, mathematics and computing, arts, humanities and social sciences and engineering, have developed materials which encompass application areas such as tutorials, revision materials, information retrieval systems, simulations, microworlds and communication tools. The inclusion of high levels of interactivity, graphics, animations, sound and video can contribute greatly to the student learning experience. Perhaps the most unique characteristic of TLTP is the extent to which the materials have been developed as a result of a collaborative effort by departments and institutions. In some cases, up to as many as 50 different institutions have participated in one project pooling the knowledge and expertise of a great number of academic staff to produce high quality materials. Through taking this collaborative approach there is no doubt that there is greater sense of ownership of the development process by academic staff and furthermore, it has begun to challenge the "not invented here" syndrome. Whilst there is still some way to go to completely overcome this syndrome, TLTP has certainly begun to challenge it.

TLTP was launched in the belief that the higher education sector could benefit as a whole from collective activity in the area of new technology based materials. Since the start of TLTP in 1992-93, the UK higher education funding bodies have continued to promote activities in the area of teaching and learning through a range of different initiatives to bring about the dissemination of good practice and to encourage ongoing collaboration between institutions. For example, the Electronic Libraries Programme, the Fund for Developments in Teaching and Learning and the Use of Metropolitan Area Networks Initiative.

The funding bodies recognised the importance of ongoing support and maintenance of the materials developed within TLTP and a further £4 million has been made available to existing projects to assist them move from mainstream funding to a self-supporting position. Of the seventy-six original projects, thirty-five have been awarded transitional funding and there are now eleven projects which have entered into agreements with publishers to market and distribute their materials worldwide. It will be the success of these projects in generating commercial income which will secure their long term viability.

Key Challenges

During the four years of TLTP, the funding bodies, projects, institutions and higher education community at large, have built up a considerable amount of experience and it is important that the learning which has taken place is captured and transferred between and across institutions. Inevitably, there has been much duplication of effort and reinventing of wheels within the programme but as long as the learning can be disseminated, these experiences can continue to benefit others in the longer term. Some of the key learning points for the programme have been in areas such as project management, development strategies, evaluation, dissemination and copyright and intellectual property rights.

Whilst TLTP offers a set of tools together with knowledge and expertise, these have to be seen within the organisational context of institutions which continue to face the challenge of delivering more teaching for less resources. As academic staff have to find new and more efficient ways of delivering their teaching, there will be increasing pressure to make use of new technologies and some of these will be in the form of TLTP type materials. Institutions are now having to address a number of major challenges such as:

  • creating environments which foster and encourage innovation in teaching;
  • developing teaching and learning strategies with technology as an integral part;
  • keeping pace with technological advances;
  • offering rewards/incentives for teaching; and
  • providing staff development and training for teachers.

TLTP Phase 3

The third phase of TLTP is intended to provide an opportunity for institutions to begin to address some of these challenges. The main aims of this phase are to:

  • support institutions in embedding the use of technology based materials for teaching and learning more firmly within higher education;
  • explore and adapt ways to deliver such materials that will be applicable to a range of subjects in many institutions; and
  • evaluate the cost and educational effectiveness of such materials.

The main objectives are to encourage the take up and integration of TLTP materials and other technology based materials into mainstream teaching and learning as well as explore, adapt and disseminate experiences from integrating such materials, to identify successful approaches that can be applied generically, rather than just to specific subjects.

Whilst the funding bodies may fund a very small number of new development projects, most of the funding will be used to support implementation projects. Funding of £3.5 million annually for the next three years has been made available for this phase of the programme. It is anticipated that new projects will get up and running in April of next year.

Teaching and Learning Technology Support Network (TLTSN)

In order to provide the higher education sector with additional expertise and experience in the implementation of technology based materials, nine support centres have been established to form the Teaching and Learning Technology Support Network. These centres are being centrally co-ordinated by the TLTP Co-ordination Team and exist to provide the sector with free guidance and support to integrate technology into teaching and learning. The particular focus of the Network is to assist senior management within institutions to look at strategic planning for technology in teaching and learning, to support organisational and technological change and to assist with the formulation or review of learning technology policies.

This Network of centres has now been up and running for two years and will continue its work through to the end of 1998. The centres participate in a wide range of activities within institutions such as meeting with key committees and/or decision makers, running focused workshops on different areas of teaching and learning technologies, one-to-one consultations for those with specific responsibilities in these areas and attendance at institutional events. They have also produced a series of case studies drawn from their own institutional experiences.


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UniServe Science News Volume 8 November 1997

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