The Blended Learning Unit, University of Hertfordshire: A Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Evaluation Report for HEFCE

Amanda Jefferies, Mark Russell, Jonathan Alltree

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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The University of Hertfordshire’s Blended Learning Unit (BLU) was one of the 74 Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs) funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) between 2005 and 2010. This evaluation report follows HEFCE’s template. The first section provides statistical information about the BLU’s activity. The second section is an evaluative reflection responding to 13 questions. As well as articulating some of our achievements and the challenges we have faced, it also sets out how the BLU’s activity will continue and make a significant contribution to delivery of the University of Hertfordshire’s 2010-2015 strategic plan and its aspirations for a more sustainable future.
At the University of Hertfordshire, we view Blended Learning as the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance the learning and learning experience of campus-based students. The University has an excellent learning technology infrastructure that includes its VLE, StudyNet. StudyNet gives students access to a range of tools, resources and support 24/7 from anywhere in the world and its robustness, flexibility and ease of use have been fundamental to the success of the Blended Learning agenda at Hertfordshire.
The BLU has comprised a management team, expert teachers seconded from around the University, professional support and a Student Consultant. The secondment staffing model was essential to the success of the BLU. As well as enabling the BLU to become fully staffed within the first five months of the CETL initiative, it has facilitated access to an invaluable spectrum of Blended Learning, research and Change Management expertise to inform pedagogically sound developments and enable change to be embedded across the institution.
The BLU used much of its capital funding to reduce barriers to the use of technology by, for example, providing laptop computers for all academic staff in the institution, enhancing classroom technology provision and wirelessly enabling all teaching accommodation. Its recurrent funding has supported development opportunities for its own staff and staff around the institution; supported evaluation activities relating to individual projects and of the BLU’s own impact; and supported a wide range of communication and dissemination activities internally and externally.
The BLU has led the embedding a cultural change in relation to Blended Learning at the University of Hertfordshire and its impact will be sustained. The BLU has produced a rich legacy of resources for our own staff and for others in the sector. The University’s increased capacity in Blended Learning benefits all our students and provides a learning experience that is expected by the new generation of learners in the 21st century. The BLU’s staffing model and partnership ways of working have directly informed the structure and modus operandi of the University’s Learning and Teaching Institute (LTI). Indeed a BLU team will continue to operate within the LTI and help drive and support the implementation of the University’s 2010-2015 Strategic plan. The plan includes ambitions in relation to Distance Learning and Flexible learning and BLU will be working to enable greater engagement with students with less or no need to travel to the university. As well as opening new markets within the UK and overseas, even greater flexibility for students will also enable the University to reduce its carbon footprint and provide a multifaceted contribution to our sustainability agenda.
We conclude this executive summary with a short paragraph, written by Eeva Leinonen, our former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, which reflects our aspiration to transform Learning and Teaching at the University of Hertfordshire and more widely in the sector.
‘As Deputy Vice Chancellor at Hertfordshire I had the privilege to experience closely the excellent work of the Blended Learning Unit, and was very proud of the enormous impact the CETL had not only across the University but also nationally and internationally. However, perhaps true impact is hard to judge at such close range, but now as Vice Principal (Education) at King's College London, I can unequivocally say that Hertfordshire is indeed considered as the leading Blended Learning university in the sector. My new colleagues at King's and other Russell Group Universities frequently seek my views on the 'Hertfordshire Blended Learning' experience and are keen to emulate the successes achieved at an institutional wide scale. The Hertfordshire CETL undoubtedly achieved not only what it set out to achieve, but much more in terms of scale and impact. All those involved in this success can be justifiably proud of their achievements.’
Professor Eeva Leinonen, Vice Principal (Education), King's College, London

Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyHEFCE
Number of pages63
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


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