Projects contributing to improved productivity for teachers or learners

Improving the quality of learner achievement against the learner’s time

The system models how teachers and learners spend their time in the different learning activities used within any unit of learning. This enables them to focus on how learners’ time is distributed across different kinds of activities (e.g. acquisition, discussion, inquiry, practice, etc), and manipulate the time spent on these, thereby improving the way learners spend their time. (LDSE)

We know from the literature that a huge amount of learner time is wasted with teachers assuming that their students understand what algebra and generalisation (the former being the way to express the latter) are about. In fact, it turns out that this mismatch is incredibly unproductive. Worse still, addressing this is an almost superhuman task for the teacher – who has to worry about 30 people at a time. MiGen seeks to address this by personalising the learning process, and supporting the teacher (crucial!) in what she needs to do in relation to learners. (Migen)

Inter-Life is hoping to capture Atypical Learners, through the development of Knowledge Creation by a group of Young People who will be co-designers and co-researchers. As such, it will capture the Learners’ interest through an innovative technologically enhanced mode of learning that is “scripted” and developed by the Young People and thus improving the quality of their learning. (Inter-life)

The hapTEL system gives dental undergraduate and postgraduate students the opportunity to repeatedly practice, for example, some of the clinical skills which they need to learn in order to qualify as a professional dentist. The traditional approach to learning some dental clinical skills is practising on phantom-head manikins (consisting of a dummy head with rubber cheeks and jaws, and plastic teeth). The availability of laboratories (problems in scheduling laboratory time) and appropriate resources (e.g. expensive plastic teeth, discarded human teeth,) limit the amount of practice time for students to develop their clinical skills. The hapTEL project is aiming to enhance learner achievement by integrating haptics technologies into the dental undergraduate curriculum. Through this advance training approach, students have more chances of practicing their skills and they can also repeat the process without running out of expensive plastic teeth.
Students spend the same amount in the two laboratories but more time is spent on the learning rather than organisational activities in the haptel lab than in the traditional lab. This is because, before learners can attend to their actual learning activities in the traditional lab for the day, they spend time setting up the equipment, collecting instruments, clearing and cleaning equipment. (hapTEL)

Improved access to resources, enhanced search facilities, access to data from beyond the HE sector. (Ensemble)

Increasing the number of learners achieving quality outcomes against teacher time

Helping teachers to plan their use of innovative technology enhanced learning against realistic costing models for the number of students they teach should make it more likely that they focus on increasing student numbers, while maintaining both quality and a reasonable personal workload (LDSE)

Supporting individuals in enhancing their social skills through therapy sessions with human practitioners is extremely time consuming and expensive. The ECHOES project does not intend to replace the practitioners and teacher, but to provide an additional environment within which children can reinforce what they have learned in therapy, where they can explore and test their skills. Through its intelligent design, ECHOES as an environment capable of supporting meaningful interaction, including assessment and appropriate adaptation of the feedback, with as little help and intervention from teachers, reducing the need for their time per child. (ECHOES)

The implication of a) – if we are finally successful – is that we will achieve b. At the very least, students and teachers who have shared activities with eXpresser, will be able to base future learning and teaching on the shared metaphor of tiling – as a way of thinking about the problem of generalisation. In a sentence: MiGen aims to make outcomes more productive in terms of future learning and teaching of generalisation. (Migen)

Since, ultimately, Inter-life will be accessible online at any time, then the learning can be conducted asynchronously and, as such, demands less direct Face to Face teaching time and may facilitate an increased number of Learners. (Inter-life)

In the traditional lab, immediate feedback can only be given in response to 72 students’ request because there are only three tutors supervising the lab work. Therefore work cannot be easily captured in real-time. Three tutors are required to take rounds in order to support these feedback mechanisms. Learners’ achievement may improve through the feedback provided by the hapTEL systems because, in contrast to the traditional feedback approach, the system can capture task performance and provide automatic synchronous feedback; thereby reducing the amount of time that tutors have to spend providing feedback during the sessions and minimising the amount of waiting time for students to learn about their progress. (hapTEL)

Reducing the amount of teacher or learner time needed for learner achievement

Facilitating reuse of good quality digital teaching and learning resources may encourage teachers to both innovate themselves, but also save some time by building on the work of others (LDSE)
Promoting collaborative development of teaching helps to improve quality, but the LDSE aims to make the process less time-consuming (LDSE)

Although as explained above learners can spend more time practising their clinical skills in the hapTEL environment than in the traditional laboratory, the number of tries is increased for the same amount of laboratory time because instead of having to collect another plastic or real tooth from the compound staff (technicians) each time they wish to repeat the practice the hapTEL lab they can immediately create a new tooth on screen to have another go. The overall productivity gain here is that the learners work more efficiently in the hapTEL lab and the teachers can make better use of their feedback time because this is augmented by the feedback from the system as well. (hapTEL)

Improvement of the quality of the learning experience

  • Giving teachers access to existing good quality learning designs that can easily be reused.
  • Offering an evaluation of a learning design will help to focus teachers’ attention on the quality of the learning experience.
  • Scaffolding the design process teachers engage in should improve the quality of the design.
  • Having created designs and refined them, the system enables a user to transfer their knowledge to new lecturers, and peers, creating a community of innovation, as a staff development tool, and initiating them into learning theory


The ECHOES environment represents an intelligent design able to act on each child’s individual needs and characteristics. Additionally , it is also intended as an environment that every child can appropriate and use on their own terms. Both of these features are essential to enhancing the child’s engagement in the learning task and a sense of their being in control, i.e. motivational factors that have been shown to impact on learning. (Echoes)

This we can hope to research and to generate findings. The traditional learning experience is often based on the miscommunication outlined in 1a. At best, students learn what to do, but not why they are doing it, or how it works. The dynamic elements of eXpresser together with the (shortly) intelligent components, aim precisely at improving the quality of the learning experience. Too early for us to say yet. (Migen)

The project has enabled and supported a process of personalised inquiry that connects teacher-initiated learning the classroom with technology-mediated investigations in the home and other locations beyond the classroom. A combination of controlled pre-post evaluations, critical incident analysis, and observational studies of learning activities have shown both quantitative leanring gains and improvements in the quality of the learning experience through the successful conduct of authentic scientific investigations. (Personal Inquiry)

Since the Learning Experience is Learner or Student-centred, then it should empower those whose learning may not be fostered within the more “traditional” curriculum. (Inter-life)

In addition to the improvements of the quality of the learning experience discussed above, different advance features of the system provide learners with the opportunity to self assess their clinical skills. In the traditional lab, learners can examine the cavity they have prepared but can only see a real sized tooth whereas in the haptel lab learners can monitor, for example, their achievements by enlarging the tooth up to 6 times to see how precisely they have removed decayed material. Students can therefore compare their different attempts as each attempt is recorded and screen captured while in the traditional lab it is only possible for them to make two attempts per session because of the limited number of teeth available. Furthermore, the system offers a range of clinical scenarios (single tooth, tooth located in a jaw, different decayed tooth types) which can be selected by the students in one single session. Students can also review their actual performance by replying their actions in removing decayed material while in the traditional lab they can only assess their learning by looking at the final product (cavity prepared). (hapTEL)

We understand this to mean richer, more personally authentic and more professional relevant activities for learners. The technologies we are developing support sustained engagement with complex, contested and rapidly changing domains, and allow students to construct responses to these situations. (Ensemble)

Projects’ suggested headings

Make teaching more responsive to learning

Learning happens whatever we do – sometimes it is productive learning sometimes not. The process of productivity could be thought of as making teaching more responsive, sensitive and effective in relation to the ways that learners (including individual learners) learn. We can’t do much about the latter – it’s a psychological issue. But we can do something about teaching – and of course the tools that we design are part of that. So – productivity as alignment of learners’ and teachers’ actions. (Migen)

Appropriate use of technology for learning

The project has developed toolkits that provide personalised guidance through an inquiry learning process that starts in the classroom and continues outside, enabling learners to carry out a successful investigation without direct teacher management, reducing the need for repeated lessons, or of learners being disadvantaged from not having collected appropriate data. (Personal Inquiry)

Reducing the cost of the required resources – better value for money

In the traditional lab for undergraduate dental students, teeth on which they need to practise are supplied either by discarded real teeth which are more difficult to acquire due to ethical constraints or through purchasing inferior plastic teeth at 50 pence or ideally, expensive superior plastic teeth (variable density with simulated decayed material) at £16 per tooth. The current traditional choice is limited by the dental institute budget since the desirable more expensive plastic tooth amounts to a total cost per laboratory session for 144 students of £4800; which is £48,000 per year. The one-off cost of producing the 12 hapTEL systems is paid for by the TEL programme. Further savings are significant because an unlimited number of virtual realistic teeth can be provided by the system for the learners at no extra cost compared to the above cost for high quality plastic teeth. As the dental institute cannot afford the better quality plastic teeth, teachers and students have to settle for inferior low quality plastic teeth. The haptel system therefore provides a better learning environment without this large overhead. (hapTEL)

Generating learning resources

The Ensemble Project has conceptualised productivity in terms of individual teachers (who will be better able to develop rich case-based learning activities) and learners (who will be able to select and assemble the most appropriate sets of resources to support their learning needs), and for knowledge-creating communities.
It will also develop models of knowledge production, representation and transfer which will contribute to the better understanding of sustainable economies for Technology-Enhanced Learning – one that aligns with a vision of teachers and learners as producers of pedagogical as well as disciplinary knowledge. (Ensemble)

Comments on this approach to the challenge of ‘productivity’

No single measure or dimension can capture the complexity of educational productivity. Specifically, the measures need to address productivity from the dual perspectives of the education system (e.g. in reducing the costs involved in teaching to a given level of outcome) and the learner (in gaining a depth of knowledge and acquiring complex skills that will equip for life). (Personal Inquiry)

We agree with the approach in general but we also think that reduced cost for the actual resources is a further benefit. For example, see (the suggested heading, above) about the cost of a cheaper but high quality solution. There is also the likelihood with the hapTEL project as possibly with other TEL projects of learning gains in the sense that the students will have reached a higher level of understanding than previously by the end of the learning activities. For example, the Year 1 dental students might have more advance clinical skills by the end of their first year than their predecessors because of the value of the hapTEL experience as elaborated above. (hapTEL)

Alternative definitions of the idea of ‘productivity’ within TLRP-TEL

The definition given above could be changed to the following. Improved productivity is defined as Improved quantity or quality of learner achievement per unit of teacher time, learner time, and or resource provision. (hapTEL)

We understand productivity in terms of the capacity of teachers and learners to innovate and experiment, and see teachers and learners as producers of pedagogical as well as disciplinary knowledge. (Ensemble)

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