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Preparing to use the resource with learners

What technology is required to use the resource?

The resource will run on a PC or Macintosh connected to the Internet. It has been designed to be usable with a minimum of technological requirements as follows:

  • Minimum processor speed: 333 (166) MHz or Mac equivalent

  • Minimum RAM: (64) 32 Mb

  • Minimum colour depth:256

  • Minimum screen resolution: 800x600

  • Operating Systems:
    • PC: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP

    • Macintosh: OS 8, OS 9, OS X

  • Browsers versions: IE 5, IE 5.5, IE 6, Netscape 6.2, Netscape 7
  • , Safari 1.2.
    Upgrade options for Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape.

  • Connection / Bandwidth: Intranet; modem - 56.6 Kbps; broadband - 128 Kbps

  • No additional plug-ins (software) are needed, e.g. Flash, Java etc.

  • Printing capability

Where can the resource be used?

As mentioned above, because it is relatively low in its technological requirements it is suitable for use in a wide range of locations and settings as long as there is a computer linked to the Internet, including:

  • College/university – lecture theatre, classroom, learning lab, PC suite,
  • Social work/social care organisations – field offices, residential/day care centres, hospitals, etc.
  • Student halls of residence, home, hotel
  • On the move – using wireless technology, the resource can be accessed whilst travelling by bus, ‘plane or train.

Who is the resource for?

This resource has been primarily designed to assist students studying on social work qualifying courses, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The resource has also been designed to be of use to staff working in practice contexts – practitioners, managers, research and information officers, staff developers, practice learning teachers, etc. – both in their day-to-day work, and in support of their continuing professional development.

What can the resource do?

The resource has been designed to do several important things:

  • explain what is meant by the concept of research mindedness

  • engage users’ interest in understanding more about research mindedness, and how it relates to their studies and/or practice

  • help them assess their current level of understanding of research mindedness

  • assist them in identifying their learning needs and meeting them through guided self-managed learning

  • provide them with access to a range of resources to expand and enhance their knowledge of research mindedness

  • suggest ways in which they can continue to develop their capability for research mindedness

What can’t the resource do?

The resource is not a research methods course, and has not been designed to fulfill that role. However, where relevant to the task of helping users to review their current research methods knowledge and skills, they may be directed to specific additional resources.

What does the resource contain?

In addition to the student and practitioner entry points mentioned earlier, the resource contains other materials that will help users to contextualise research mindedness. These are grouped together under key themes as follows: click on any one to see the full list of materials related to that theme.

How can the resource be navigated?

Most conventional learning resources are designed to be used in a linear way – starting at a particular point, proceeding through a planned learning experience (or sequence), and finishing at another fixed point. Because this resource is aimed at two distinct audiences – students and practitioners – it has been designed to function in two different but complementary ways.

For students on qualifying courses the resource is primarily intended to be used in pursuit of specific knowledge and skills required for research literacy, as laid down by the regulatory bodies for social work education and training. The acquisition of these knowledge and skills is aided by the student Learning Pathway mentioned earlier.

For staff working in practice settings, who are likely to have already acquired some experience of using research to inform policy and practice decisions, the resource is more likely to be of value when used in a non-linear way. Indeed, in developing it we have assumed that the potentially wide range of social work and social care staff who might visit it will have different reasons for doing so - ranging from simple curiosity to a particular and/or urgent need for specific information.

Is there assessment in the resource?

Other than the ‘Are you research minded?’ self-assessment tool mentioned earlier, the resource does not provide for either formative or summative assessment of users’ learning and/or development. However, tutors and trainers may wish to devise such activities; some suggestions in this respect are offered later in this guide. (See ‘Helping learners to stay engaged’).

Can the resource materials be printed out?

All resource content is printable; this is particularly valuable if, as a tutor or trainer, you wish to use resource materials as part of off-line learning activities – e.g. for seminars, discussions, presentations, team meetings, etc. However, the main value of the resource is the way in which it provides easy access, via hypertext links, to a wealth of additional sources of relevant information and knowledge. We hope, therefore, that tutors and trainers will encourage on-line use of the resource as much as possible.

What skills are needed to use the resource?

Using the resource requires a minimum of proficiency with information and communications technology. If you have reached this point, you now have a very good idea of the necessary skills!

What prior understanding of research mindedness do learners need?

To make it accessible and encourage its use amongst the widest possible range of students and practitioners, we have not specified any pre-requisite level of understanding, or assumed any prior knowledge of research mindedness. However, in the interest of ‘starting from where the learner is at’, tutors and trainers may find it helpful to establish whether their students or staff have prior relevant learning and/or experience.

How should I prepare for using the resource with learners?

The introduction of e-learning, like the use of any teaching and learning method, requires some forethought and planning if it is to be successful, both for tutors/trainers and users of the resource.

From staff workshops and related events, and through personal contact with staff and students in universities, colleges and practice settings, we have identified a range of factors that can help implementation of e-learning, whether in an educational institution or workplace setting. Below are some practical suggestions for this important task.

Step 1 - Get familiar with the resource – its content, structure, the ways it works in education and training terms, what the various features offer and so on. This will help you not only to be more effective in your role as a tutor or trainer, but also to better appreciate the initial responses of users, both to the resource and to e-learning generally. However, we suggest that you don’t attempt to work through the whole resource in one visit; plan for a series of familiarisation sessions, with time in between each one for you to reflect on the materials, your own responses to them and how you are beginning to think about integrating them into your work as a tutor or trainer.

Step 2 - At this point you should be clearer about why you want to use the resource; now it’s time to plan in some detail how it will be used. This might include deciding whether it is:

  • as a replacement for direct teaching/training?
  • as a supplement to direct teaching/training?
  • as a source of information?
  • to aid analysis?
  • to develop critical perspectives?
  • to assist application in and evaluation of practice?
  • to aid revision?
  • as a reference?

Whichever purpose the resource is to be put to - and it may be several - how this is conveyed to learners can make a considerable difference to their willingness to use it. If it is introduced simply as another resource, like a CD-Rom, website, on-line journal, or DVD, then students may treat is as such and miss its full learning and development potential.

Step 3 - If it is intended that the resource is to be used via networked PC’s, you should ensure that you and any technical staff who may need to be involved have sufficient time to ‘test drive’ it at least a day or two before users do so.

Step 4 - Even with advanced planning, things can still sometimes go wrong when you come to use the resource. So make sure you know what technical and other support resources exist where your e-learning sessions take place, and how and when they can be accessed.

For a fuller discussion of key issues re. introducing e-learning, see ‘Good practice in e-learning implementation’ on the SWAP ltsn website.

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