This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

8. Enhancement Strategies

We’ve covered technology in ocTEL; we’ve covered learning. This week we’re focusing on enhancement – what shapes it takes, and how to achieve it. This will mean different things to you depending on where you’re starting from and what ambitions you have for your educational work. Here are some of the challenges that this module may help you tackle:

  • How do we get maximum learning for minimum cost?
  • Can I make a richer learning experience without adding costs?
  • Can we cut overheads in setting up or designing the learning?
  • How can I most efficiently help more people access learning experiences?

This week’s aims

By the end of this week, we aim for you to:

  • appreciate the factors that influence approaches to maximising efficiency
  • analyse how to change the cost elements of a particular learning experience
  • be able to identify and critique methods that require little or no teaching interventions and means by which these can be nurtured
  • assess the potential for achieving economies of scale in any learning design
  • analyse and critique TEL approaches in circumstances where it is a necessity to minimise costs and support

If you only do one thing…

Watch either

Write down in short bullet point form a list of

  • elements of the Saylor or xMOOC approach that you think could be applicable to your context (what you’re involved in teaching, to whom, with what goals and constraints)
  • problems you might anticipate with the approach

Think of different situations where efficiencies might be important

  1. reaching more people or providing a richer experience for the same cost
  2. reducing tutor costs by encouraging more elements of the learning experience to peer-based or self-organised by learners
  3. reducing production and infrastructure costs by using free resources and technology
  4. taking the learners’ perspective in getting a sound, rounded, education with minimum financial outlay

Share your thoughts on your blog or via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.

Come and join the live webinar on 4 June

Please note: the weekly webinar returns to its usual time of day, but on a different day! This week it’s moved to Tuesday when we welcome Fernando Rosell-Aguilar.

Fernando’s title is “Maximising learning for minimum cost, but who’s the online learner? iTunes U as an example”. He will present evidence of the potential of iTunes U to deliver free educational content and how this content is being used, offering the first full profile of the iTunes U learner and their practices and opinions of the materials they download, based on over 2000 responses from users of the UK’s most successful iTunes U provider, the Open University. The session will explore how to introduce the use of free iTunes U materials to teaching, either in the classroom or as self-access resources.

Fernando is Lecturer in Spanish at the Open University. He coordinates the provision of materials from the OU department of languages on iTunes U. In 2004 he received the Open University teaching award for his online learning materials. His research focuses on online language learning, mainly podcasting as a teaching and learning tool, online learning environments (such as audio and video conferencing) and digital literacy.

Activities for this week

Activity 8.1: Review the evidence and the options

(1 hour)

  • Read why productivity and sustainability in HE is an issue, as suggested by The Economist’s take on “Baumol’s cost disease”.
  • Check out a few of the resources listed below.
  • Do some searching to see if you can find further resources that link this general area to your specific concerns and context (use Google, also ask people you think might know of useful materials, collaborate with other ocTEL participants). Try and answer the question, “What can I take away from this area and apply in my teaching-related work?”
  • On your blog or via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list, note your initial impressions about which strategies look promising or unpromising to you.

Activity 8.2: Develop an action plan for your own teaching and learning practice

(1 hour)

Please complete our template action plan (Google Doc) which maps out the context, purpose and steps towards enhancing the efficiency or other elements of your own case study.

Please make your completed action plan available online (Google Docs may be the easiest way to do this, but ask here if you’re not sure how) and then share a link to it via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.

Activity 8.3: Discussion and reflection

(1 hour)

  • Spend around 40 minutes reviewing and commenting on others’ action plans (via Twitter, the forum or JiscMail list).
  • Spend around 20 minutes reflecting on what you might change or develop in your own action plan.
  • Also express any feelings you have about the risks and rewards of striving for greater efficiency.


  • Have you made a list of enhancements to learning that apply to your context?
  • Have you outlined an action plan for enhancing your teaching and learning practice?
  • Have you seen the webinar, live or recorded?

What’s coming up next?

Expecting the Unexpected, ocTEL Week 9, starts 10 June.

Resources and more to watch, read and research

Increase reach and/or quality for same cost

Reduce tutor cost

Reduce production and infrastructure costs

Being a low-cost learner

Notes and commentary

The idea of getting maximum learning for minimum cost is met with wary scepticism in many quarters. It smacks of putting managerial values ahead of teaching, or of cutting costs to the point where the learning process becomes brittle and no longer has the agility and resilience to deal with the unpredictable demands of teaching (see David Noble’s paper, linked above, for an example of this critique).

Issues of deskilling teaching work or filleting the soul of education institutions are not trivial, and you can focus on them this week if you wish. But this is also an opportunity to ask about the different ways that learning and teaching enhanced in Technology-Enhanced Learning. Do they result in learning outcomes that are richer in themselves, accessible to a wider range of people in a wider range of contexts, safer to achieve, or cheaper to accomplish?

Some enhancements are incremental, some are transformational. Sugata Mitra’s work on using technology as part of “Self Organised Learning Environments” in contexts where there is a lack of good quality teachers (also linked below) hints at radically new models for supporting learning.

Realising the enhancements that may be possible depends on an understanding of learning context. We appreciate straight away that it’s cheaper and safer for pilots, dentists and surgeons to learn their skills using simulations, but other contexts of learning present different challenges.

In this module you can select a context of your choice and explore what kinds of enhancements might be possible to make the learning more productive for more people. You can make your own value judgements, as we recognise that this course is open to managers as well as teachers.