Ancient History

Ancient history

My first experience of University computing was as a Mechanical Engineering student in 1979, writing BASIC programs on a teletype terminal with no screen, 1K of RAM and punched tape as the data storage mechanism. <ESC>

After graduation I got a lucky break with a job as a ‘computer graphic artist’ with Paintpot Computers based at Chilworth Manor (now the Science Park). This involved selling and supporting the first PC-based desktop publishing program, Front Page – which was deservingly trounced by Aldus Pagemaker on the Mac. This was using the original IBM PC with a super-sophisticated VGA colour display (640×480 pixels, 256 colours) and a massive 10 megabyte hard disk. Wow!

In 1987 this led to a job with the University’s Computing Service as their DTP specialist, using Ventura Publisher to create all kinds of documentation and newsletters. I also used graphics programs (Corel Draw and Harvard Graphics) and multimedia packages (ToolBook) By 1993 I was making use of the nascent Internet via Gopherspace and was quick to see the potential of the amazing new Mosaic browser for the World Wide Web. DoubleWow!

My involvement in learning technology at the University goes back to 1991, when I worked with the Interactive Learning Centre on an ‘interactive guide to academic services’ using HyperCard on a Mac. During 1994 I worked on documentation and a demo application for the Electronics and Computer Science Microcosm project, a revolutionary ‘open hypermedia’ system. In 1995 I was seconded to the ILC for their TLTP Scholar Project, which sought to establish “a campus wide structure for multimedia learning” and in 1997 I joined the ILC permanently.

In 1998 the ILC joined with Academic Staff Development to become the more educationally-focused Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT). I got involved with aan EU-funded project called VOLTS (Vocational Online Training System) which aimed to support learners studying for their European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) and introduced one of the first ‘online learning management systems’ called TopClass. I then piloted the use of a new free system called WebCT from the University of British Columbia with around 20 early adopters. This system was superceded by Blackboard, which today forms the bedrock of the University’s e-learning. In 2000 I completed an online Masters in Networked Collaborative Learning at the University of Sheffield, led by Dr David McConnell – an experience which really put me at the sharp end of e-learning.

The CLT merged with Educational Development Services in 2006 to become the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (LATEU), combining quality assurance with quality enhancement. During this period I created and ran a wide range of training events as well as on-demand online resources that included many screen-capture videos.

In August 2011, LATEU was disbanded during a major reorganisation of the University, and I moved to iSolutions as leader of the new Technology Enhanced Learning Enablement (TELE) team- a return to the ‘Computing Services’ that I left in 1995. There were still some familiar faces around – in particular Pete Hancock had risen from being a data graphics specialist to Director, while others were still in essentially the same position as they had been.

By February 2012, TELE had been reconstituted and strengthened as CITE, the Centre for Innovation in Technologies and Education, with Professor Hugh Davis as director. Towards the end of that year, the University became one of FutureLearn’s first partners and throughout 2013 I was heavily involved in the development of our first course (MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses).

September 2014 saw more change, with CITE merged with the PDU (Professional Development Unit) to become ILIaD, the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development.

My role is to support and coordinate technology enhanced learning across the University, and in particular to support the introduction of new technologies.

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