Dr. Leon Litvack, School of English
The tutor lectures on two modules at undergraduate level: Empire and the Victorian Imagination which assesses the impact of imperialism on the world of Victorian writing through a study of novels and non-fiction prose; and Dickens which explores a representative selection of Dickens's fiction.
For both modules, the students attend a weekly 2-hour seminar. The classes are held in the computer teaching rooms in the Peter Froggatt Centre as this supports much of the class work although the layout does not support discussion or note-taking particularly well.
The teaching methods adopted in both modules comprise a mix of lectures, class discussions, group work and student presentations (worth 10%). The Dickens module, in addition, requires participation in an online debate (worth 20%).
The ICT Element
Empire and the Victorian Imagination:
This module embeds ICT in a number of ways:
- Queen's Online for Learning and Teaching (QOL) to access all module materials relevant to the course e.g. class schedule; bibliographies for each author covered on the course, relevant articles. The students are provided with a set of urls to relevant web sites and links to e-texts; these are useful for the module as it overcomes problems of different editions. These do not have any textual authority but are viable for undergraduate teaching
- e-texts to support discussions of the text in class. For example, the tutor might call up the text on computer in class and search for the occurrence of a word, in order to examine a particular passage. Students can then all consult the same passage with ease.
- Multimedia resources to support the exploration of a theme under discussion, for example, images on slavery, or the convict experience in Australia. Students also use the Imperial Archive, developed as part of the MA module entitled Literature, Imperialism, Post-Colonialism.
- The students are required to use PowerPoint to support their presentation (worth 10%). At the start of the module, the tutor takes a classroom session (1 hour max) to show the students a model on which to base their work, and to talk them through the steps of producing a PowerPoint presentation. Following the presentations, the tutor uploads the students' PowerPoint presentations as a resource to support learning.
In addition to the ICT embedding approaches adopted in the Empire and the Victorian Imagination module, the tutor:
- Uses a discussion forum to encourage the students to draw on the knowledge they acquired at level 1 and 2 and apply it. The tutor writes a stimulus question for the discussion groups and the students must submit their response to the discussion board. In using this approach, the tutor has noted that the students tend not to copy or engage with the answers of others. They construct their individual responses and have to think more carefully about what they have to say because of the public and permanent nature of the forum. He does not moderate the discussion but reads all the contributions and in class refers to select contributions that might be making an interesting point. The thread is closed after 2 weeks. While some students have expressed concerns about how it works, in general the tutor has found that the students are not afraid to contribute. Their contributions tend to get longer as the forum progresses. An advantage of the forum for many students is that they can see what other students are saying.
- Sets a task around the web e.g. if they are covering Bleak House, they are asked to find out about urban conditions of the time. Students will find sites; they will discuss them and then refine their list of sites after class.
The students are generally familiar with Word and using the web but they tend to be undiscerning in terms of distinguishing good and bad web sites. Through QOL, the tutor can provide them with access to good sites: they do not need to surf outside of these. Typically, they have no knowledge of PowerPoint.
Incentives to Motivate
The tutor was keen to develop the students' transferable skills and encourage them to learn from one another. In addition, he wished to provide greater flexibility; the students can access the materials from anywhere. This also helps those students who have medical conditions and have difficulty in attending class.
There was a time commitment in getting the course started but now that the course is up and running, this is not as big an issue. Increasingly, the tutor is making more materials available online. He is mostly self-taught and has had some training in Dreamweaver. He is involved nationally with a number of ICT initiatives e.g. Arts & Humanities Data Service/Oxford Text Archive; National English Subject Centre advisory group.
The ICT elements are evaluated as part of the module evaluations and the responses are positive; students are enthusiastic. Some have expressed concerns about overuse of computers but they like to receive the materials online.
Effects of ICT Embedding
- Has enabled a mix between a teacher centred approach and a learner centred approach. Some classes are rather lecture oriented but others e.g. student presentation and class discussions, are more learner centred;
- More interaction and discussion between the tutor and the students, and between the students;
- Increased interaction with course materials;
- More flexible access to course materials.
- Development of a range of skills: bibliographic skills; oral presentation skills; team-working skills; IT skills and information literacy skills.
Management of the module:
- Enabling access to module-relevant information or resources;
- Improving communication between staff and students;
- The use of QOL enables the tutor to work from home and there is no photocopying to be done.
For the current modules, the tutor would like to incorporate more resources, particularly audio and video sources. For example, there is always material about Dickens on the media, to which he could link quickly. Other possibilities include the use of streamed video, to which links could be made in class.
A new module is planned and the tutor aims to:
- teach students about research resources, to be discerning about their use of web for English studies;
- use a greater number of resource-based learning materials;
- combine web based images/painting with understanding of literature.