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Session S1D

Same Stories, Different Continents

Tom McEwan & Sandra Cairncross
Human-Computer Interaction Research Group, Napier University, Edinburgh, 10 Colinton Road, Edinburgh EH10 5DT, UK;
Abstract - Higher Education (HE) is increasingly
globalised, involving partnerships between institutions in
different countries. There is little research available on
such educational partnerships in HE. Just like learning
experiences themselves, each educational partnership is
unique but we propose a set of six factors to consider,
which might help formulate the dimensions of future
research. We reflect here on 6 years of partnerships
between our university and colleges both in our own
country (Scotland, UK) and Malaysia to deliver IT degree
programmes, enabling a our student experience to be
shared by non-traditional learners who cannot study in
Edinburgh, due to work, family, financial and other
commitments. Users stories help us understand and meet
stakeholders needs, and plan future research. What
emerges is evidence of an equivalent set of learning
experiences, despite the geographic and cultural distances.
Index Terms collaborative provision, distributed learning,
human-centred design,
Increased globalization brings with it a need for a highly
educated workforce throughout the world. This in turn
demands a widening of participation in higher education (HE)
and new patterns of studying, including advanced entry into
the final year(s) of degree programmes for students with
diplomas from further education (FE) colleges. Not every
town has a university, and not every continuing student is able
to leave their home town to attend a university. There is a
growing need for alternative modes of provision, such as
offering degree programmes in collaboration with partner
colleges at home and abroad.
This paper reports on six years of partnerships between
the School of Computing at Napier University, Edinburgh,
Scotland, and FE colleges in Scotland and Malaysia. On
average, each year 1100 learners take computing degrees in
Edinburgh (home-based), 200 in 3 partner colleges in Scotland
and 150 in 3 partner colleges in Malaysia, and demand ebbs
and flows according to local circumstances.
Following background information, we explore the
factors that we use to analyse and define partnerships. These
partnerships can be seen as a form of expertise sharing [1]
we depend on the expertise of local lecturers to support local
learners using resources and expertise from Napier. This in
turn demands a human-centred design (HCD) [13] approach to
these partnerships. One aspect of this is to listen to users (in
this paper, learners) stories, extracts of which are presented
here. Professionals should strive to reflect continually on their

practice [19], to identify what they do and why, and to refine

that practice in the light of developments. We have previously
found [8] limitations in controlled experiments in educational
research and see interpretativist approaches as useful. This
paper is interpretative, one to guide the design of subsequent
investigations. We reflect, with the support of users stories,
on the process of accrediting partner institutions, monitoring
their teaching and assessment practices and adjusting to meet
UK quality requirements, drawing generic lessons for
distributed and franchised delivery.
Background: the Scottish HE tradition
Scotland is one of four countries in the United Kingdom
(UK) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although the
British parliament (Westminster) has governed Scotland for
most of the last three hundred years, the Scottish educational
and legal system has remained separate from those in the rest
of the UK. The Scottish parliament (Holyrood) was reestablished in 2002 and powers are split between Holyrood
with Westminster, in a manner similar to the state/federal split
in the USA, or Lnder/Bund in Germany.
The Scottish model of HE, the four year honours degree,
has an ancient tradition (Scotlands first university, St
Andrews, was founded in 1411) and is frequently credited
[7,12] with being the source of the four-year degree model
adopted in the 18th and 19th centuries throughout the world. A
distinguishing characteristic of the Scottish degree, compared
to the English three-year degree, is in its breadth for the first
three years before a specialist honours year [6,10].
Witherspoon, at Princeton, is considered to have introduced
the Scottish university tradition into US degree structures, in
the 18th century [12]. Christie [9] summarises the effect in
South Africa: Scottish Dominees, and Scottish Professors
designed our schools and our universities. Our very degree
structures are exact mirrors of the Scottish degrees, in 1890.
As a former British colony, Malaysia shares the above
heritage, but since independence, HE policy over the last 30
years shifted from producing clerical officers for the British
Empire [3] to a more distinctive Malaysian approach.
Recently this has been followed by a renewed emphasis on
English-language-based qualifications to enhance the
countrys international competitiveness. For this they draw
from the traditions of various English-speaking countries.
Napiers School of Computing has around 65 fulltime
permanent lecturers and professors, and, since 1999, 12-15 of
us each year have been involved in partnerships with HE
colleges. This is but one aspect of our academic duties,
between 5% and 15% of each of our workloads, and must be
managed to avoid conflict with other duties. This requires us

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Session S1D
to reflect continually on the rationale for, and the nature of,
global partnerships and collaborations in the delivery of
higher education programmes. In planning, designing and
monitoring partnerships, we find it helpful to consider
separately the differences between
FE and HE approaches to learning
HE traditions in different countries
Public and private sector provision of HE, in the
context of trends to deregulate world trade in services
Learning in English as an additional language, and
learning in the learners own language
Face-to-face, virtual and blended learning.
Cultural approaches to access/accessibility
Plainly this is not an exhaustive list, and we plan more
work to turn these into a set of orthogonal dimensions.
Additional factors are not considered, since they are nonnegotiable aspects of our partnerships, for example the various
cultural approaches to pedagogy. Our institutions approach is
a learner-centred, constructivist one, and while we strive to
appreciate other traditions, we do not vary our learning,
teaching and assessment strategy in our partnerships. Below
we explore how we distribute expertise through teaching
packs and personal contact, and then discuss our partnerships
in terms of the above factors.

updates to packs are subject to peer review. The same

materials are used with learners at Napier, and have become
less culturally-situated as a result of external use, which then
helps accommodate the increasing diversity of home-based
learners. All students do the same course-works and sit the
same (or equivalent) exams. These are marked locally: it is
important that local lecturers assess their students in order to
monitor learner achievements and to identify any areas
causing particular problems. Detailed marking guidelines are
provided and, in order to ensure consistency, all assessments
are moderated. Where discrepancies are found, assessments
are re-marked and explanations and improved instructions
supplied to partner college staff.
Taking an HCD approach means ensuring that the needs
of all stakeholders are met. In this case, the academic module
leaders (lecturers and professors) who develop teaching packs
received an allowance, roughly equivalent to a quarter of a
years staff time to create the teaching pack for a 15-credit
module (a learning experience notionally of 150 hours, oneeighth of a student-year). Thereafter allowances are given
based upon the number of off-campus students and partner
colleges using the module a module might attract an
allowance of 5-10% of the module leaders time to cover tasks
such as supporting the local lecturers, setting exams and
course-works, quality-assuring local marking, and updating
the teaching pack.
However it is not enough to simply supply materials and
monitor results; staff development and on-going support and
discussion are needed. All teaching staff involved need to be
aware of the six factors mentioned earlier, notably the
different contexts of HE and FE, and to create together a
common understanding of degree level provision for direct
entrants. Napier lecturers carry out an induction for new staff
at partner colleges, and then visit regularly to discuss issues
with local staff and students. Email and online discussion are
used between visits. An away-day is held annually for
lecturers from Napier and the UK partner colleges to discuss
areas of common interest and concern, in addition to visits
every 6-8 weeks. For overseas colleges, Napier lecturers carry
out, between them, around six on-site visits per year. These
visits quality-assure teaching and assessment procedures, give
learners the opportunity to raise issues with Napier, and let
Napier lecturers both experience another culture and context
for learning, and appreciate the comparability of provision and
learner achievements.
We now examine more closely the above six factors.

Different lecturers present the same lecture in different ways.

Even the same lecturer may well present the same lecture in a
different way on another occasion. The experience of the
students studying at different locations can therefore never be
identical, nor should it be. However, careful planning and
management can help ensure comparability. An early
managerial assumption was that if colleagues could simply
capture their lecture notes as word-processed documents and
presentation slideshows, these assets could then be exploited
at remote partner institutions. This is nave for a number of
reasons, but mainly because the strength of these artefacts lies
not in the materials themselves but in the ability to maintain
them and in the design and management of learning
experiences based on them. There are known problems [1]
with assuming that knowledge per se lies in repositories;
access to expertise is required to exploit these as knowledge.
In our case, funding was negotiated for lecturers to
capture their knowledge in repositories known as teaching
packs. The use of teaching packs is a key factor in promoting
comparability. As well as handouts and slides, these packs
Articulation between different qualifications
include module organisers, worksheets, assessments, lecturers
teaching plans, with suggestions and instructions. Lecturers at
Most countries differentiate between HE and FE programmes
partner colleges are encouraged to take ownership of the
and institutions, and much debate centres on whether or not to
materials and to personalize them, adding their own examples
enable the articulation from FE into HE (and whether this
and case studies, to bring the material alive and develop a
does, or should, blur the distinction). This typically involves
sense of ownership. The packs were initially supplemented
partnership between institutions in each sector. Research in
with email contact and all materials were eventually
this area is still relatively scarce and recent: [11] explores
incorporated in a WebCT-based VLE, Napier Education
differences in teaching practice between the two sectors; [16]
Online (NEO). A configuration management plan defined the
supplies a qualitative and historical study of the issues
structure and processes for updating the packs. Initial packs
surrounding the delivery of HE programmes in FE colleges
were peer reviewed and then professionally proof-read;
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Session S1D
from 1987 to the present day; [21] examines realistic
accounts of experience, which can offer a useful way of
interrogating what we do. Together these accounts illuminate
the complex and shifting domain of HE-level learning within
FE environments.
HE provision in different countries
We must conform to The Scottish Credit and Qualification
Framework (SCQF) [18], which was inspired by The Bologna
Declaration [4]. The latter defines a process to harmonise
parity of qualifications across (by now, around 40) European
countries by 2010. SCQF provides 12 level descriptors, which
cover the whole spectrum of secondary (high school) and
tertiary education, up to SCQF level 12 (doctorates). Level
relates to the complexity of learning outcome and not to the
volume. SCQF levels 7-10 map loosely onto the four years of
the Scottish honours degree: level 7 corresponds both to
degree year 1 and to a Higher National Certificate (HNC),
level 8 to year 2 and to a Higher National Diploma (HND).
(Some institutions increase the proportion of level 8 learning
during the first two years of a degree, but the final level is the
same). The rest of the UK has no equivalent model although
forthcoming legislation on 14-19 Education and Skills [22]
addresses some aspects.
Actual awards under the SCQF depend on the number of
credits obtained at each level, that is, the volume of attainment
at each level. SCQF explicitly states that attaining an HND is
equivalent to passing year 2 of a Scottish degree, thus HND
holders should be able to progress (or articulate) to stage 3 of
a Scottish degree, though the feasibility of this also depends
on the appropriateness of the curriculum - how well it maps
onto the curriculum of years 1 and 2 of the planned degree.
Public-Private partnerships in a global market
With the trend, under the World Trade Organisations General
Agreements in Trade in Services (GATS), to deregulate global
higher education, it is timely to consider the business
relationship between public and private institutions and
between countries. When our partnerships began, the South
East Asia tiger economic boom was in full swing, and the
resulting optimism hid some fundamental questions about the
economic and knowledge flows between economies. Difficult
questions can be asked about the motivation for an institution
within the G8 (the worlds wealthiest economies), to supply
educational products to citizens of other nations. Are such
ventures a means to raise money for the supplier, faced with
dwindling birth rates in their own country? Alternatively does
state support indicate a form of overseas aid, perhaps even a
form of post-colonial restitution? Lastly, as GATS progresses,
are these increasingly a loss-leader for an institution to
establish a global brand in HE?
Napier University is a public-sector institution in the UK,
and thus legally constrained in spending tax-payers money.
For example, students from outside the European Union (EU)
pay the full cost of fees, because state subsidy is only
permissible to EU citizens, and international partnerships must
be cost-neutral. Conversely, in Malaysia, overseas universities

may only deliver their programmes in partnership with

private-sector, rather than state, colleges. This is one part of
the Malaysian government strategy to expand university
education provision [3]. The quality of the provision is assured
by the combination of the overseas universities own
regulators, as well as by the Malaysian accreditation council
Lembaga Akreditasi Negara (LAN) who must approve all
programmes and colleges before and during delivery.
As well as regulatory and economic issues, there is also
the challenge of creating consistent and effective learner
experiences. Each learning situation is specific to the learner
[17] and, indeed, to all stakeholders [2]. Can these experiences
be designed at a more generic level and thus be suitable for a
global audience? If so, how do we meet local needs sociocultural, graduate career opportunities, pedagogical
approaches to ensure learning that is globally acceptable (for
example in terms of accreditation of competency)?
Learning in English
Like almost all UK universities, Napiers university charter
permits it to teach and assess only in English, and this
represents a challenge to students who do not have English as
a first language. Yet the fact that graduates have been taught
and assessed in English is seen to enhance their international
career opportunities. A degree from an English-language
institution can be seen as a qualification in English itself, even
if the assessment criteria and the learning outcomes may not
intend this. This requires an adequate level of English at entry,
but also for that English ability to continue to develop
throughout the programme of studies. A variety of
mechanisms exist to assess competency in English, such as
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS
(International English Language Testing System). We specify
the same minimum level of English competency for entry into
our programmes at partner colleges as we do in Edinburgh.
We also notice increasing numbers of learners use technology,
and the support of others students from the same country, to
construct their learning in their first language. Aspects of this
are valuable, but not all learners then develop the English
ability to, say, write an adequate dissertation. More work is
needed to optimise a balance for learners, and perhaps to
formalise any assumed development in English ability into the
learning outcomes.
A Blended Experience
Initial excessive optimism, that virtual learning would replace
face-to-face learning, has now given way to a broader
acceptance of the blended learning approach [5], with the
expertise of the lecturer supporting the learner to navigate
electronic resources. Different stakeholders have different
comfort zones in this continuum, under different contexts. In
our experience, some students may want to exploit the timeshifting capabilities of a VLE, whereas others find motivation
in timetabled classes. Similarly, academics may prefer the
immediacy of the classroom or the asynchronous demands of
online learner support. In other work [8,14] we explore the
learning object economy and how or whether learners benefit

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Session S1D
from e-learning. In the case of partnerships, students and staff
at partner colleges require and receive potentially the same
level of access to our VLE as home-based students, though
participation varies. More work is needed to understand the
contribution of VLEs to the overall learner experience.
Although VLE vendors stress the social potential in their
products, we notice in a students a waning in enthusiasm for
once-novel features such as threaded discussion groups.

recent developments, making assessments more relevant and

motivating for learners, coping with the diversity of
pedagogical approaches that are inevitable in a modular
degree programme. As one of us noted on a recent visit:


More gratifyingly, the accomplishments in assessments

are broadly similar with UK-based students with non-native
English and/or an FE background, and we have grown used to
being unable to tell whether a website or software program
was produced by a student in Scotland or in Malaysia.

In some countries HE is for an elite, whereas FE is more

vocational and for the average person. In other countries,
50% or more of the population participate in HE, though the
notion of an elite persists the Russell Group (UK) or the Ivy
League (US). To make HE accessible to the average person is
still a political action, driven by notions such as equality of
opportunity, on one hand, and on the other: recognition that,
just as service-based jobs have replaced manufacturing jobs in
most of the world, knowledge-based jobs (which require HE
qualifications) will soon replace service-based jobs.
A fundamental form of accessibility is making
educational provision equally available to all regardless of
physical or mental impairment. In some countries (eg US,
Australia and EU member-states), such accessibility is
required by law [e.g. 20], whereas in others it can be culturally
unacceptable even to admit to having a learning impairment
such as dyslexia. Can the accessibility requirements of one
country be placed upon partner institutions in another? Is
universal access actually achieved in any country? Are there
some disciplines for which it is legitimate to limit entry to
those without certain impairments (for example, can students
with vision and/or hearing impairments study a subject such as
multimedia)? At present, each year brings new variations
which we must manage, and turn into policies and procedures.
An HCD-based approach is iterative, evolving an
understanding of the various stakeholders needs and context,
and the evaluation of a series of design solutions that
increasingly meet these needs. We have a number of formal
mechanisms to obtain feedback from learners and staff at
partner colleges the same module surveys, boards of study,
and student-staff committees as in Edinburgh, and additionally
we conduct informal interviews during visits, specifically to
surface issues that remain hidden to more formal mechanisms.
For this study, we analysed our notes from visits to partner
colleges, recorded a typical such interview (with pre-planned
questions) with two current students in Malaysia, and a more
reflective interview with a graduate from Malaysia who
elected to study both third and fourth year in Edinburgh. In
some cases these reinforce points made through the formal
feedback channels, but listening to users actual stories also
surfaces additional issues that need investigation.
For some time we have observed a tendency by the
Scottish and Malaysian students to make similar criticisms and
suggestions about typical aspects of the programmes that
require ongoing attention updating curricula in light of

There were discussions both with the lecturers and later with the students
present (about 8 who attended my guest lecture) re attendance and
motivation to prepare for tutorials. This very much followed the issues
raised, at Napier, by colleagues at the most recent undergraduate Board of
Studies, and also reflects observations of home-based students in the
Student-Staff meetings

Articulation of FE and HE
Our degree structures do not permit optional modules, (except
a single module in years 1 and 2). Flexibility is achieved by
allowing students to transfer between degrees. This simplifies
the mapping of external qualifications to our structures. We
mapped Scottish computing HNDs to our existing 4-year
degrees and found that most pre-requisites for entry in the
existing year 3 were met, some were missing (such as learner
autonomy and critical thinking skills) while others were
exceeded particularly vocational and technical aspects. In
any case our 4-year degrees increasingly rely on approaches
such as problem-based learning to enhance employability
skills and to ensure graduates have a learning experience that
is personally and professionally useful [15]. To build on the
strengths and accommodate the deficiencies we developed a
suite of specific direct entry degree programmes, to meet the
needs of entrants with HNDs. These converge with our four
year degrees by the final semester, but include, for example, a
bridging module (CO32020 Professional Studies) to ease the
transition from FE to HE.
Malaysian diplomas are two or three years in length. Just
as with Scottish FE colleges, we analysed the level and
breadth of relevant diplomas, and identified those with broad
equivalence with the first two years of the Scottish degree. A
detailed mapping was required to gain both Malaysian LAN
approval and Napiers validation. A further articulation issue
emerged between third and fourth year. While gaining
approval and validation was slow but straightforward for
teaching the third year at partner colleges, the final specialist
year teaching is more of a challenge, requiring, for example,
teaching staff to be active researchers in the field. Therefore,
at present, only third year is delivered at partner institutions,
and students may graduate with Napiers ordinary BSc, or
come to Edinburgh for their fourth, honours, year. Equally
some students consider study in Malaysia, but decide to take
both third and fourth year in Edinburgh. So far no Scottishbased student has elected to have a semester studying in
Malaysia, but this may prove attractive in the future.
An international public-private partnership

The costs of setting up partnerships were the most problematic

and met through external public/private funding. Thereafter
the needs of both institutions are met in the commercial
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agreement the fees paid by students at the partner college are
enough to justify staff time for supply and maintenance of
teaching packs and monitoring of delivery and results, while
the costs to the FE partner, and the fees to the student, are no
more expensive than existing local provision.
It is beyond the scope of this paper to investigate the rate
of change of GATS, and its likely effects. As with many freetrade related issues, change is slow and those who invest to
exploit likely developments, fail if they get the timelines
wrong. Intermediaries have come and gone in the course of
these partnerships. Although not involved in this partnership,
the UK e-University (UKeU) also attempted, on a much larger
scale, to create both the content and the supply channel to
internationally distribute UK university learning and
qualifications. UKeU was shut down after estimated losses of
UK50m due to slowness to gain market share and has since
been the subject of UK government investigations.
We took an HCD approach in establishing this
partnership, working with local agents to find common ground
with the Malaysian HE model, discussing all aspects with
senior staff in the proposed partner colleges, and consulting
publications of the Malaysian Government. The success of
this approach is evidenced by the initial granting of LAN
approval, satisfying external examiners to pass Napiers
degree validation process, and continuing to satisfy the UKs
Quality Assurance Agency inspection process, as well as
sustained growth in student numbers. Napier recently carried
out a successful review of the programmes, which continue to
run well at Scottish colleges, but this does not guarantee
continued overseas viability. A current challenge is
maintaining LAN approval, following changes both in our
curricula and in the Malaysian regulatory framework since
Student voices
In terms of the attractiveness and appropriateness of the
programmes in Malaysia, the following excerpt from an
interview with two Malaysian-based students provides insight
into the cost/value benefits and also positions the 3-year
ordinary degree compared to the traditional 4-year honours
degree and the 2-year diploma:
Q: So why did you choose to do the Napier programme?
A: Compared to other courses, its short - only one year and cost not as
much as other colleges like <another college>. Multimedia is my life
[after] the diploma I took this [degree]
Q: So you wanted to do multimedia. You said other courses were longer,
how long would it take at other colleges to do a multimedia degree courses?
A: At <another college> to do an IT degree would take two and a half
years. Its very costly it costs about RM$32-33k for the whole course,
compared to <partner college> its only RM$16 and one year
Q: But at the end of this year you have an ordinary rather than an honours
degree, is that a problem?
A: Not a problem - with any kind of degree you can get work, Nowadays you
need a degree to get a job - a diploma is now like a normal [school-leaving]

These perceptions mirror those of home-based students

an HND is no longer enough in the job market, and they seek
cost-effective ways of getting to the next level in the SHEFC
Framework. Of course, this pragmatism is likely to be
insufficient motivation for successful learning at degree level,

so we can use this insight to design studies to elicit learners

attitudes and expectations and prepare appropriate support
There is another alternative for students in these
countries, for those who can afford it. Studying abroad is more
expensive but has long been seen to provide additional
benefits. The following student considered studying in
Malaysia but opted to spend years 3 and 4 in Edinburgh as a
full-time overseas student, graduating with honours in 2003.
Q: If a student asked you whether to study in Malaysia or in the UK
A: I would recommend that they go to UK - I did have a good experience
Q: Whats the reason some Malaysian students dont come to UK
A: First thing is the financial problem, the second thing is that they are not
confident and the third thing is the language problem they are not
confident about studying they worry that they cant finish their coursework.

We hardly expected a negative answer to the question

below, but the clarification in the answer suggests that there
remains a gulf between the experience and perceived value of
study abroad compared to distributed learning.
Q: And do you think if you had been interviewed alongside a graduate from
one of our programmes in Malaysia, do you think you would have an edge.
Does being in the UK make you more employable?
A: Yes usually like that.. Even though weve learned the same technical
things. When you go for jobs, I can see that they prefer overseas graduates
to local graduates you have a way of thinking you expand your thinking
or whatever, your opinions

These utterances reveal an undesired divergence in the

perception of student experience and the learning outcomes in
the two situations. For our distributed provision to succeed, in
part depends on listening to such voices, using the insights to
design investigations to identify the extent of their validity and
then to address relevant issues.
A Blended Experience
With Scottish partner colleges, we had to resolve some initial
problems. Students at partner colleges are matriculated
students of Napier University. However becoming integrated
and feeling part of the university can be difficult to achieve.
This can perhaps best be summed up by the words of one
Scottish-based student through a formal feedback channel:
The start of the course was a bit bumpy as far as the administration side is
concerned but I feel that with all new enterprises that this is to be expected
and I think that the efforts that both <my college> and Napier put in to set
this to rights was excellent to me this does not detract at all from the
teaching administration (if that makes sense).
I felt at the start of the course, as did some of my fellow students, that we
were regarded as "second class citizens". I would like to take this
opportunity now to state that I now feel that this was a wrong assumption, I
am sure that, in fact, this may be the exact reverse.
The teaching and administration staff at <my college> have in my opinion
done an excellent job in delivering the course material and supporting the
course by making available extra resources where required

Our informal interview with two current students at a

Malaysian college was during the second year of partnership
with that college. This reveals a similar story, as well as
providing us with an issue to investigate for the different use
patterns of the VLE in Malaysia.
Q: Do you feel as if you are an <college> student or a Napier student
A: I am more like a Napier student because, well, we get special treatment
in <college> actually
Q: You feel different? (nods) You get access to Napiers electronic sources,
email - do you use these at all?
A: Yes, its very useful to get my results, to check the notes and get the

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35th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference

Session S1D
Q: And the fact that you access the same resources as students at Napier,
you feel youre on the same course as them?
A: Yes
Q: Some WebCT pages have discussions with students comments. Have you
taken part or read the comments from Edinburgh students
A: So far Ive read most of the comments, but Ive never actually
Q: We at Napier develop teaching packs to support the programmes do
you think these examples are suitable or do you think any examples are too
A: No, not really I think its good for us actually it broadens our

The final point is one which we continually monitor the

risk of our materials being culturally situated. Both sets of
comments help identify how to iteratively improve the
functionality and usage of the VLE, and to create a climate
where both learners and lecturers can build the enthusiasm to
ignore deficiencies.
To build robust and sustainable provision, collaborative
partnerships must be built up slowly and steadily. The
preparation of a globally accessible set of English-language
teaching materials facilitates these partnerships, but this must
be done using a systemic approach, based on human-centred
design principles to create a solution that is sensitive to local
contexts. The quality assurance regime must be based on
respect and trust, coupled with detailed guidance. Workload
allocation models for academics supplying materials and
exper6tise must reflect the full additional labour required to
create and maintain materials with a consistent look and feel,
while still harnessing each lecturers individualism and
expertise in communications and teaching. This benefits
home-based learners, giving a shared, global learning
experience, with inclusive, pluralistic teaching materials.
Good use of communications technology at a number of levels
is central to the success of this provision: between distributed
module teaching teams and programme leaders, and between
learners at all institutions, but at the current time this needs to
be supplemented by regular face to face contract, as part of a
structured approach to staff development as a means to deepen
the relationship. Educators at each institution gain a better
understanding of a variety of teaching and learning cultures,
which helps them provide better support to increasingly
culturally-diverse student population. This technology is also
used to promote contact between learners at different
locations, thus enhancing the learning experience by creating a
global community of learners. We have grown accustomed to,
and delight in, seeing comparable work and hearing equivalent
stories from students of diverse backgrounds, studying in
different types of institutions in different continents.
We thank the students who took part in the interviews, and the
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0-7803-9077-6/05/$20.00 2005 IEEE

October 19 22, 2005, Indianapolis, IN
35th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference