University of Derby - case study

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The University of Derby is a university in the city of Derby, England in the UK. The main campus is in the north-west of Derby. The university additionally operates a site in Buxton, Derbyshire, known as the Devonshire campus. Courses are also housed in the Britannia Mill campus in Derby and the Chesterfield Centre for health education.

The university provides nearly 300 study programmes at the undergraduate level. Undergraduate programmes as well as short courses, foundation degrees, and postgraduate degrees are generally superintended by individual faculties/research groups and cover most popularly-recognized academic disciplines and subdisciplines. The university's Joint Honours Scheme allows students to combine over 40 subjects from across all four university faculties.

The University was founded in 1992 but its predecessors go back to 1851.

It has over 24,000 students of which 12,000 are undergraduates, 2,000 are postgraduates and 7,000 are FE students (doing non-degree courses).

Its web site is at

It is a member of the Open Learning Foundation, a member of EADTU.

This case study has been prepared by Paul Bacsich of Matic Media Ltd with the assistance of Dave O'Hare and his colleagues at the University of Derby.



The present

General description of the institution in its current state, putting the e-learning into context

The university provides nearly 300 study programmes at the undergraduate level. Undergraduate programmes as well as short courses, foundation degrees, and postgraduate degrees are generally superintended by individual faculties/research groups and cover most popularly-recognized academic disciplines and subdisciplines. The university's Joint Honours Scheme allows students to combine over 40 subjects from across all four university faculties.

It offers many programmes including substantial e-learning with some delivered almost completely by e-learning.

The University is an active participant in UK development programmes in e-learning including Benchmarking and Pathfinder.

Students can study online for a foundation degree, honours degree or postgraduate degree in a wide range of subjects.

Studying for a degree online means that students can choose when and where to study - ideal if students want to study with a university but can't or don't want to come to lectures on campus all the time. Students can study at home or at work. All they need is a PC and an internet connection. With online discussion groups there's also plenty of opportunity for students to talk to fellow students from around the world.

Specific courses with a high level of e-learning include:

  • Advanced Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Skills and Studies
  • Certificate of Higher Education in Supporting Disabled Students
  • University Diploma in International Spa Management
  • University Diploma in Psychotherapeutics
Foundation degrees
  • Foundation Degree in Beauty and Spa Services
  • Foundation Degree in Hairdressing and Salon Management
  • Foundation Degree in Hospitality Management
Undergraduate degrees
  • BA (Hons) Business Studies
  • BA Hairdressing Salon Management
  • BA Hospitality Management (Final Year Top-up)
  • BSc (Hons) International Spa Management
  • BSc (Hons) Nursing Studies (Adult) Top Up
  • BSc (Hons) Nursing Studies (Mental Health) Top Up
  • BSc Applied Psychological Studies
  • BSc Applied Psychology
Postgraduate study
  • LLM in Commercial Law
  • MA Education
  • MA Education: Guidance
  • MBA (Certificate Stage)
  • MBA (Diploma Stage)
  • MBA (Master of Business Administration)
  • MBA Logistics
  • MSc Environmental Health
  • MSc Environmental Management
  • MSc Health Ergonomics
  • MSc Strategic Information Technology Management
  • MSc Strategic Management
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Supervision

Institution's annual budget

The University’s cost base for 2008/09 is around £95m (pay and non-pay costs combined).

Number of students in the institution

(a) in total? (b) as full-time equivalents?

Students in total: 23,545 (20,053 excluding FE) - 2008/09 figure Students FTE: 17,744 (16,035 excluding FE) - 2007/08 figure

(FE students are not studying university-level courses.)

Staff in the institution

(a) in total? (b) as full-time equivalents?

Staff in total: 2,890 Staff FTE: 1,568 - 2006/07 (based on last return)

Institution's "business model"

(a) public (b) private (c) consortium (d) national programme. If (c) or (d) above, list the other partners (or the members) and for each briefly describe its role.

The University of Derby is a public institution.

Percentage of the institution's students based outside the home country

The percentage of students based outside the UK: 19.30% (based on headcount of all students including FE).

Institution's approach to virtual mobility

The University participates in the Erasmus scheme, but this mainly relates to handling face-to-face students. All the University's programmes are open to students both EU and world-wide.

How the institution manages its "brand"

(a) in general and (b) in respect of any e-learning aspects

The University has a clear mission statement – “To be the learners first choice for quality and opportunity”. The e-learning provision is strongly marketed by a central marketing team and is linked via our homepage via "ways to study".

The past

Narrative description of the institution's history since its foundation

'concentrating on key dates, recent years and any e-learning issues'

The history of the University of Derby is complex, involving lots of institutions, premises and affiliations. See the diagram.

The following material is sourced from See also

Early years

Over the years, two dozen bodies have contributed to the university's formation. The first of these was founded in 1851 as the Derby Diocesan Institution for the Training of Schoolmistresses. Albeit under different names so to reflect maturing objectives, the institution flourished as an individual entity for some 120 years before merging with another developing educational artery to help form what was then known as the Derby Lonsdale College of Higher Education, 1977.

The other line of this confluence began in 1853 with the establishment of the Derby School of Art, which in 1870 became the Derby Central School of Art and the Derby Central School of Science. In 1885, the two schools were reformulated into the Derby School of Art and Technical Institution. Less than a decade later however, 1892, three more mergers took place and the institution became the Derby Municipal Technical College.

Kedleston Road

In 1928, the Technical College split into the Derby School of Art and the Derby Technical College. By 1955, the two had become the Derby and District College of Art (opened on 22 September 1966 by Paul Reilly, Director of the Council of Industrial Design), and the Derby and District College of Technology (opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 15 May 1964), both situated on Kedleston Road. The site was formerly Markeaton Golf Course and cost £2.5m, with a foundation stone placed on July 5 1957 by Lord (Ernest) Hives, a former managing director of Rolls Royce. Opened by the Duke the day before, the 35 acre Bishop Lonsdale College in Mickleover was developed for teacher training courses. At the opening ceremony, the Duke said qualities needed by teachers are the dedication of a saint, the patience of a watchmaker, the sympathy of parents, and the leadership of a general. The Duke spent two days in Derby, staying the night nearby at Okeover Hall near Ashbourne as a guest of the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire. Half of the places at Mickleover were reserved for C of E trainees and the other half for those with no link to Derby Diocese. The operational split between the two colleges at Kedleston Road was dissolved in 1972 with a mutual initiative for the creation of the Derby College of Art and Technology. Five years afterward, and as previously noted, the described educational lineage married itself with Derby’s diocesan tradition, which had became known institutionally as the Bishop Lonsdale College of Education at Mickleover. There were about 800 students at Mickleover and 1200 at Kedleston Road.

Merger with Mickleover Education College

After the 1977 union and subsequent formation of the Derby Lonsdale College of Higher Education, four other educational institutions would add their respective sector-related talents. In March 1981, the college held its first graduation ceremony with formal academic caps and gowns with only six degrees (out of 156 courses) being ratified by the CNAA. Previous to this, the college's degrees were awarded in a ceremony at the University of Nottingham. The Matlock College of Education, a traditional Church of England teacher training college formed in 1946 at Rockside Hall (now a country hotel), combined with Lonsdale in 1983 to create the Derbyshire College of Higher Education, when the Matlock College was having financial difficulties when funding for teacher training was scaled down when school numbers had dropped. In 1985, this college at Matlock was scaled down significantly and closed in 1986. In 1991 the Southern Derbyshire School of Occupational Therapy united with the college. The Southern Derbyshire School of Radiography did the same in 1992.

Transformation to university

It was also in 1992, via the Further and Higher Education Acts, that the Derbyshire College of Higher Education became the only school of higher education in the country to be upgraded directly to a university.[citation needed] On 31 October 1992, the T block (science subjects, which lies to the north of the North Tower) was opened by Princess Alice, the Chancellor of the University. In January 1994, Britannia Mill[2] (a renovated mill) opened, at a cost of £10m. On 4 March 1994, the B block (business and management subjects, which lies north of the East Tower) was opened by the Conservative MP, Tim Boswell. Later in autumn 1994, the Atrium was built. In November 1997, the Learning Centre was officially opened, having been built on a former car park. The University of Derby was fully invested, and in 1998 welcomed a synthesis of efforts with the High Peak College of Further Education, Buxton on Harpur Hill – a synthesis to eventually be amalgamated as the Devonshire Campus[3] of the University of Derby Buxton, Derby's second campus.

History of e-learning at the University of Derby

There is a good historical overview contained in the March 2003 reportImplementing Learning Technologies at the University of Derby, 1989-2003: A Case Study by Professor Chris O’Hagan (former Head of the Centre for Educational Development and Media, and Dean of Learning Development at the University of Derby).

External environment

External environment

Institution's funding from government as a percentage of annual income

No information at this stage.

The way that funding is provided for institutions in the institution's country

Almost all universities in the United Kingdom are public institutions largely funded by the state. (The main exception is the University of Buckingham.)

State funds for the University of Derby come from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Legal status of the institution

The University of Derby is incorporated as a Private Company Limited by Guarantee, set up under the laws of England and Wales as Company No. 03079282. See

The Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association were drawn up in 1995

Language(s) that the institution uses for instruction

Add the percentage of students studying in each. (Bilingual study can also be included.)

The language of instruction is English.

Specific cultural issues that affect the institution's students

Mention any features relevant to e-learning

The University of Derby has a significantly high proportion of mature students (it is estimated that 60% of our students are 21 or over), which has an impact on the nature of their skill base and also their ability to commit full time to study, due to work and family commitments, thereby increasing the importance of e-learning to the institution.

External quality assurance and/or accreditation regime affecting the institution

Mention any features relevant to e-learning

The University of Derby has its quality of learning and teaching overseen by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). They have produced several reports in recent years on the University (see the list) including:

  1. Collaborative provision audit, University of Derby, December 2006 (RG315 03/07), QAA, March 2007
  2. Institutional audit, University of Derby,(RG141 08/05), QAA, March 2005
  3. Quality Audit: Collaborative provision, University of Derby (IRD 732), QAA, March 2003

Approach to credit transfer with other similar institutions

The UK has as yet no overall system of credit transfer but the CATS scheme is beginning to form a basis for this.

The University participates in the CATS system via credit equivalence and the use of student transcripts as appropriate.

In addition, most universities including the University of Derby normally have a network of relationships with nearby institutions especially colleges and other new universities, which facilitate this process.

For example, the Derbyshire Regional Network (DRN), later the Curriculum Partnership, was a partnership of five Further Education colleges and the University of Derby which has been formed to establish a regional credit framework and a CAT system. The DRN is an example of a single credit system across the FE/HE divide and is also based on guidelines and specifications developed by the FEU.

Main associations that the institution is a member of

with a note as to the relevance of each to e-learning (if any)

The University of Derby is a member of the Open Learning Foundation (OLF). It was a member of the Global University Alliance (GUA), set up by NextEd in the early 2000s.

As with most UK universities, it is a member of Universities UK. As with many new universities, it is a member of the Million+ group of new universities.

Main international partners of the institution

in the order of strategic importance, with priority given to collaborations involving e-learning

The University has a long list of international partners, of which the most relevant are:

  • Botswana Accountancy College (Gaborone, Botswana) - The University of Derby runs the Master of Science in Strategic Management programme
  • Gestalt Academy (Stockholm, Sweden) - Gestalt Academy is a private, non-profit making psychotherapy training organisation.
  • Inter College (Israel)- from 1996
  • Malawi Institute of Management (Lilongwe, Malawi) - from 1998
  • Swiss Hotel Management School (Leysin, Switzerland)
  • The Vakalo School of Art and Design (Athens, Greece) (established in 1957)

There are also relationships with several UK partners including many colleges - see the list.


Strategy details

Current institutional strategy

The mission statement of the University is to be:

"The learners first choice university for quality and opportunity"

The leading aim of the mission is:

To achieve a high quality student focused learning experience

The University affirms within the leading aim, that:

  • Learning and teaching is the core activity of the University
  • The University will achieve excellence in learning and teaching provision in all its aspects and seek to deliver it flexibly
  • Active and relevant scholarship and research informs quality teaching

There is a Corporate Plan 2004-2009 which defines the strategy but this is not a public document.

Current learning and teaching strategy

The learning, teaching and assessment strategy is described in a recent document presented at the staff conference in 2008.

This is based on the LTA strategy 2007-2009 which is not in full a public document.

The Aims of the LTA Strategy are to:

  • Create a student-centred learning culture (so) our learners... become independent lifelong learners (c.f. ‘student focussed’ mission);
  • Make our student learning experience accessible... in flexible ways to support widening participation, retention and progression where student learning is situated (c.f. ‘community based’ mission).
  • Develop and enhance learner employability and professionalism... enabling them... to become reflective and responsive practitioners in their continuing employment (c.f. ‘achievement driven’ mission);
  • Create a professional standards framework and scholarly environment to support staff in generating an ethos and practice of student centred learning

The Objectives of the LTA Strategy are to:

  1. Develop inclusive LTA practices for diversity (c.f. accessibility etc)
  2. Develop student skills and attributes (c.f. PDP, employability etc)
  3. Strengthen programme design via curriculum frameworks and experts
  4. Adopt professional standards in the context of CPD
  5. Use innovative LTA methods for dispersed learners and teachers
  6. Use technology supported learning in embedded and ubiquitous ways
  7. Establish and implement a Flexible Learning Framework
  8. Implement the University assessment policy
  9. Implement a University LTA infrastructure
  10. Implement a University LTA infrastructure
  11. Establish excellent practice leading to quality learning
  12. Support innovation in curriculum design, delivery, assessment and student support
  13. Foster a spirit of partnership amongst every member of staff

Current e-learning strategy

e-learning is embedded as part of the LTA strategy and is not a separate document.

Percentage of students

(a) taking courses wholly or largely delivered by e-learning
(b) taking courses where the amount of institutionally supplied/guided e-learning is "significant" (i.e. has an impact on staff or students)
(c) taking courses where the where the amount of institutionally supplied/guided e-learning is insignificant?

(a) Taking the student total as 20,053 (HE only) and the numbers of (fully) online learners for this year as 649 (from internal stats), this gives a percentage of 3.2% of total student numbers.

(b) Range is probably (now) 70-80% (+/- 10%)

(c) 20% (+/- 10%) This figure is based on the estimates above and is perhaps larger than the reality, and is strongly dependant as one might expect on the subject area (e.g fine arts).

Percentage of the institutional budget that e-learning represents

Comment on how it is measured including the assumptions made, whether it is appropriate and any trends

Some highlights:

  • £1.2 Million in terms of student income, however, there are also additional staff costs and software and hardware costs, which in part are related to e-learning.
  • 120 hours per year x 4 to E-learning teaching fellows

CEDM staffing has been estimated as around 13 full-time equivalent staff (FTEs):

  • 4 FTEs – e-assessment
  • 5 FTEs – materials and coding development
  • 2.5 FTEs – learning technology support – curriculum design and staff development
  • 2 FTEs – media production support.

This however also soes not include academic staff time, which has been costed (on an internal model of 3k per module (~120 hours)

Hardware and software costs are not included at this stage.

Role (if any) of external funding in fostering the development of e-learning

(a) not relevant, (b) useful, or (c) essential

It is essential, since much of the external funding has pump-primed activities, which may not have occurred without such external funding.


Structure details

Institutional structure

preferably supplying an organogram

As is quite common in the UK, the University is divided into a number of academic units (called Faculties) and central departments supplying services to academic staff and students. See the page for an overview.

There are five Faculties of which one, the Faculty of Flexible and Partnership Learning is particularly key to e-learning activities.

Type of e-learning support model

(a) hub (b) distributed (c) hub and spokes (d) complicated (e) non-existent

The learning support model could be best described as a hub and spokes, although perhaps with uneven spokes. There is a central Centre for Educational Development and Media (CEDM), which supports staff in a range of electronic media, including e-assessment, video, animations etc. This is supported in varying levels in the faculties by e-learning teaching fellows (Funded by QED), who act as points of support and champions. This is also augmented in some areas (low numbers) by dedicated developers to support academic staff.

In addition there is the School of Flexible and Partnership Learning, which takes the academic lead for e-learning across the institution and is responsible for delivering on external projects.

The structure for the e-learning operation and how it maps into the institutional structure

The e-learning operation has a split and partially devolved structure, being split as it is in terms of the two PVCs:

  • Academic developments for e-learning sit under one PVC, who oversees the School of Flexible and partnership Learning – which provides the academic lead for the University via the Senior Teaching Fellow (e-learning).
  • Technical and infrastructure (e.g. library IT and technical support for e-learning – CEDM) sit under a second PVC (who is responsible for Learning, Teaching and scholarship) and is also responsible for quality assurance and enhancement department – which runs the LTA infrastructure e.g. the e-learning teaching fellows (who provide academic support in the faculties).

In addition each faculty has an assistant Dean, who takes responsibility in the faculty for e-learning in the wider sense.

The committees that oversee e-learning and their relationship to the organisational structure

(including the rank and role of the Chair in each relevant committee)

E-learning within the University is overseen via a number of committees, which are as follows:

  • Each Faculty has its own SQC
  • There is a subcommittee of LTA committee, known as the e-learning subcommittee (which tackles wider e-learning issues)
  • ASQC, a subcommittee of Academic Board is responsible for a approval and development of new programmes (including new online programmes)
  • all online programmes are overseen by CDL (Collaborative and Distance Learning Committee).

Learning and Teaching processes

This has a focus on learning and teaching with other aspects viewed from this perspective

A wide range of programmes are currently offered fully online (so-called "pure" or "pure-play" e-learning):

  • Applied Psychological Studies (Online) BSc (Hons)
  • Applied Psychology (Online) BSc (Hons)
  • Business Studies (Online) BA (Hons)
  • Clinical Supervision (Online) PG Cert
  • Cognitive Behavioural Skills and Studies (Online) University Advanced Diploma
  • Education (Online) MA (incorporating PG Cert and PG Dip)
  • Environmental Health (Online) MSc
  • Environmental Management (Online) MSc (incorporating PG Cert/PG Dip)
  • Events Management (Online) FdA
  • Events Safety Management (Online) Diploma
  • Hairdressing and Salon Management (Online) BA (Hons)
  • Hairdressing and Salon Management: Creative Pathway (Online) FdA
  • Hairdressing and Salon Management: Management Pathway (Online) FdA
  • Health Ergonomics (Online) MSc (incorporating PG Cert/PG Dip)
  • Hospitality Management (Online) FdA
  • Hospitality Management Top up (Online) BA (Hons)
  • Hotel Management (FdA)
  • International Spa Management (Online) BSc (Hons)
  • International Spa Management (Online) University Diploma
  • Law, Commercial (Online) LL.M
  • MA Education: Guidance Studies, incorporating PG Cert and PG Dip (Online)
  • MBA (Logistics) incorporating PG Cert/PG Dip (Online)
  • MBA, incorporating PG Cert/PG Dip (Online)
  • Nursing Studies (Adult) Top up (Online) BSc (Hons)
  • Nursing Studies (Mental Health) Top Up (Online) BSc (Hons)
  • Psychotherapeutics (Online) University Diploma
  • Spa Management (Online) FdA*
  • Spa Therapies (Online) FdA *
  • Strategic Information Technology Management (Online) MSc (incorporating PG Cert/PG Dip)
  • Strategic Management (Online) MSc (incorporating PG Cert/PG Dip)
  • Teaching 14-19 Psychology (Online) PG Dip
  • Travel and Tourism Operations (Online) FdA

Learning and teaching design and delivery

How choice of pedagogies and technologies is made for a typical programme that is envisaged to include significant e-learning

The types of pedagogy offered vary widely based on the nature of the target audience and their requirements. However, whilst there is still perhaps too great an emphasis in some areas on a didactic model, there has been a move towards greater use of problem-based learning.

Scope that staff have at delivery stage to refine or in some cases override design decisions made earlier

The University has moved from an overtly front loaded production model, where the material was all produced upfront of the course (as in the GUA era), to a system that now allows academic staff a great deal of flexibility in terms of the materials which they provide. There is also beginning to be a greater emphasis placed on collaborative activities and even user-generated content thus a model based too rigidly on "content" is not appropriate.

Learning and teaching development

This includes materials and IPR

Amount of e-learning content sourced from outside the institution

Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment (an exact percentage is useful)

Very little (score of 1).

However, the University is good at copyright cleared book chapters etc. The lack of re-use of existing content is a major weakness of the institution and is not currently handled in a systematic manner (but work is under way to resolve this).

Amount of e-learning content sourced from outside the institution that is OER

Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment

Very little (score of 1).

Most is on an informal basis by academics, not part of a standard development process. The University's involvement in the JISC POCKET project (linked to OpenLearn at the Open University UK) will be used as a vehicle to move this forward.

Ownership by staff of content developed

(a) owned by them and licensed to the institution, (b) owned by the institution but with some licensing back to staff, (c) owned by the institution but with no licensing back to staff, (d) unclear or disputed IPR position?

With the exception of a handful of long-serving academics (on Principal Lecturer contracts dating from many years ago), the content is owned by the institution. For more details see Intellectual Property Right Staff Regulations.

Amount of content sourced from other departments within the institution

Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment (an exact percentage is useful)

Score of 1. There is a very low level of sharing of material across the institution.

Role of student-generated content in the institution's programmes

Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment

Score of 1. Low, but varies by programme and is on an upward trend.

Learning and teaching evaluation and quality

Quality procedures

describe them (a) in general terms and (b) with respect to e-learning

The University has an innovative risk-based approach to quality assurance; the full VA processes are documented here:

The processes for e-learning are similar for those for e-learning, and thus VA procedures and annual monitoring apply. In addition an annual overarching e-learning annual monitoring report was produced (as separate to individual programme reports).

The University is a leading member of the Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement in e-Learning SIG set up by the Higher Education Academy and a group of universities.

Approach to evaluation of programmes

(a) in general terms and (b) where such programmes have significant e-learning components

Each programme produces an annual monitoring report, which has a defined structure and template. This is partly informed by programme questionnaires, delivered at three stages in the year. The e-learning programmes have specially designed items to capture pertinent information for online learners.

The positive impacts of e-learning can be perhaps best described in terms of the pedagogical innovation which it brings and thus a greater emphasis on the student learning experience than is often the case with traditional modes of teaching and learning. It also affords the ability to monitor engagement and thus improve retention. However, it raises significant challenges in terms of costs (real costs), staff workloads and in some areas quality assurance that can be protracted in terms of resolution.

Meta Learning and Teaching processes


The way the institution communicates good practice in e-learning within itself

focussing on communications across internal boundaries

The university hosts an annual LTA (Learning, Teaching and Assessment) conference, where e-learning is a major strand. (See the 2008 conference.) In addition there are a number of Faculty-based staff development days that disseminate activity across the faculties. The University's e-learning teaching fellows also play a cross-university and inter-faculty role in this activity. It goes without saying that the central team in CEDM is also key to this.

The way the institution communicates its good practice in e-learning to organisations outside

Both central support staff and academic staff regularly engage with national and international conferences (in particular ALT-C and Online Educa) and also are part of vibrant Subject Centres e.g. Psychology.

The way the institution communicates good practice in e-learning from outside organisations into its own organisation

This is again via the variety of routes described in the last two entries, although it must be noted that it needs to be tackled on a more systematic basis.

Recent occasions on which institutional leaders or managers have made presentations with significant reference to e-learning

A noteworthy observation from the current Vice-Chancellor is worth quoting in full (Times Higher, 14 August 2008):

At the University of Derby, the vice-chancellor is a convert. John Coyne joined the online networking site Second Life and created a digital identity for himself to state publicly the institution's commitment to transliteracy. He signed a contract with a major IT provider within Second Life as well as on paper.
"It's something of considerable interest to the university in terms of how we might have to adapt our pedagogy going forward, and the greater diversity of means by which students will wish to engage with learning," he says.
He describes the future cohort of undergraduates as the "Bebo generation". Transliteracy, he says, is essential if universities are to teach a generation of students who are "inquiry rich, time poor".
Academic staff at Derby are already experimenting with teaching classes within Second Life, not just in the IT and computer games departments, but in psychology and education studies too. The university will also offer academics access to support and training where requested.
"We're trying to anticipate the kinds of challenges that may be pushed upon us as an institution," Coyne says.
Derby may be something of a leading light in promoting academic transliteracy, but there is still a long way to go before the higher education sector can call itself transliterate. Even for the converted, stumbling blocks remain.
"While I was on the walkabout in Second Life, I bumped into another avatar (online persona) and it was one of my lecturers. He was surprised to discover his vice-chancellor there," Coyne explains.
"We engaged in a conversation, but I think he realised my avatar was being directed by a student colleague when he asked me a question. Apparently I responded by saying, 'Cool.'?

See also:

In the past this was perhaps more common. See for example:

The University of Derby Selects Gilat Communications' TrainNet System for Innovative e-Learning Systems, speech by the Vice-Chancellor, March 2000.

Value for money

The annual planning procedure

(a) in general and (b) how it handles e-learning aspects

Each Faculty - and each School within the Faculty - produces its own business plan, which is overseen at Faculty management and executive level. E-learning is considered to be embedded as part of this process, with the expectation that clear targets will be set in terms of both course recruitment and development.

The decision-making process for a typical academic programme

with particular reference to how e-learning aspects are handled

This is covered as part of the development process for new programmes – VA process, with an e-learning expert present at the validation panel to ensure that the programme team have fully explored the pedagogic staffing and other issues around e-learning delivery.

The decision-making process for a typical large IT project

such as selection and installation of a new VLE

As was acknowledged as part of the HEA e-learning benchmarking exercise this is an area where greater development of procedures is required, since the approach has tended towards top-level decisions.

The approach to budget management

with particular reference to the staff versus non-staff issues in budgeting for e-learning

Each new programme as part of the validation approvals process has to produce a validation approval document, which addresses the potential cost implications of the development of a new programme, both in terms of staffing and other costs. (see

The procedures in the institution for assigning or negotiating teaching workload to/with staff

taking account of non-traditional styles of teaching as well as classroom teaching and taking specific account of e-learning

The University has a long established workload model, which takes account of contact time for both face to face and online teaching hours. However, this model is currently undergoing review as a result of some concerns among academic staff regarding its accuracy in terms of orientation to the needs of online learners.


Teachers, lecturers, trainers and equivalent support roles

The approach to development of e-learning technical and pedagogic skills among staff

taking account of the different needs of different categories of staff and setting this within the context of staff development generally

The institution runs a central staff development programme, which has IT skills among its content and also includes a number of events related to programme design and pedagogic practice.

Staff development for e-learning is offered in a number of ways (although is currently under review). Staff are offered a number of timetable sessions, for which they can sign up (based on tools, but with a pedagogic focus), in addition the University offers a highly successful "drop in" service which offers an informal approach and allows staff to gain both technical and pedagogic skills. Finally academics are also supported by their faculty e-learning teaching fellows and other colleagues both at formal sessions and on an informal one to one basis.

Support staff are generally provided with training to enhance skills on an "as needed" basis; this is adequate but the lack of external visits to other institutions by staff in this area is a weakness.

Current and expected levels of staff competence in e-learning

(now and in five years time) In each case use a 1-5 scale with a comment

In terms of (a) the current position the score is 2.

For (b) the expected level of competence in 5 years the score will be 4. This will be required to support the types of curriculum design and delivery that is being promoted by the University as part of our Curriculum Fit For the Future strategy.

A recent staff development needs analysis tool (delivered as part of e-learning Pathfinder project – the Flexible Learning Network, funded by the Higher Education Academy) taken by approximately 50% of academic staff at the University identified our areas of strength and weakness. An overview of the results is available.

The Flexible Learning Network aimed to coordinate an enhancement programme across a number of strands of activity in staff development and support, technical issues, quality assurance, course design and pedagogic research. The FLN facilitates cross institution coordination and the e-learning Teaching Fellow scheme expanded through the project. Work is underway with the QE Dept to embed e-learning in the review of QA procedures. The University participated and participates in the Network Project PREEL 2, now mutated into the QA-QE SIG.

The extent to which staff attitudes to e-learning are favourable

Use a 1-5 scale with a comment

The score is 4, maybe nearly 5.

The response is based on the staff survey ran as part of the e-learning benchmarking exercise (February 2007): in relation to the question “How do you feel about using technology (e.g computers, audio, video etc) in teaching? Please rate the following statements", 85% of respondents "strongly agreed" or "agreed" that "It is an essential approach to teaching in a modern University".

The way that the institution rewards and recognises staff with competence in e-learning

in (a) monetary and (b) non-monetary terms

Staff can be rewarded for their efforts both as part of the staff excellence scheme and also gain recognition by taking on the role of e-learning teaching fellow for their faculty – which comes with associated time allocation and a small fund for equipment.

Management and leadership

This subsection concerns leaders (Rectors, Vice-Chancellors, etc) and academic and support service managers (Deans, Directors, etc). These do not need to have specific knowledge of e-learning details but must have the necessary strategic, management, costing and foresight capability to preside over decisions on key e-learning issues such as procurement of a new VLE, development of a new distance learning programme, rebalancing the library and its staff more towards web 2.0 and less to books, etc. This will require appropriate manager and leader training.

The approach to development of e-learning-related skills among (a) managers and (b) leaders

This is on a relatively informal basis: (a) Managers – attendance at LTA conference and staff development events within faculty, informal working with faculty staff as part of faculty committees
(b) Leaders – tours of CEDM/LIS, visits to other institutions (with e-learning focus), conference attendance (e.g. university LTA).

The current level of (a) management and (b) leadership competence in e-learning related skills appropriate to their levels

In each case use a 1-5 scale with a comment

(a) Management – Variable just below 3
(b)Leadership – Variable, just over 3.

The extent to which (a) management and (b) leadership attitudes to e-learning are favourable

Use a 1-5 scale with a comment

(a) Management - just below 3 – e-learning is sometimes perhaps perceived as a diversion from core business
(b)Leadership – 4 Positive - two PVCs are keen advocates as evidenced by curriculum fit for the future developments and the revised draft LTA strategy.

The job description of the most senior manager/leader in the organisation who spends a significant portion of his/her time on e-learning matters

(e.g. the Director of E-Learning)

Job descriptions are available for the following roles:

  • PVC Ac Dev
  • Head of FPL
  • Dean of Faculty
  • Head of School + Assistant Dean of Faculty

but they are not yet analysed and are not public documents.

One more job description is expected - Head of IT Development and E-Learning.


Students details

The approach to development of e-learning skills among students

taking account of the different needs of different categories of students and setting this within the context of students' more general information literacy and communication skills

Students are provided as part of their course with access to an online induction module, which covers a number of areas, with a broad-brush approach to cover all students e.g. use of the VLE and its tools and general study skills. Students are also able to gain additional support from the library team.

The current level and expected level of student competence in e-learning

(a) on entry to the institution and (b) the expected level of student competence on graduation from the institution In each case use a 1-5 scale with a comment

(a) The current level of student competence varies greatly, but would average at present at around 2-2.5, probably reflecting the nature of the student population at the University which has a large proportion of mature students, who may not have been exposed to using technology.
(b) The expected level of competence on graduation would be 3-3.5, but this is on an upward trajectory.

The extent to which student attitudes to e-learning are favourable

Use a 1-5 scale with a comment

Details here are based on the last student survey delivered in December 2006 (630 student responses):

How would you rate the online-learning aspects of your study programme?

Very poor: 2%
Poor: 6%
OK: 44%
Good: 39%
Excellent: 8%

How would you rate the contribution that technology makes to your overall learning?

Considerable distraction: 1%
Distraction: 3%
No benefit: 3%
Some benefit: 40%
Considerable benefit: 52%

The extent to which students understand the demands on them placed by e-learning systems

(e.g. for assignment handling)

It is believed that students do understand the demands. In particular, requirements of each course are clearly stated as part of the course introduction and as part of the induction module and also in communication from the central admin teams.

The current approach to handling student plagiarism

both prevention strategies and detection strategies

There currently is a university plagiarism policy but only in the draft stage. Practice has been developed for this on an ad hoc basis using standard Turnitin software which is supported by our library staff.

As part of module development staff are advised on designing assessments that avoid the potential pitfall of plagiarism.

The current level of student satisfaction with the e-learning aspects of their courses

Use a 1-5 scale with a comment

The last survey for fully online learners was delivered in April 2008. To the question "Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the programme", there were 176 responses, as follows:

  1. Definitely disagree: 5.68% (10)
  2. Mostly disagree: 11.93% (21)
  3. Neither agree nor disagree: 18.75% (33)
  4. Mostly agree: 41.48% (73)
  5. Definitely agree: 23.3% (41)


Main technologies

For each of the following technologies relevant to e-learning describe how much it is used on a scale of 1-5 and add a comment if appropriate.

VLE and/or content repository

Blackboard – HE usage: score 4

Email or bulletin boards

Email used widely: score 5 Bulletin boards: score 2, with a strong subject influence – huge success in psychology with these, less so in many other areas

Automated assessment

Difficult to grade on the summative side, but there are in excess of 15,000 student assessments. However, the needs analysis demonstrated a clear lack of knowledge of this (even of our internal services) by many members of academic staff.

Web 2.0 tools

especially blogs, wikis and social networks oriented to the institution

Score 2 – progressed beyond pilot usage, blogs less successful than Wiki’s, time investment for successful establishment of the activities is an issue. Social network tools lower usage.


Score 1. Very little engagement with e-portfolios


and comment on student ownership issues

Score 2. There is a good wireless network throughout most of the campuses, and coverage is growing. Study space to use laptops is an issue.

Audio or video podcasting or streaming

and comment on student ownership issues

Probably an upward 2, especially in relation to narrated lectures etc. Issues here have related to copyright issues on relation to youtube. University has its own podcasting studio, which has been recently launched.

Mobile devices (not laptops)

and comment on student ownership issues

Score: 1. This is not an area where the University has focussed. A more real issue for the University is in terms of support for a multiplicity of devices (e.g. linking Apple Macs to the wireless network).

Other technologies

A description of any other technologies with significant use in the institution

Virtual worlds e.g. Second Life (and other bespoke) simulations have significant usage by our psychology team and is being developed by a range of other area (e.g. healthcare, quarrying).


Futures details

The expected changes as they relate to e-learning within the institution's current strategic horizon

(from the institution's strategy documents)

The areas which need to be addressed for e-learning to be more widely adopted at the institution have to some extent already been identified as part of the and Pathfinder project funded and supported by the Higher Education Academy.

  • High level ownership steer and vision
  • Improved institutional communication
  • Improved staff development
  • Clear embedding of e-learning in quality assurance processes and the planning cycle

Any changes further downstream that the institution is now considering or concerned about.

The current re-writes of both the corporate plan, the LTA strategy and the Quality Enhancement strategy will place learning technology in a significant position in the University's development.

The development of the corporate training arm University of Derby Corporate will have a significant impact on the development, support and delivery of online learning – with a shift to a much more customer-led model of curriculum development and delivery.

How the institution handles the foresight aspects of its operation with regard to e-learning

The University makes significant investment in market research and attendance at leading international events.

How the institution handles advanced development oriented to e-learning

(e.g. by a "sandbox" lab, innovation centre, etc)

The University makes provision of a "VLE sandbox" for all members of staff and provision of a learning technology lab with access to the latest technology on "open door" basis.

The University IT department also has an research and innovation group, which has a "forward look" function, piloting and testing "new" technologies.

How the institution analyses and takes into account present and future markets for its offerings

The University has for some years carried out sound market research from a central team for future developments, with close monitoring of recruitment trends across current provision.

How the institution analyses and takes into account present and future competitor suppliers for its offerings

The University has a governing council, which provides a forum for a range of key stakeholders to influence the decisions of the institution (Membership of the council is broad.) This council is responsible for ratifying the decisions made by academic board.

References and reports

  1. University of Derby e-Learning Benchmarking report, Dave O'Hare, December 2007
  2. University of Derby - the Pathfinder journey, October 2008, contained in the ZIP file at
  3. University of Derby briefing paper 1 of 1 - Developing and implementing a communication strategy for Technology Enhanced Learning, a vehicle to promote academic engagement, October 2008, contained in the ZIP file at
  4. Quality Audit: Collaborative provision, University of Derby (IRD 732), QAA, March 2003
  5. Implementing Learning Technologies at the University of Derby, 1989-2003: A Case Study, Professor Chris O’Hagan (former Head of the Centre for Educational Development and Media, and Dean of Learning Development at the University of Derby), March 2003
  6. many private reports have also been consulted - thanks to the University for supplying them.


Grateful thanks are due to Dave O'Hare and his colleagues at the University of Derby for so carefully working through the questions in this template.

The University and the case study author Paul Bacsich would also like to acknowledge the support of the Higher Education Academy for supporing the Benchmarking and Pathfinder programmes which encouraged and assisted many universities including the University of Derby to undertake a substantial programme of analysis, reflection and enhancement.

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