4.1 Uptake and use

Awareness and skills
Being able to make the most of online resources depends, of course, on being aware of their existence and feeling confident about how to use them. While many people are familiar with the SCRAN name, anecdotal evidence suggests that a much smaller proportion have an idea of what exactly they can expect to find at SCRAN and how they might use it.

This is partly due to the fact that SCRAN is a relatively new product. SCRAN has been available as an educational resource since 1999, its Tertiary Education Officer was appointed in early 2001, and its first major phase of digitisation was completed later that year. A major challenge for the coming months involves letting users across a wide range of disciplines know about the collection and how best to use it. SCRAN's strategy involves a systematic programme of staff development training (which experience so far suggests is by far the most effective means of helping staff start to make the most of the resource), dissemination through a range of mailing lists, journals and newsletters, together with evaluation exercises to inform future action.

SCRAN's outreach work reflects initiatives towards promoting the adoption of the new technologies in UK tertiary education generally. Most universities now offer regular staff development events in learning technologies and embed such training in new lecturer induction programmes. This is reinforced by the emphasis that various national institutions are placing on competence in the new technologies. For example, membership of the Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT) entails demonstrating competence in the design and planning of learning activities and developing effective learning environments, which naturally embraces ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) developments. Support in the form of contact points, briefing papers, case studies, reviews, reports and training is available from the Learning, Teaching and Support Network (LTSN) Subject Centres, who have found that that guidance on web-based learning is much in demand (LTSN 2001). JISC, responsible for promoting the innovative application and use of information systems and information technology in further and higher education across the UK, provides a wide variety of support in terms of development projects, materials and training. It also provides access to an eclectic selection of quality assured electronic information resources through the DNER (of which SCRAN is part). Notably, evaluation of the uptake of these services has also indicated a picture of under-utilisation (Armstrong et al. 2000).

This focus on technologies is also reflected in the standards required of archaeology graduates who, according to the QAA subject benchmark statement (QAA 2000), should be able to make critical and effective use of web-based resources and create appropriate forms of visual presentation. In turn archaeology departments are expected to provide access to the appropriate IT facilities and learning resources.

With lecturers facing competing demands of teaching, research, guidance and administration, time for materials development in tertiary education is limited, with little reward or incentive to make the effort to do so. Recent surveys suggest that while lecturers are enthusiastic about using new technologies, lack of time is one of the most significant barriers (Haywood et al. 2000). As a JISC survey (JISC 2001) has found, 'it cannot be overstressed how the lack of time is seen as an obstacle to effective training by many of the staff surveyed. Imaginative ways need to be found of providing more time or freeing up existing commitments to devote more resources to training.'

Access to facilities
Technical requirements for a service such as SCRAN are not high - a networked computer and a standard browser, plus QuickTime software for the multimedia files. However, it is not uncommon to find computer labs which have sound disabled, or in which particular configurations such as firewall settings prevent the speedy download of resources. And particularly in Further Education, digital developments may be hampered by staff having to share access to computers.


Last updated: Wed Aug 28 2002

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