Warzone learning idea wins e-tutors top award

September 17, 2004

Teaching academics in a war zone was never going to be an easy task, but this did not stop Anthony "Skip" Basiel and Raphael "Ralf" Commins helping lecturers and students in the Gaza Strip - an achievement that has won them the prestigious "E-Tutor of the Year" award.

The pair, from Middlesex University's School of Computing Science, jointly won the £1,000 prize, sponsored by The Times Higher , for teaching 36 academics at the Islamic University of Gaza how to develop internet learning programmes. Their students are frequently prevented from attending university because of the conflict.

The initial intention was to run a series of workshops with the academics, but this was thwarted because of concerns over their safety.

Mr Basiel said: "Because of the circumstances our university risk assessment office was not happy to have us go to Gaza, so we came up with a type of framework using different sets of technologies to run the course online."

The result is an online learning framework that can be applied and adapted to fit any context where it is physically impossible for people to get to a university.

Using WebCT, the pair added voice and images to animated PowerPoint presentations. Workshops were devised using real-time, live video-audio systems.

Over a period of six weeks in May and June this year, Mr Basiel and Mr Commins taught the academics how to develop appropriate online materials for their students.

Individual learning contracts gave a bespoke learning experience and online presentation, and discussion boards were available after the sessions so that the academics could consult them at their convenience.

"What they ended up doing was running their own online group sessions directly after ours," Mr Basiel said.

A panel of five judges chose Mr Basiel and Mr Commins' project from 34 entries. The pair received their prizes at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday.

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