Background to the Gwella Project

Across Wales, higher education institutions have been taking part in a national project called Gwella. The word Gwella means to “to improve, to get better, to heal, and to enhance”. The project aims to support HEFCW’s policy, “Enhancing Learning & Teaching Through Technology: A Strategy for Higher Education in Wales”.

Gwella began in March 2008 and ended in December 2010. The project provided funding for each institution to enhance learning and teaching through the use of technology. In order to access the funds, each institution had to engage with the Higher Education Academy’s Elearning Benchmarking programme. Aberystwyth carried out benchmarking in 2007 and used Gwella to enhance several of the areas highlighted in the benchmarking exercise.

AU produced an institutional project plan outlining the initiatives funded by Gwella and designated a team to implement them. AU identified five key areas:

  • good practice,
  • e-assessment,
  • technology-enhanced learning,
  • student experience,
  • policy/procedure.

The Gwella Steering Committee was formed, and was chaired by Martin Jones, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching. It was advised a 'critical friend' working on behalf of the Higher Education Academy.

More information about Gwella and the individual projects can be found on the Nexus web site.

Priority Areas

Good Practice

The Good Practice initiatives were designed to support development, collaboration and dissemination. Funding was made available to support smallscale e-learning innovation projects and also to help staff attend conferences and events related to e-learning. The resources and case studies on the Nexus web site have been used to highlight the good practice in elearning already taking place at AU, as well as share good practice in the sector with AU staff. Dissemination events such as the Gwella launch facilitated sharing of e-learning experiences and have encouraged collaboration within AU as well as between AU and other institutions.

E-assessment

Gwella has supported the University’s emphasis on effective assessment and feedback. Our Gwella e-assessment activities focused on
identifying good practice, especially in the areas of feedback and formative assessment, and making that information available to staff
and departments through training. A number of tools can be used for e-assessment, including Questionmark Perception. We offer a session on e-assessment that includes question design for effective online assessment. The institution's roll-out of Questionmark Perception was presented at the 2009 Questionmark Perception User conference.

Technology-enhanced learning

Web 2.0 technologies are a key area of technology-enhanced learning. Gwella funding enabled us to purchase a two-year licence for a set of Web 2.0 tools for Blackboard, Campus LX Building Blocks. Gwella also enabled  E-learning Support staff to help AU staff use these technologies effectively by identifying good practice in this area and developing new training sessions for AU staff. Examples of the work done in this project area have been presented to the 2009 E for Enhancement conference and the 2010 Blackboard Learning and Teaching conference.

Student Engagement

The student body at Aberystwyth University represents a diverse array of learning experiences, support needs and capabilities. We ran a student learner experience study to give us more information about how students perceive the role of technology in their learning. As part of this process, we were actively engaged in ongoing debates across the sector regarding the future of the student learner experience and the responsibilities and entitlements of “digital literacy”. The study was designed to elicit the student voice at Aberystwyth University providing rich qualitative data that we hope can then be embedded into our quality enhancement procedures.

Policy and Procedure

Finally, administrative staff examined AU policy and procedure to align it more closely with the technology enhancement agenda.