Educational Development

When we find the limits of print

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Ruth from vet nursing popped in today. She was having an issue with the texts that are used as primary handouts to the vet nursing students. They are developed in MS Word and contain many graphics and illustrations and the formating keeps getting lost when edits and updates are made. Everyone in the office testified to having experienced similar issues with MS Word when documents reached a larger size, and for Ruth the situation was serious in that students were receiving emailed attachments of the handouts with faulty layout and miss information.

To start with we discussed what would be need to fix the current handouts as soon as possible. We agreed that a comprehensive edit would need to take place, and recognised that this would be a considerable amount of work. Therefore we further discussed formats for the document, and consideration was given towards getting out of the MS Word doc format and into a more open format. We discussed the pros and cons of using Open Office to conduct the edits and probably decided that it would be the best option considering that OO could open the MS docs to a point, and happened to make very clear where the formatting issues were. Making the edits in OO also means that the document can be easily exported to PDF from any computer, can be imported to other editors more reliably - such as and can be saved in not only the MS word formats, but many other editing formats including cleaner html.

But the formating problems will likely persist if Ruth doesn't improve the images and graphics. At the moment the graphic elements are being achieved through the use of Word's text boxes and drawing tools. It would be best if Ruth were to learn an image editing program so that she can do the graphics separately to the document, compile the graphics in the editor and export them as single images for importation into Open Office. This will simplify the processing of the document, and provided the image/graphic edit files are filed well, will improve efficiency in updating the document.

Ruth and I also discussed the benefits of using a wiki as a electronic and multi media/multi authored learning resource. I showed her the web design resource being developed as a wikibook within wikiversity by staff and students at the Blue Mountains Campus of TAFE NSW. We also looked at YouTube videos on animal dissection and discussed how media such as this can be easily embedded. We discussed the merits of video - and in particular student generated content models.

This lead us onto consideration of the following.

Ruth and I will prepare a Programme Development Fund application for resources to edit and redevelop the Vet Nursing programmes. In that project will include improvement of the current handouts so that they can be distributed more effectively online. Also included will be a more careful consideration of the idea that the handouts be used to initiate the course, but that students be encouraged to write up the texts in their own words and style as a wikibook. At the end of the year, the student's wikibook will be used as the next year's print based handout, and the cycle repeats for the next year and so on. In a 2 - 3 year plan, it should be expected that through significant students and staff engagement the electronic resource will develop into a suitable resource for more and more use across other relatable courses.

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