You are in :

Report 99/39

Use of TLTP materials in UK higher education

The electronic version of this document contains the Foreword, Contents and Executive summary only. The complete printed document is available from HEFCE publications.


Following the success of the first and second phases of the Teaching and Learning Technology programme (TLTP) in harnessing new technology to improve learning and teaching, we initiated a study to consider the use of TLTP materials.

The study findings, presented in this report, show that TLTP materials have been adopted throughout UK higher education. They are embedded in conventional courses, alongside a very substantial use of other types of communication and information technologies (C&IT).

As more higher education institutions are developing their use of technology in learning and teaching, we believe this report will be a valuable source of information on the use and impact of TLTP and other computer-based materials, the factors influencing take-up, and the wider application of C&IT.

Brian Fender CMG
Chief Executive


Use of TLTP materials in UK higher education - executive summary

Key findings

Which TLTP products are in use?

Where, how and why are TLTP products used?

Factors influencing uptake of TLTP materials

Impact of TLTP

Bibliographic database of uses of TLTP materials

1. Background: The Teaching & Learning Technology Programme 1990-98

1.1 The changing nature of higher education in the 1990s

1.2 The rise of the Internet and Web technology

1.3 Expansion and the revised governance of HE

1.4 The Teaching and Learning Technology Programme

1.5 Programme Objectives

1.6 Central Co-ordination

1.7 Subsequent developments

2. Methods: general approach and data-gathering activities

2.1 Key tasks

2.2 Methodological challenges

2.3 General strategies

Gaining different perspectives on the use of TLTP products

Exploring the context of use

2.4 Specific data gathering instruments and activities

Overview of principal data gathering activities


Departments /Schools: courses/modules

HEI key informants survey

FE colleges survey

Case studies


2.5 Validity and reliability of data

3. TLTP projects and their products

3.1 Timescale

3.2 Project types

3.3 Range of materials

4. The HE context for TLTP products

4.1 C&IT in teaching and learning at institutional level

4.2 C&IT in teaching and learning at departmental level

Indicators of C&IT maturity

C&IT in teaching and learning

Limitations on use of C&IT in learning and teaching

Sources of information about C&IT in learning and teaching

5. Awareness-raising and distribution of materials

5.1 Awareness-raising

5.2 Distribution

6. Patterns of usage of TLTP products

6.1 Which TLTP products are in use?

6.2 Where are TLTP products being used?

6.3 How are TLTP products used?

6.4 Staff reasons for using TLTP products

7. Factors influencing uptake of TLTP materials

7.1 Departmental factors

7.2 Views from TLTP projects

8. The impact of TLTP on the higher education sector

8.1 Impact of use of TLTP products on teaching and learning

8.2 TLTP leading to other C&IT developments

8.3 Impact of TLTP beyond C&IT

9. Issues and reflections

10. Abbreviated case studies

Case Study Summaries

1: Resources in Chemistry

2: Mathwise

3: Pharma-CAL-ogy

4: WinEcon

5: TELL: Technology Enhanced Language Learning

6: Institutional initiatives to promote use of C&IT, including TLTP, in teaching

11. Acknowledgements

12. Glossary of terms and acronyms

13. Report bibliography

Background sources

Use of TLTP materials in UK higher education

Executive summary

This report is the evaluation of the use of TLTP materials in UK higher education. The evaluation was commissioned by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)and Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) and undertaken by the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment Department of Higher & Further Education at the University of Edinburgh.

The Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP) was a joint initiative of all the Higher Education Funding Councils. Its remit was to ‘make teaching and learning more productive and efficient by harnessing modern technology’, creating computer-based learning materials in a wide range of subjects. The first two phases spanned 1992-96, with over £11 million from all the Funding Councils, plus institutional investments. An evaluation of the programme was carried out in 1996. However, at that time surveying the use of products of TLTP was felt to be premature as many had only just been released.

In January 1998 we were commissioned by the HEFCE to conduct a study of the use within UK higher education of the learning materials produced by TLTP. The study was carried out between February and August 1998.

Our key tasks were:

  • to find out which TLTP products were being used in higher education institutions (HEIs), where and how
  • to examine the pattern of usage of TLTP courseware in relation to other uses of communications and information technology (C&IT) within learning and teaching
  • to explore how ‘contextual’ factors might have influenced the uptake of TLTP products
  • to assess the overall impact of TLTP
  • to conduct a bibliographic search to track existing studies of TLTP use

We approached these tasks with questionnaires to all TLTP projects, all teaching departments in all HEIs (3,854), to courses/modules using TLTP in those departments, to key informants in 102 medium and large HEIs, and with data from the TLTP Co-ordinator. Case studies were created through interviews. The respondents were representative of the distribution of sizes, ages and locations of HEIs and subjects, but the data needs to be treated with caution if extrapolating to the sector as a whole.

The four key findings are listed below, followed by a fuller summary of the outcomes of each of our tasks.

Key findings

  • More TLTP materials are in use in the HE sector than may be generally recognised, especially allowing for the failure of some staff to recognise the materials they were using as being from TLTP. They are embedded in conventional courses, alongside a very substantial use of other types of C&IT. Reasons for adopting these are mostly pedagogical rather than operational or tactical.
  • Attitudes of many staff towards C&IT in learning and teaching are very positive: they already use it considerably in research and administration, and they see scope for expansion. These positive attitudes are largely independent of subject or type of institution.
  • Significant barriers to wider uptake of C&IT into learning and teaching still exist. Technical infrastructure is now less important to most staff than the need for pedagogical support, and many HEIs are addressing this need through appointment of a new group of staff, ‘TLTP officers’. Lack of recognition and rewards for innovation are still common issues in most HEIs.
  • Within the HE sector there is substantial homogeneity of use of TLTP materials and C&IT in general. There appear to be no ‘C&IT black holes’ and this is probably in large part due to centrally-funded initiatives.

Which TLTP products are in use?

  • Of the 919 departments/schools which responded to our questionnaire, 33% were using the products of one or more TLTP projects, and most respondents appear to use TLTP products with several courses or modules (64%).
  • For some projects there appeared to be a significant element of under-reporting of use, as some respondents were unaware, or had not recognised, that the courseware they were using was from TLTP. The complexity of sources for obtaining TLTP materials (eg, projects, Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) Centres co-located with projects, commercial sources) may have contributed to this confusion.
  • More complete and standardised central data on the products, times of release, distribution etc would have been valuable for customers and evaluators alike.
  • A small set of five projects produced the materials which were in widest use, and a further group of 13 projects’ materials were in moderate use. These groupings need to be qualified as they do not take into account the size of the constituencies served by each project. Within the moderate group are projects which achieved essentially saturation penetration of their market, which consisted of only a few HEIs.
  • Many of the institutional projects created materials which were of interest at institutional rather than departmental level, and are seen clearly only in information from institutional respondents.
  • It is likely that many of the little-used TLTP materials have spread only marginally beyond the consortia which created them.

Where, how and why are TLTP products used?

  • The majority of the 453 courses using TLTP materials did so within ‘traditional’ courses, on-campus and with face-to-face as opposed to resource-based teaching. Most were for first or second year undergraduates.
  • The student enrolment on the majority of these courses/modules was less than 100. At the outset TLTP had been focussed on large, early year classes with the aim of achieving some economies of scale and efficiency gains. One reason for the relatively small enrolments may be that they are mostly in degree programmes with large numbers of modules.
  • In the majority of courses, some or all of the knowledge and skills acquired by use of TLTP was directly assessed, and most staff obtained feedback from students about the materials.
  • The most common reasons given for using TLTP materials were pedagogical (eg, novel learning opportunities, student centred), while staff with large classes often also gave operational reasons (eg, remediation, replacing expensive classes).
  • Use of TLTP materials was strongly correlated with subject area, with most use in the physical sciences and numerical business areas, and least in visual and performing arts and caring professions. These relative uses largely reflect the availability of subject-specific TLTP materials.

Factors influencing uptake of TLTP materials

We examined various factors within academic departments and institutions which provide part of the context within, which TLTP materials are used. The following major themes emerged.

  • Most departments self-rated their C&IT level (on a criterion referenced scale) in the top 25% of the scale. High self-rated departments used more TLTP materials.
  • Very few respondents thought that their subject lent itself very little to use of C&IT, or that scope for expansion of this use was small.
  • The great majority of departments used much less courseware (including TLTP) than they did other forms of C&IT, with productivity tools (such as word processors and spreadsheets) being used most, followed by communication tools (eg email) and then the WWW.
  • Staff used C&IT for teaching much less than they did for administration and research.
  • There was a strong correlation between use of TLTP materials and presence of a departmental strategy for student IT skills.
  • Limitations on technical infrastructure and support were still barriers to most staff in adoption of C&IT, and may be most important for courseware, especially when delivered across networks.
  • Pedagogical support was still lacking for staff, to enable them to integrate materials into courses and assist students to learn with these new media. This area is probably more important for most staff as the technical barriers come down. Many HEIs have addressed this issue by appointment of TLTP officers, some from TLTP and related initiatives.
  • The pioneer or innovator is still crucial in initiating uptake of TLTP and other C&IT materials, with the responsive HEIs providing support and encouraging those actions
  • Recognition and rewards for innovation in teaching were still perceived to be lacking in most HEIs.

Impact of TLTP

It is clear that for a programme such as TLTP, with a substantial breadth of involvement of HEIs and their staff, there are likely to be outcomes beyond the materials which were produced and the uses to which these were put. We used mainly open-ended questions and interviews to explore the impact of use of TLTP:

  • on learning and teaching
  • leading to other C&IT developments
  • beyond C&IT.

The major themes which emerged were as follows,

  • Use of TLTP materials has had a positive impact on both staff and students. This was reflected in student feedback and also staff recognition of the need to re-think the courses into which these materials were brought. Assessment, student and staff support, curriculum design, and infrastructure issues all came into sharper focus.
  • Networks of people have been formed, in academic departments and in institutional roles, who continue to work together to varying degrees. These networks bring a substantial expertise to the system – in teaching, project management, and how to use C&IT in learning and teaching.
  • There have been changes in HEI activities, as a consequence of the need to deliver TLTP materials. Technical and pedagogical challenges have arisen, and few HEIs were equipped to deal with these in the early 1990s.
  • Further successful projects, both funded and unfunded, have built upon the expertise which resides in individuals and networks. Funds are from external sources such as the European Union and FDTL, and internal sources such as ‘teaching innovation funds’
  • A pool of staff who have been involved with TLTP are now moving into more senior posts, especially with responsibility for C&IT and for learning and teaching. These staff are able to bring a new perspective to the construction of learning and teaching strategies and the likely routes to successful implementation.
  • There is a greater homogeneity within the UK HE sector with respect to use of C&IT in learning and teaching than in other countries, largely due to the effect of centrally-funded initiatives.

Bibliographic database of uses of TLTP materials

This was constructed from on-line and literature searches. It contains 158 items and can be downloaded from TLTP and our own websites.