University of Cumbria - Buiding a virtual community with real life problems

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For the past six years, the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Cumbria have been developing a comprehensive repository of linked e-learning materials to be used in distance, blended and face to face teaching. The materials are based on characters within a fictitious town, covering a wide social spectrum, and offer unique learning opportunities for health students to apply their theoretical knowledge to the real world problems that affect the town’s residents.

The Challenge 

In 2011, the University decided to begin the process of delivering these materials through a consolidated repository that made it easy for students to study series of incidents affecting characters, and for staff at the University to re-use the learning resources as part of structured e-learning courses.

Stilwell e-learning material

Upbeat was chosen as the supplier to partner with to deliver the “Stilwell Virtual Community” as part of a broader e-learning programme including a Virtual Learning Environment (the Cumbria VLE), and a structured repository of resources. While the materials existed, the partnership needed to establish a simple to use system that allowed:

  • Students to study particular directed incidents
  • Exploration of related issues through the inter-connectedness of characters and incidents
  • View development of characters through a time based incident view
  • Syndicating content out to other organisations, offering flexible access to the whole system, or limited character stories

The Results

  • Project completed on time and within budget
  • Almost 300 multimedia resources online across over 60 individual characters covering a wide range of health-related learning topics
  • Growing user base across UK, and international education establishments
  • A showcase of the University’s expertise in this area, and opportunities for commercial exploitation of the product to enable further investment and growth.

The Solution 

Upbeat recognised that Drupal’s flexible content model would be able to meet these challenges, with its ability to handle multiple content types, and flexible content relationships.

The team developed a simple, easy-to-understand proof of concept on how we felt the content navigation and discovery would work, and then worked with the University’s Stilwell team to refine the application.

The site is built using a variety of standard, and custom Drupal modules, and features a mixture of online content, audio, and video. The site is built to allow easy discovery of useful related content through content relationships.

"Our experience of working with Upbeat has definitely been a positive one. With the Stilwell Virtual Community, a potentially complex product has been delivered, by Upbeat, in a deceptively simple online package which is what we wanted and asked for. I’m very happy with the overall feel and functionality of the work you’ve done for us – a good job."

− Mark Magas, Senior Lecturer – Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, University of Cumbria