Moving up a gear

16th February 2007 at 00:00
Champion cyclist Graeme Obree made an aerodynamic bike using recycled scrap. With this in mind, further and higher education lecturers have been urged to adopt new ideas when designing learning materials for students

LECTURERS FROM the further education sector descended on the Heathhall campus of Dumfries and Galloway College this month for a staff development event with a difference and it could have a major impact on teaching and on teaching costs.

The Blend2Learn e-Olympics will examine the uses of ICT to "blend"

different forms of learning, and those taking part will be invited to look To world cycling champion Graeme Obree for inspiration Much in demand on such occasions, he was invited to open the proceedings.

The end of next month will find him in Elgin "recycling" his performance at Moray College. His significance for the organisers is not that the Ayrshire-born athlete is a legend, but that he is famous "for being able to think 'outside the box'".

The programme is intended to help FE staff through mind mapping and interactive learning, led by Hugh Dailly, senior e-learning adviser in Scotland with the Joint Information Systems Committee, which acts as the focal point for information systems and information technology in further and higher education.

But Obree's career will be the real focal point at the e-Olympics - or, more precisely, his bike will be. It was carefully assembled after he "tore up the cycle engineer's rulebook", inventing a new aerodynamic riding position for himself on his innovative lightweight bike.

Obree's out-of-the-box thinking was revealed when his handlebars turned out to have been created from old tubing, the left crank made from scrap found on the Ayr bypass, and a bottom bracket conjured out of a bearing found in an old washing machine.

The clear message for FE and HE lecturers is to adopt new ideas when designing learning materials for students. The significance for them is that colleges are under pressure to extend online learning, not least at the troubled James Watt College whose survival is on the line if it does not cut costs.

Geraldine McLuckie, staff development manager at Lauder College, where Obree was wheeled out to work his magic, says: "Events such as the e-Olympics give our staff ideas about transforming traditional classroom or practical subjects to e-learning methods."

The e-Olympics organisers are in no doubt that the person described by L'Equipe magazine as "L'incroyable Mister Obree" has lessons for lecturers.

"Whether you're a world-class speed cyclist or a lecturer in a Scottish college of further education wishing to use ICT to enhance and extend your learning and teaching, there is a lot to be gained by thinking differently.

There could be no limit to what can be achieved."

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