Project update – Aug 2014

Sine the last updates, Ann and I have been working hard on the analysis of the date produced in the focus groups and interviews. At the moment, we have completed the categorization of the enablers and barriers to the adoption of TEL in each of our institutions. We are beginning to draw the analysis together, and thinking about sharing this material and analysis via presentations and a couple of papers.


Timetable and outputs for the project

At present, it looks like this:

Jan 2014  –  Present to BETT conference  /  publicise blog

Feb 2014 – Incorporate feedback from conference and blog

Mar 2014 – Arrange Focus Groups (please let Steve or Ann know if you are interested in being part of one!)

Apr 2014 – Conduct Focus Groups

May 2014 – Evaluations and analysis

June 2014 – Prepare report

July 2014 – present report as workshop session at selected conferences – actually this will be Cumbria L+T Conference (July) and the ALT+C Conference (September)



TEL and MOOCs – how does it all fit together?

There’s a buzz about MOOCs, and quite right too. They open up new education opportunities to many people, and they’re free – what’s not to like? 

But some express concern that this will displace other types of teaching, including those which make use of technology. What will MOOCs mean for TEL?

My personal view is that MOOCs will be part of a diversified portfolio of options offered by many universities. There will always be a place for presence-based courses, backed up by effective use of technology for on-site students. Blended learning, and conventional web-based distance learning will have their place too. MOOCs will, I think, evolve into being another card in our hand.

MOOCs will impact on-site teaching too. Tracy Futhey, CIO at Duke University, said at the Educause conference in 2013 that each academic at Duke who had taught on a MOOC had reflected on, and changed, some element of their face-to-face teaching.

Some universities (whatever that includes in the future!) will specialise in online, while others specialise in presence-based. This is no different from some specialising today in arts and others in sciences.

What do you think?


Does a University need a separate eLearning strategy?

Embedding TEL into the curriculum – rather than it being an add-on – seems obvious to us. Desigining the technology into the learning is the way to make the learning as effective as possible. Ann’s posted on this above. But even if we accept that hypothesis, there are two different views on the best way to handle it.

1 – a separate eLearning strategy is needed. This focuses people in the institution on desiging and integrating the right technologies into teaching and learning. It sets standards, which helps with economies of scale. Specific focus is important – and a separate strategy delivers this.

2 – a separate eLearning strategy is not needed. Instead, if you want to have TEL as an integrated part of learning, include references to TEL in your Teaching and Learning strategy. A separate document just makes TEL look separate.

Two coherent arguments. Which one do YOU support, and why?

Let’s accept this: There are barriers to the adoption of TEL

Digital technology has already changed the way Higher Education institutions func­tion. This is an exciting time in higher education. Institutional leaders and academics are questioning their basic approach to educat­ing students. The traditional model of lectures and seminars are being enhanced by an array of technology-enabled pedagogical innovations. It is quite safe to say that all institutions are experimenting with online delivery of learning and teaching. We believe that online educational technology will bring about fundamental reform in how teaching is delivered and learning takes place in the next few years.

The first purpose of this project is to explore the key obstacles that stand in the way of widespread adoption technology enhanced learning methodologies at traditional Higher Education institutions. The previous posts highlight the many benefits to embedding TEL within a curriculum, despite this we submit that there are a wide array of barriers and resistances from a variety of stakeholders to the adoption of TEL despite of the benefits to institutions and students.

  • In your view, what barriers and challenges do you face in using technology in designing curriculum?
  • If there are barriers and challenges, how do you intend to overcome these?
  • Do you believe that embedding technology can in fact enhance a curriculum?
  • Do you believe there is a place for TEL in curriculum?

Embedding TEL into curriculum design: It is not an add-on

One common barrier to the adoption of TEL within curriculum design is that amongst important day to day teaching and research and administration of a programme, an academic is expected to engage with TEL methodologies in their teaching. This project does not set out to advice academics on what to teach their students or even how to do so. Academics are experts in their fields and their expertise are regarded with highest value and respect. Instead this project seeks to facilitate reflections on teaching methodologies and existing practices and offers academics an opportunity to consider TEL methodologies as part of a curriculum design rather than an add-on or additional task to the ever increasing tasks that need to be undertaken already.

Embedding TEL into a curriculum design and as part of the daily learning and teaching methodology does not have to be about using new technology. Small changes in existing practice can have the most far reaching impacts effectively supported by existing technologies. We propose that designing curriculum making use of technology enhanced learning strategies can help to tackle the demands of a changing world to reflect the real-world issues faced by universities and colleges as they strive to deliver high-quality learning in difficult economic times. As a curriculum designer myself, the main aim of designing an effective and quality assured curriculum and making the consequent enhancements to curriculum (in teaching, learning support, advice and guidance, coaching, mentorship, peer and collaborative learning, feedback and assessment, personal development planning and tutoring, skills development and practice and access to curriculum resources) are aim at enhancing student’s learning and development and achievements and student satisfaction.

The project authors submit that embedding technology into the everyday design and delivery of a curriculum can lead to quality improvement, enhancement of learning and teaching and whole curriculum transformation.

  • Do you support our view that TEL can be embedded into existing curriculum through careful planning and adequate support and creativity?
  • Do you support our view that TEL can be seen as part and parcel of a curriculum rather than an additional task that needs to be fulfilled to meet institutional requirements of eLearning?
  • If you were designing a curriculum, give an example of how you would embed TEL?

Technology in HE: What is the fuss?

Our project aims to a) break down barriers between academics and Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) – it’s not a bolt-on! and b) enhance institutional policies on using TEL. Following on from our recent post on some of the barriers to TEL (4t November 2013), we ask, first of all, whether technology is needed in HE and what is the fuss regarding TEL all about …

Kirkwood & Price (2013) comment that TEL is problematic – it conflates both the need to reflect on adapted teaching practices, and the implication that somewhere along the line it has actually enhanced learning, so this suggests the need for evaluation and measuring the ‘enhanced’ learning, and if there is evidence of ‘enhancement’, then what exactly is this and the extent to which the ‘enhancement’ to learning has contributed to the holistic development of a student and their experience at an institution.

There are an abundance of literature on technology and its use in Higher Education, specialisation courses in TEL including professional doctorates exploring the uptake of TEL in education. Together with the abundant research and the changing expectation of employment and the globalisation of many professions, universities and academics are now facing a challenge of adapting to new ways of teaching and coping with the different expectations of learners. Ever more so with the rise in tuition fees, universities are expected to equipping graduates to compete in today’s demanding, highly competitive employment sector. Going to university is not just about the experience of being a student, and gaining a holistic education, but it is more so about getting that dream job after the course. From an institutional perspective, this is good news – there is a lot of opportunities to become a leader in delivering innovative Higher Education – Distance education, sophisticated learning environments online and the opportunity to collaborate with research partners from around the world (through international campuses or flying faculties) are just some of the transformational benefits that universities are embracing.

The authors of the project submit that to date, technology has had a significant impact on higher education and no doubt, it will continue to do so. Technological innovation will have a major influence on how academics teach, how institutions attract students through their teaching and learning offer, design of curriculum, adoption of an effective all-encompassing pedagogical framework for online learning, what institutions can offer students with regards to skill development, student experience including opportunities for personalised learning spaces, reflective learning and an overall holistic and enhanced student experience.

The questions here are: Do academics agree that TEL does in fact play a large part in the design and planning of curriculum design and to what extent. How do institutions support to uptake of TEL – should separate policies on teaching and learning through eLearning frameworks be drafted for implementation or should faculties and academics be given a wide margin of appreciation in deciding whether to embed TEL and if so to what extent – what is the best and most effective practice? How can we (as academic leaders) encourage and demonstrate that TEL does in fact have a significant place in curriculum development and in quality enhancement of programme design – and how can we support those involved in quality enhancement work to understand, engage and adopt such practices?

We must acknowledge and embrace that HE is now globalising – learning online is popular more than ever and universities (in order to ensure a sustainable future alongside carrying out other institutional missions and objectives) must recognise and adapt (quickly) to the changing nature of education expectations. Most institutions offer online courses and most will view online learning as a key to advancing their mission, placing advanced education within reach of people who might otherwise not be able to access it. This is good news – wider access to education (benefit to the society, skilled employment and general success) developing new and lucrative) opportunities through the design of exciting and useful curriculum tailored to the needs of students/overseas market (benefit to academics to expand expertise) and expanded revenue opportunities for academic institutions (good news for institutions and their sustainability and in becoming leaders in innovative education provision).

So what are we doing about it? Do institutions have a eLearning strategy/framework explicit enough so that all stakeholders are aware of expectations and responsibilities, what we can offer students, how we can do this and how we can do this effectively whilst maintain a high standard of student experience, retention and educational goals of the course of study and in ensuring that resources and budgeting is kept at a level that is reasonable (efficient and reduce cost) – little point in making huge investments for little return. How do we balance all of these factors? Key point is how do we design an eLearning platform for online courses, how do we integrate the teaching of complex materials online, how do we retain students in an online learning environment by combating sense of isolation and creating a sense of belonging, how do we embed collaborative learning and peer support online?

At the outset, figuring out the differences between traditional campus teaching and online teaching – what are the main differences? What are the differences between the students who attend a campus and those who study online? Diversity of students – how do we tackle this?

All these questions need to be addressed at each institution and some sort of a baseline framework needs to be designed in order to (with clear awareness of expectations and limitation of what we can offer) effectively and robustly design suitable eLearning environments with a commitment to advanced technologies. Institutions need to ask tough questions – policy related questions on teaching and learning. Policies can provide a framework for operation, an agreed-upon set of rules that explain all participants’ roles and responsibilities. Policies on embedding TEL needs to feature various stakeholders: academic, geographic service area, governance, resources management, legal and student support services.

From a pedagogical perspective, how we teach will need to shift – instead of focusing on rote learning and traditional examination (lots of literature on the ineffectiveness of this method of assessment) academics should be encouraged to focus on the application of knowledge to particular problems – and how do we do this online?

Taking this one step further – many institutions either already have international campuses or plan to open them in future years. Delivering distance education is key – and doing it effectively whilst maintaining the same best practices offered to students on local campuses is a new challenge.

It is useful to consider different types of technological tools available in the institution and then focus critically on ‘how’ and ‘why’ we use it in education, so there is a case to start with the pedagogy and principles. The extent of technology that can be used in a curriculum is therefore open to how it fits with the subject practice and with institutional objectives.

We need to also consider student needs and expectations – that includes their digital literacies and prior experiences. We might think about how we can enable greater flexibility in online learning for students, using technology. And fundamental principles of assessment and feedback for learning, and how students embed this in their practice, are also crucial. Finally, how can technology support the peer and collaborative learning that features in so much of the espoused pedagogy in HE?

We submit that technology will become interwoven into the fabric of academic life more than ever, and therefore there is a case for the adoption of TEL in HE courses – and an effective adoption practice is necessary.

The barriers identified (blog post 4thNovember) – rising costs, the need to avoid technological obsolescence, insufficient resources, a lack of adequate learning and technology staff for support impede the adoption of new technologies, need attention with careful discussions taking place at institutional level on how budgets are allocated for TEL, deciding whether existing learning technologies show adequate promise to deliver their eLearning mission or if new investments need to be made and how and on what and tacking how TEL can be supported at an institutional level and at an academic level. To the extent that barriers to online teaching can be identified, analyzed, and policies changed where necessary to mitigate them, policies and framework explicitly on eLearning/TEL would be useful in developing an online learning environment.

And now we leave you with more questions than answers/solutions. However, we hope that these questions will prompt you to carefully consider and reflect on your own practice of TEL within your curriculum design, do you have any best practices you would like to share? Can you do more with TEL that will benefit your students’ learning and development? Using the existing technology resources your institutions has on offer, could you offer a personalised learning space? If you use BlackBoard or Moodle, could you design an online peer support system for your programme to assist students outside of classroom teaching times? Could you do more with these learning systems?