First cut list of barriers to TEL

Here are some things people quote as reasons NOT to get engaged with TEL. How real do YOU think they are? This may form part of further research…


Issue Real? Do what about it
There’s no way that (my subject) can be taught online N  
Online assessment won’t work – we need discussion each time N  
I need to see it in their faces N Improve the confidence of the teacher
I haven’t got time Y People need time to prepare. So give them preparation leave. Also consider ‘wizards’ which allow content to be prepared easily.
I need to know my students N This can in fact be better online, with a different but richer set of contacts
Students may SAY they want blended learning, but it’s not really of value N  
The software tools I can access aren’t good enough to develop quality content ? This could either be a training issue (perhaps the tools are fine) or it could be real
The benefits are not clear to me N  
I’ve just got used to the old version of the software, and now you’ve damn well changed it all! Y Lots of communication, carefully planned releases, high-touch, walk-around training.
I am a research professor. I’m not interested in online learning. ? Perhaps leave this person in their lab? Or, in the future, an online persona may be part of a senior academic’s prestige or reputation. So encourage them to build one. The Prof can be the persona of the course, without having to do the heavy lifting!
I am interested, but my tech skills are low Y Use student digital mentors/student technology assistants or some other sort of digital literacy programme. Remember that turning a luddite into an enthusiast can be a real bonus. Also use champions – exemplars of excellent practice (National Teaching Fellows?)
I don’t really know who is doing what Y Spread the word about successful case studies. Encourage academics to engage directly with software suppliers.
I want to use product X but the IT department say to use product Y Y This is tricky. Academics will do what they want – this needs careful liaison and discussions.


2 thoughts on “First cut list of barriers to TEL

  1. Here are some questions and thoughts to consider when faced with challenging perceptions to TEL:

    1. There’s no way that (my subject) can be taught online
    Teaching online is another form of teaching – a methodology so to speak. It differs significantly from teaching traditionally which we are all experts in. This is not to say that one method is better than the other. Substantial literature on traditional learning and teaching pedagogies identify excellent and innovative best practices and popular learning frameworks such as Problem Based Learning, experiential learning and strategies for deep holistic learning have been used in HE for decades. Some of these frameworks lend themselves better to some disciplines than others. Over the past few decades, eLearning has become a new method of delivering teaching and learning (for reasons and new developments in the HE sector see blog post 8th November). We must accept that education is moving in the direction of learning online to reach a wider spectrum of learners, to ensure that students on traditional programmes are given adequate grounding to be employment ready in an already technology enhanced sector. Technology is no bad thing in education – in fact if used correctly and designed suitability according to the needs of learners and the programme aims, it adds significant benefits to the learner and their learning experience. There is a lot that can be done with TEL – it requires a shift in perception of teaching, a shift in teaching practice and curriculum design. Institutions will move towards wanting academics to design online curriculum as a stand-alone or as an addition to the existing traditional pedagogies – therefore the onus is on the programme team to make that shift in thinking. Institutions will be responsible for encouraging academics and providing best practice examples and learning frameworks and technological support for academics in making the shift.

    2. Online assessment won’t work – we need discussion each time
    If TEL is being implemented into a traditionally taught programme, there is no reason why discussions cannot take place face-to-face after assessments are completed online. If this is a purely online course, eve one-to-one discussions can take place virtually using video enhanced learning tools or discussion tools found on learning management systems such as Moodle or BlackBoard. Again, demonstrations of how this can work and some training will help academics see that in fact discussions online with students are possible and just as effective as face-to-face.

    3. I need to see it in their faces
    I agree that with teaching online the non-verbal cues of understandings and misunderstandings of subject matter can be lost. Let’s imagine a lecture theatre with over 60 students – at which point can you see from where you are stood the facial expression of students – not often and only if you have particularly good acute eyesight! In fact, with teaching online, the mundane expulsion of knowledge from lecturer to student is eliminated and instead a more active type learning takes place where by the teaching itself is carried out by more ‘experiential’ means of discussion and clarification of knowledge, application of knowledge to real-life problem style scenarios and then further discussions. So, where a learner is unclear of certain aspects of the knowledge or application process, there is opportunity to learn from others through collaborative means and to post questions to the tutor.

    4. Students may SAY they want blended learning, but it’s not really of value
    Blended learning is a strategy that combines online and classroom learning activities and resources to reduce in-class time for students in a face-to-face environment. Many institutions are moving in adopting this practice in delivering education so academics may need to be prepared to adopt such an approach.
    Examples of benefits to an institution: impacts the entire institution offers a learner-centered pedagogy, could integrate with the institution’s strategic plan, improves classroom utilization, can help match delivery to academic need, can help fill under-enrolled courses and programs.
    Examples of benefits to academics: gives them access to new resources, introduces them to online learning, is an opportunity for faculty development and lets them experiment with new pedagogies and techniques, helps meet student expectations and build student skills, allows for more flexible scheduling, retains the face-to-face aspect faculty may cherish
    Examples of benefits to students: meets their expectations for utilizing technology, develops independent learning skills, offers increased flexibility and convenience, provides better access to those with job, family, or distance barriers and helps reduce educational costs
    Making the case for blended learning as an institution’s education strategy:
    – What makes blended learning particularly effective is its ability to facilitate a community of inquiry. Community provides the stabilizing, cohesive influence that balances the open communication and limitless access to information online. Communities also provide the condition for free and open dialogue, critical debate, negotiation and agreement—the hallmark of higher education. Blended learning has the capabilities to facilitate these conditions and adds an important reflective element with multiple forms of communication to meet specific learning requirements. For example, at the beginning of a course, it may be advantageous to have a face-to-face class to meet and build community. In contrast, discussing a complex issue that requires reflection may be better accomplished through an asynchronous online discussion forum.
    – The sense of community and belonging must be on a cognitive and social level if the goal of achieving higher levels of learning is to be sustained. This requires the consideration of the different cognitive and social characteristics of each medium of communication. In this regard, blended learning presents a special challenge and, thus, highlights the importance of the third key element—teaching presence. Teaching presence manages the environment and focuses and facilitates learning experiences. With the combination of synchronous verbal and asynchronous written communication in the context of a cohesive community of inquiry, blended learning offers a distinct advantage in supporting higher levels of learning through critical discourse and reflective thinking.
    – A sense of community is also necessary to sustain the educational experience over time so essential to move students to higher levels of thinking. This is important as “students with stronger sense of community tend to possess greater perceived levels of cognitive learning” (Rovai, 2002, p. 330). Critical thinking moves through discernable phases of a triggering event, exploration, integration, and application Garrison & Anderson, 2003 and Garrison & Archer, 2000. A community is essential to engender commitment and ensure students progressively move through the phases of critical inquiry. Communities of inquiry blend online learning and knowledge management into a dynamic and meaningful educational experience where the focus is constructing knowledge.
    – The range and quality of interactive dialogue that can be facilitated through blended learning is congruent with the widely accepted means of facilitating critical thinking and higher-order learning. Hudson (2002) argues, for example, “that the very basis of thinking is rooted in dialogue, drawing on a socially constructed context to endow ideas with meaning” (p. 53). The emphasis must shift from assimilating information to constructing meaning and confirming understanding in a community of inquiry. This process is about discourse that challenges accepted beliefs, which is rarely accomplished by students in isolation. At the same time, to be a critical thinker is to take control of one’s thought processes and gain a metacognitive understanding of these processes (i.e., learn to learn). A blended learning context can provide the independence and increased control essential to developing critical thinking. Along with the increased control that a blended learning context encourages is a scaffolded acceptance of responsibility for constructing meaning and understanding.
    – Skills development include: flexibility, reflection, interpersonal and teamwork skill development, motivation, and collaborative learning environments—resulting in deep and meaningful understandings and communities of inquiry (e.g., Garrison & Anderson, 2003, Hiltz, 1997, Marjanovic, 1999, Rimmershaw, 1999 and Williams, 2002).
    – Provides a platform where participants can confront questionable ideas and faulty thinking in more objective and reflective ways than might be possible in a face-to-face context. The rationale supporting this view is that there is a greater focus on the substantive issues and less distraction or noise in an asynchronous text-based online environment. Furthermore, online discussion forums can provide a permanent record and expand time; as such, discussions are often more thoughtful, reasoned, and supported by evidential sources (Meyer, 2003). While some competency in terms of writing skills is required, it also provides opportunity for students to learn to express themselves in written form.
    – There is evidence that blended learning has the potential to be more effective and efficient when compared to a traditional classroom model Heterick & Twigg, 2003 and Twigg, 2003. The evidence is that students achieve as well, or better, on exams and are satisfied with the approach.
    o Results to date show improved student learning in 19 of the 30 projects, with the remaining 11 showing no significant difference. Other outcomes achieved by the redesigns include increased course completion rates, improved retention, better student attitudes toward the subject matter, and increased student satisfaction with the mode of instruction compared to traditional formats. We believe that redesign is the watchword of technology’s promise for higher education [emphasis added]. (Heterick & Twigg, 2003, p. 28)
    o There are a variety of possible explanations for these outcomes. In essence, though, we assert that it begins by questioning the dominance of the lecture in favor of more active and meaningful learning activities and tasks. In the studies reviewed by Heterick and Twigg (2003), typically, a large enrolment course replaces one or two lectures each week with any combination of online discussion groups, simulations, discovery labs, multimedia lessons, tutorials, assignments, research projects, quizzes, and digital content. These may be effectively facilitated by teaching assistants under the supervision of a professor. The professor then has more time to give to individual students and enhance the quality of the course through sustained course development and innovation as well as teaching development. Twigg (2003) argues that perhaps “the most significant aspect of this process has been the need…to teach the design methodology…since neither faculty nor administrators traditionally employ this approach to restructuring courses using IT” (p. 8). Blended learning has enormous versatility and potential but concomitantly creates daunting challenges on the front end of the design process.

    The next six barriers require efficient institutional level policies, encouragement and leadership of best practices, support and demonstration of what software and tools are on offer. See blog post 8th November for making the case for institutional policy development on eLearning
    -The software tools I can access aren’t good enough to develop quality content
    -I want to use product X but the IT department say to use product Y
    -I don’t really know who is doing what
    -I am interested, but my tech skills are low
    -I am a research professor. I’m not interested in online learning
    -I haven’t got time

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