I’ve lost track of the weeks already. Not sure now whether this is week 5 or 6. Anyway it is the Tony Bates week.
Well I didn’t know about the webinar on Sunday, so I missed it. I’ve subsequently listened to the audio file provided by Stephen. I’m not a fan of revisiting the actual webinars; I find the interfaces rather clunky for that, alright to participate at the time but not afterwards. The accompanying slides are available (as a pdf). And there’s also a blog post by Tony.
Tony’s thoughts raised some interesting questions with me, which I’ll try to weave into the notes I made as I listened along.
Notes & observations
Tony’s work involved examining how technology was integrated within institutions. From those sampled, institutions were ranked as to how technology was integrated into the teaching. It was identified that the main goals for institutions were to
- put in an IT infrastructure; lecture capture technology, wide-band wi-fi, etc.,
- improve administration,
- enhance classroom teaching (the classroom teaching is good, we just want to make it even better).
Fully online courses tended to be separate and different to the on campus courses, and made up 10-20% of enrolments. Most technology institutions were using (apart from clickers and so on) were learning management systems (LMS). Conclusions were that institutions were very conservative in their goals for leaning technologies. What they were doings was adding cost without demonstration any measurable benefits to learning as measured by better outcomes or the same outcomes at a higher level.
At institutions where learning technology was integrated well, the senior management were all singing from the same hymn sheet. This included from the admin side. They had all bought into the idea that technology was core to the future of their institution. They had a shared vision across the management team as to where the institution was to go, and how technology would fit into that, they had set measurable strategic goals, they were beginning to put into place more effective governance mechanisms, i.e. working out how decisions were to be made about the use of technology.
- Enhance 21st Skills including independent learning, entrepreneurship, etc.
- Embed technology into subject discipline is critical.
- Cost effectiveness – measurable benefits.
- Senior management communicate goals, develop plans, and fund those plans.
- Decisions need making at all levels, particularly at programme level, but also faculty and institution level.
- Strategic thinking rather than just planning.
In several institutions L&T Committees had little power, they were advisory rather than decision-making. Often their advice was ignored even though they were the loci of where expertise about technology was concentrated. There was a rapid growth of learning technology support units. This in part is due to faculty not having the pedagogical skills to use technology effectively. There were cases of central expertise being under used and faculties hiring in experts for a limited period with that expertise being lost at the end of that period.
A possible model for managing resources better and enabling students to grow their own learning was suggested. When students first come into university there might be higher levels of dependent learning and greater levels of face-to-face might be appropriate. As they move through their learning programme they should become more independent and the level of online learning might be more appropriate.
So one of the questions Tony asks of us is whether universities can change from within or if new institutions are required for the 21st Century. Unless there is a disjuncture then there is no incentive to change. The system seems to be self-perpetuating. The training (or apprenticeships) of research graduates to become the next generation of lecturers and academics in the same ways as previously is at least partly responsible for this, as are the pressures for advancement through publication in closed, peer-reviewed journals. (This links into previous weeks from Martin Weller and David Wiley.) In addition, the driver for continued status quo of assessment and ratification of qualifications is increasingly driven by employers. I recently heard the argument for ePortfolios being used as a means of demonstrating knowledge to employers as a nice idea, but in reality employers aren’t in the business of assessing the intellectual ability of candidates, that service is provided by universities. Can change come from within? I’m not sure it can at the moment, not unless strong external influences apply appropriate pressure to make things change.
Interestingly, Tony’s findings showed that there was little work undertaken by institutions to actually calculate the costs of delivering teaching in different ways. There was anecdotally driven beliefs that online learning courses were cheaper/more expensive/just the same cost as face-to-face delivery. A current task I have is to look at the actual uses an installed enterprise solution collaboration suite is being put to for learning and teaching in academic departments across a UK university. I’ll attempt to document this objectively and analyse whether other solutions exist that might provide the same or superior facilities and the costs involved with each.
Some years ago, I analysed how the functions of a LMS where being used across the institution. There wasn’t a cost put on this usage, in fact the question wasn’t even asked. Instead of thinking, everywhere else has one of these, students will expect it, we should have one, maybe we should be analysing the individual cost and usage of such systems, and working out whether they provide added value to the learning experience or not.