‘The beautiful game, by the greatest artists in Europe, presented by the past masters”.
This was the BBC’s Euro 2004 tagline, as I started work as an Assistant e-Learning Technologist on 21st June 2004 as a work placement student. I chose this as the title for this post, as I think it sums up the field of Learning Technology and how we should learn from those that have gone before us. The field is a beautiful, exciting one, that we as Learning Technologist, Developers etc paint and shape and learn from the past masters, building new models for old ideas. The medium may be new, but the ideas and pedagogy are as old as time.
It was 2004, we were developing e-Learning within the Learning and Teaching Development Unit at Brunel University (web archive link). As an ex-colleague at Imperial’s Educational Development Unit might say, this is me, sharing ‘war stories’!
I have been working in this field of Technology Enhanced Learning, Educational Technology, Learning Technology or whatever label you’d like to call it for 12 years exactly. This blog post is a summary of 12 lessons or observations I’ve seen, with some explanation and references where possible to key scholars, articles and reports that have shaped my understanding over this time. They are not in any order of importance.
1. Have an e-Learning strategy at least, if not a blended learning one. That’s more than 1 page.
Having a strategy and not being able to operationalise it is the same as not having one. This is a good example of an e-Learning Strategy (University of Glasgow, 2013), this is a good example of a Blended Learning Strategy (University of Leeds, 2011)
2. You have to have a complete staff development or continuous professional development (CPD) offer, for the next academic year, so academics can plan their time.
You have to offer a regular pattern of staff development workshops that are pedagogy not technology focused, with descriptions of the workshops, so staff can see what’s on offer. These have to be in addition to your PGCert in HE or equivalent, so academics at all levels can access something from your offer. Why not get academics and professional staff to present on your workshops? Most universities have more internal talent than they use, people will be only too pleased you asked and it’s good for their CPD too, a win-win situation. Link it to the UKPSF, so they can see the value in it. Here’s an example of it from Brunel in the academic year 2015-2016. Don’t forget your visiting lecturers, the clinicial teaching staff and the PhD students, they will the lecturers and educators of tomorrow.
3. There’s always resource for it.
“There’s not enough resource for it.” Wrong, depends where you have set your resource. This is a very common sentence in some higher educational institutions. Experimenting, researching and communicating these experiments back to the educational community is part of the role. It’s about priorities, the size of your team and what you choose to put your energies to. Showing impact is key, this is a great example from Queen Mary University of London (Centre for Academic and Professional Development, QMUL, 2015).
4. You have to offer the things staff want, by asking them, offering it, marketing it and telling them what you’ve offered them.
An ex-colleague at Brunel used to say June was the only month to offer training and to avoid the autumn term, but however you design your offer, make sure you communicate, communicate, communicate the offer, via posters, emails, signatures, departmental meetings and social media and at every point you can when you see staff.
5. Localise it, personalise the training offer. The big centres of educational excellence work, but localised support in schools is better, if you have the resource. (Martin, 2015)
6. Video case studies work (short ones). People like seeing others talk about their successes and failures. Here’s a good example ‘Leading by Example – Dr Rachael-Anne Knight Poll Everywhere’ (LEaD, 2016)
7. Quick Start guides, not lengthy bibles. Staff are time pressured and consistently state this as a top three factor. As Bregman (2007) advocates the JETS™ (Just Enough To Start), follow up with more if they need it. (UCISA, 2014)
8. It’s about the Pedagogy Stupid – not the Technology. To badly paraphrase Bill Clinton’s 1992 lead strategist James Carnville said “It’s about the Economy Stupid“. To forget about this and merge a SITS Data Management Team and Learning Technology Team, is really rubbing SALT (web archive) into the wound!
As many projects over the years have proved, the technology is secondary to the pedagogy or the learning outcomes. What do you want your learners to do, to achieve after they have learnt what you have taught them. This was highlighted by the Open University Learning Design Initiative, that as a partnership institution I got to see first hand. (Cross et al, 2012). Technology should be a bake in, not a bolt on, we are after all teaching in a digital age (Bates, 2015) and Digital Scholarship should be in everything we do (Weller, 2011). These flexible pedagogies benefit students (HEA, 2014).
9. Have a pedagogic model or framework for your staff to see technology enhanced learning. Use this across your offer, it’s your identity. This is a really good example of one, Educational considerations for blended learning (Stephenson J.E, 2008) so says Professor Gráinne Connole and Matt Lingard (Head of TEL, University of West London).
10. Link projects to the annual learning and teaching conference and provide reward and recognition for this. This provides a natural succession of presenters each year.
11. Embed Technology Enhanced Learning across the curriculum. This means long thin modules that provide synoptic assessment (Leeds Beckett, 2004). This tests longer, deeper learning across modules and is sometimes referred to as the demodularisation of the curriculum. You need to design the curriculum and treat it as a Design Science, as Laurillard (2012) advocates.
12. It’s about the Teaching and about not forgetting previous projects and innovations. Sustainability in our developments is important as highlighted by Dr Matthew J. Williamson in his keynote at City University London’s Learning at City Conference 2016 (Learning at City, 2016)
It also helps if you have a great Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education), the best one I ever met was at Imperial College, Professor Debra Humphries (her Twitter feed shows you why), now Vice Chancellor at the University of Brighton. She really cares about Education, Learning and Innovation and was the most non-professorial of Pro-Vice Chancellors I have met over the years. If you don’t have one, then be BOLD (web archive link), don’t ASK and remember, always, always #taketheLEaD!
No post about a look back at the past 12 years would be complete with Professor Gilly Salmon and Gráinne Connole, and the brilliant Professor Phil Race, all of whom helped shape my understanding of the field, as well as countless others, which if I mentioned would be longer than an Oscars acceptance speech! Here’s to the next 12 years and beyond!
This is the BBC Euro 2004 Advert for you to enjoy that inspired the title of this post!
Bates (2015) Teaching in a Digital Age. Available: https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/ Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Bregman, P (2007). Point B: A Short Guide to Leading a Big Change. New York: Space for Change. 1-157.
BEEC (2015), BEEC Brochure 2015-16. Available: https://blackboard.brunel.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/institution/Public/BEEC%20Brochure%20-%202015-16.pdf Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Martin, B (2016) What is Happening to our Universities? Available: https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=2016-03-swps-martin.pdf&site=25. Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Centre for Academic and Professional Development, QMUL, 2015. CAPD Annual Report. Available: http://capd.qmul.ac.uk/about-us/capd-annual-report/. Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Cross, S; Galley, R; Brasher, A and Weller, M(2012). OULDI-JISC Project Evaluation Report: the impact of new curriulum design tools and approaches on institutional process and design cultures. OULDI Project (Open University). Available online: http://oro.open.ac.uk/34140/1/OULDI_Evaluation_Report_Final.pdf Last accessed 21st June 2016.
HEA (2011) The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education. Available: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf Last accessed 21st June 2016.
HEA (2014) Flexible Pedagogies: technology-enhanced learning https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/resources/tel_report_0.pdf Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Laurillard, D (2012) Teaching as a Design Science. London. Routledge. 1-272.
LEaD (2016) Learning by Example – Dr Rachael Anne Knight Poll Everywhere. Available: http://mediaspace.city.ac.uk/media/Leading+by+Example+-+Dr+Rachael-Anne+Knight+Poll+Everywhere+/1_la0re03s. Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Learning at City (2016). Report from Learning at City 2016 – Promoting Teaching Excellence. Available at: https://blogs.city.ac.uk/learningatcity/2016/06/20/report-from-learning-at-city-2016-promoting-teaching-excellence. Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Leeds Beckett (2004). Synoptic teaching and learning. Available: http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/inn/alic/synoptic.htm. Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Stephenson, J.E (2008) Educational considerations for blended learning. Available: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/services/library/ask-ltt/ltt/team/projects/entice Last accessed 21st June 2016.
UCISA (2014) 2014 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK. Available: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/~/media/groups/dsdg/Tel%202014%20Final%2018%20August.ashx. Last accessed 21st June 2016.
University of Glasgow. (2013). E-Learning Strategy 2013 – 2020. Available: http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_297622_en.pdf. Last accessed 21st June 2016.
Weller, Martin (2011). The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice. Basingstoke: Bloomsbury Academic.
Wikipedia (2016) It’s the Economy Stupid. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_the_economy,_stupid. Last accessed 21st June 2016.