The Changing the Learning Landscape programme was a multi-agency approach that sought to help institutions bring changes to the student experience through the appropriate use of technology. As well as being multi-agency from the external perspective, the success of the programme was also in large part due to the participation of multiple agents in the institutions. These included involving a senior sponsor, such as a pro-vice chancellor, heads of IT, heads of technology enhanced learning, student representatives and lecturers.
A key element of the process was holding conversations with the institutional stakeholders. These strategic conversations took part before any other activity was undertaken. The resulting reports gave the agencies an excellent starting point in understanding the needs and aspirations of the institution, and enabled a targeted approach to changes.
An analysis of the reports after the programme identified that there were seven key themes common to most of the participating universities.
- Strategy and Leadership
- Programme Design and Delivery
- Professional Support Services
- Staff Capabilities and Development
- Change Management Approaches
It worth noting the following key points that emerged:
Strategic Importance of Technology Enhanced Learning
Leaders recognise the importance of TEL, but there is a lot of variation in institutions around how learning and teaching strategies relate to technology and what statements such as “excellent learning experience” mean to lecturers at the chalkface.
Students were happy to be engaged in the strategic conversations, and were mostly positive about their experience. However, an over-riding complaint from students is about inconsistencies in staff use of TEL and staff digital literacy practices. However, there is no evidence that what “consistency” means in practice has been fully explored. Care also needs to be taken when defining consistency so as not to lose innovation or individuality.
All students emphasised their appreciation of face to face contact, and did not want to see technology as an alternative. They also wanted technology to be used for a reason, and not just for “its own sake”.
Change Management Approaches
In deploying technology enhanced learning it is clear that effective processes are needed, both to support the technology and in gaining ‘buy-in’. It became apparent during the programme that staff often have difficulty in understanding and making meaning of top-level strategies e.g. “excellent teaching”, “outstanding graduates” – these need to be “translated” into more meaningful statements.
Staff and students also need more powerful and persuasive arguments for the benefits of TEL/digital literacies.
There is a podcast that accompanies this post, and the full report, How do you change the learning landscape is also available (pdf).