Jisc have been working in collaboration with key partners in the Higher Education sector to support the technology enhanced learning aspirations of a variety of institutions through a HEFCE funded initiative – Changing the Learning Landscape.
The model of support is based on conversations with key staff in institutions and followed up with targeted interventions. During the conversations a set of key themes emerged and we ran a session at the recent Digifest to discuss these themes and gain feedback from delegates (using voting pads) as to whether these themes reflected the experience of their own universities and colleges.
You can watch the half-hour session starting at approximately 1hr27minutes on the video.
Strategic approaches to Technology Enhanced Learning
How technology in learning is deployed in institutions ranges dramatically, from pockets of enthusiasts, individuals developing small bespoke systems or at the other end of the spectrum, large off the shelf vendor systems. In most of the institutions that we worked in it was apparent that Senior Leadership teams were aware of many pockets of innovation and worked to support them strategically. We asked delegates with regard to impact in your institution, what is having the biggest positive impact on the use of Technology Enhanced Learning? A bottom up approach, strategic leadership or a combination. 65% of the delegates reported that in their institutions a combination of strategic leadership and enthusiasts from the bottom up were having a positive impact. How to best combine the two is emerging as a key theme for senior leaders.
The student experience is at the centre of the work we have been doing in the CLL programme, and we have found that one of the areas that institutions are particularly interested in developing further is digital literacies of their students. Perhaps due to the SEDA-organised strand of digital literacies workshops in the first year of CLL, and the work of the Jisc Developing Digital Literacies programme, we’re seeing a deeper level of understanding of the topic in conversations with institutions this year, and there are some quite sophisticated initiatives developing around a holistic approach to digital literacies for staff and students, integrating with continuing professional development processes. Of the delegates in the session, 72% said that developing digital literacies was something their institution was either working on now or was on their agenda for the next academic year. 24% indicated that they had just completed a piece of institutional work in this area.
Technology changing the game
The rapid change in technology over the last 10 years has had an impact on practice. During the session we discussed how digital resources were supporting enquiry based learning, how social media was allowing interaction outside of traditional boundaries such as the classroom and how work-based learning had changed as communication becomes easier between the workplace and the college or university. Thinking through how major technology changes might fundamentally alter what we get up to inside and outside the classroom – and with whom – is on the radar of leaders in learning and teaching, and we asked if delegates were doing this now, next academic year, if they had just reviewed the area or if it wasn’t a priority. 92% of delegates reported that impacts on practice of big shifts in technology were a consideration now or next academic year, suggesting that the sector is moving on from just adding technology to what we do
We shifted gear in the middle of the presentation and asked delegates to consider what the big technology red herrings had been recently. There was a little discussion around MOOCs and Mobile, as we saw some knee-jerk reactions to particularly the hype around the former in last year’s discussions, but this year institutions seem to have had time to review the hype and pick out the key implications for their own mission. Generally delegates seemed to feel that the sector is in a place where we were quite reflective about technology and in a place where they knew how to spot and use technology appropriately. The conversations with institutions have been useful in highlighting areas in which technology which students are asking for is available, but isn’t used, enabling them to investigate this and ensure appropriate support is in place.
The Higher Education Sector has gone through several iterations of how it treats technology, including the approaches we take and the language we use (which sometimes drives the approach). For several years we thought about e-learning strategies; these mostly reflected the rise of the virtual learning environment and associated systems, eventually many of these strategies were subsumed into wider learning and teaching strategies and spoke of good practice in their use. Recently institutions have begun looking at wider technology enhanced learning strategies, these focus on the student experience and reference digital literacy, employability and in some cases innovation with technology. Asking the delegates if they were looking at developing a wider TEL strategy 82% reported that they were either doing it now, or it was on their agenda for the next academic year, with a further 13% reporting they had just reviewed the strategy. Most indicated that this reflected a particular spike of strategy change at the moment, not just ongoing churn and review.
The final question of the afternoon was around technology change. We talked about the VLE, e-portfolios, the rise of tablets and mobile. We were unpicking if people were reviewing what technology they deployed – whether that was changing the systems, installing new, or removing them. This is an area that perhaps warrants a closer look in the future – 25% of the delegates said that they had just reviewed some internal learning technology system, with a further 66% looking at them now or in the next academic year.
Closing remarks from the session
The session focused on the speakers’ personal observations during conversations with institutions, and neither these or the audience response to them is intended to be taken as reliable data. The audience response system was used because a chance to interact with the lecturer in this way is something that students often ask for, and gave the e audience a feel for what their peers around them were also going through. However, we were struck by how strongly the themes we identified appeared to resonate, particularly in the following areas:
- The number of people looking at Digital Literacy in a strategic way
- The monitoring of the next big technology game changer
- The emphasis on TEL strategies that incorporate wider issues
- The way institutions are reviewing how and what learning technology is deployed