In-line with the HEFCE Strategy for e-Learning (HEFCE, 2009), a number of HEIs are now reviewing their delivery of TEL. This is apposite given a further set of reports that focus upon the impact of technologies upon learning and teaching in higher education. The outcomes of these reports highlight the following areas of concern for HEIs.
- How do we enhance our students’ learning literacies through our services and curricula?
- How do we enable staff and students to create learning environments that support learning at an appropriate scale?
- Can we develop services that enable staff and students to manage transitions, progression and attendance?
- Do we need a reappraisal and extension of professional development, and reward and recognition?
- How can we develop flexible approaches to the curriculum?
- Can we extend a distinctive institutional culture?
The Government, through HEFCE has prompted an Online Learning TaskForce, which appears to focus upon economic growth and the UK’s market share in distance learning. UCISA are again running their review into technologies, this time as a TEL survey. Finally, the Association for Learning Technology have catalysed a Learning Environment Review Special Interest Group. There are matters of scale and developing local ownership here. One of the key issues for institutions is linking the use of technology to their own institutional vision and mission, so that a meaningful blueprint can be delivered. This blueprint will need to address: procedures and policies; the organisational make-up that supports implementation; the technologies that are deployed; and the information/data that supports decision-making at a number of levels. At MMU Mark Stubbs has been openly blogging and tweeting about progress with the MMU Learning Technology Review, pivoting around a migration from WebCT. Again a key driver is the student-staff experience at MMU. We’ve been running a TEL Review at DMU in earnest since November. Our review is focused upon whether the following are fit-for-purpose within the institution:
- the technologies that are deployed [e.g. VLE, non-institutional social software];
- the professional development available for staff, alongside related quality improvement approaches; and
- the support services provided for students.
DMU has implemented a hub-and-spokes approach for TEL since 2003. Our extant e-Learning [now TEL] strategy sits within the framework of the DMU Learning Teaching and Assessment Strategy. The benefits to the institution that it aims to deliver focus upon:
- enhancing DMU’s position within the HE sector of DMU as a leading TEL provider;
- strengthening the integration of technologies within the curriculum, in order to improve the quality of contact between learners, tutors and information;
- renewing professional development so that academic and support staff can productively engage with technologies;
- developing a coherent infrastructure and value-added services for students and staff;
- building increased capacity for both research and external income generation; and
- promoting flexibility in curriculum design and assessment.
Our review has catalysed an evidence-based report that outlines our current position and makes recommendations for changes to practices. The evidence is taken from:
- the outcomes from our HEA-funded e-Learning Benchmarking and Pathfinder projects;
- an analysis of usage statistics for DMU-supported technologies from 2007–10;
- a technology survey with 91 staff in December 2008 and a follow-up survey with 45 staff in December 2009, and interviews with 25 staff in December 2009;
- in-depth interviews and on-line focus groups with 178 students at all levels, including postgraduate, in all five University faculties have been undertaken between 2006–09; and
- a survey with 31 excellence award winners in December 2009, and a focus group with 11 staff, to discuss professional development.
The review document is currently in consultation with the Students Union and Learning and Teaching Champions. However, it is simply a starting point for a new vision/blueprint for TEL at DMU, which will be developed in focus groups with students and staff during February, and then discussed with Deans and PVCs in March. To-date the 16 recommendations focus upon the following themes.
- The organisational structures for the deployment of TEL, and the concomitant impact on decision-making, resource allocation, and both technological and professional development. Keyword: agility.
- Development of institutional technologies and support for non-institutional tools. Keyword: flexibility.
- A focus upon professional development and the developmental role of e-Learning Champions and their relationship to Faculty e-Learning Co-ordinators. Keywords: evolving; gregarious.
- Using the migration to Blackboard 9 in July 2010 as a re-launch of TEL at DMU, with professional development implications, minimum thresholds and a focus on using non-institutional technologies. Keywords: functional; innovation.
- An evaluation of outsourcing and openness for learning and teaching. Keywords: evolving; open.
- A focus on multimedia and mobiles. Keyword: innovation.
- An evaluation of our data processes, and the connection into technology provision and use. Keyword: functional.
- Work with Student Reps on digital identities and safety. Keyword: straightforward; gregarious.