Future Gazing

Future bright

Future Bright by daisee

Lots of very interesting reading this week including “Horizon Report 2011”, “Fostering Learning in a Networked World (cyberlearning)” and Becta’s “Harnessing Technology: Next Generation Learning.”  Having read these I was intrugued to see what UCISA responders saw as priorities.

UCISA: 2010 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK

(page 8 gives a summary of conclusions)

This report draws together response from 91 institutions surveyed by UCISA – Universities and Colleges Information Systems
Association.  The questionnaire would have probably gone to the IT director and then filtered down to the department or individual responsible for TEL provision/support.  The report shows the priorities of IT departments in 2010 and some of the things on their agenda.   The majority of the report is responses to questionnaires.

What makes more interesting reading though are a a series of interviews towards the end.  These give  clues about the relationships between TEL strategies, infrastructure, staff development and academic support in the institutions and we can match this up to further hints about whether things are going well, in terms of adoption and success.

Bullet points from me:

  • Priorities are focussed on student experience and quality of teaching
  • Support staff are important to encourage uptake of TEL
  • Academic staff knowledge  (and commitment) is considered to slow down the uptake of TEL.
  • JISC/HEFC publication and strategies  are instrumental in forming institutional responses.
  • A common thread in “the future challenges” section is the replacement VLE.  One specified a medium term challenge as “Where
    do we go from here?” 

Also a few quotes from the interviews:

Working Together (Academics and TEL specialist units/IT)

The interviews appear to show some good working relationships between IT/TEL staff and academics.

P83: (Chester) “Before IT was foisted on to academics – now we do it through academics. They tell us what they want.”

P86 (City) The key to making things happen at City is building relationships with staff and taking a softly, softly approach with the ability to work flexibly with people.

In contrast there is recognition that distance is a barrier for some:

P98 University of Gloucestershire “There is a concern that the learning technologists are not sufficiently integrated with faculties to have an impact in engendering change.”

Integrating  and promoting TEL/blended learning

P86 (City University) The University is trying to identify TEL as a natural part of the academic practice, as opposed to something separate, and there is an expectation from new staff that they will be using TEL.

P92 (Edinburgh Napier) A special interest group has also been set up to help Teaching Fellows to disseminate TEL best practice across schools, focusing on outcomes from TEL projects. http://staff.napier.ac.uk/services/academicdevelopment/TFscheme/Pages/welcome.aspx

P98 (University of Gloucestershire) TEL is a compulsory part of the Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) course for new academic staff. As part of the PGCert course they have to do a three week online course: managing discussions, using other tools, exploring corporate systems, exploring Web 2.0 technologies and how they might support teaching.

Perspectives on Web 2.0

P91 Edinburgh Napier: It is also expected that staff will promote external Web 2.0 tools and give students the autonomy to use them.

(I wonder if this perspective is a direct result of offering an MSc in Blended and Online Education? )

P95 University of Glamorgan There is a desire to give greater consideration to how the Cloud can be exploited, particularly through engaging students in collaborative activity at an earlier stage and through external hosting of services

P99 .(An English University)
In a few departments, the academics are getting their students to use alternative, free tools. The well rehearsed arguments of security and lack of control and ownership when using externally hosted tools mean that centrally,the University does not wish to overly encourage such an approach.

Student opinions (City Uni)

P87: As part of the SLE project, students said that they do not mind that the technology used is not the most up to date, provided that they can get what they want when they need it.


Planning effectively for the future requires effective partnerships between academic staff, staff developers and IT.  There’s a need to actively encourage staff to dabble in new things, that are not yet mainstream, in order to build expertise.  Major projects like rolling out a VLE can easily consume all waking energies.

What surprises me here is the limited intersection between the medium/long term technologies identified by Horizon and those interviewed here.  (There are however many references to email outsourcing and one or two to inhouse OER repositories).

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One Response to Future Gazing

  1. runtezza says:

    Great post — thanks!

    It set off a couple of thoughts for me.
    1. I was in a meeting only two days ago when someone said (to wide agreement) what we need is some hybrid academic technicians to tell us how to use these tools! (we do have them, kind of, and the expertise is there if you can get hold of much demanded colleagues in our learning and teaching solutions department but, as you can imagine, they are really busy with all the demand at the moment). But the point about ‘Support staff are important to encourage uptake of TEL ‘ is as relevant to teaching staff as to learners.
    2. Re your final reflections. Perhaps the reason why there seems so little whiff of what seems to be just up the road is precisely because people are dancing as fast as they can trying to catch up with what appears to be here already (apologies if that’s what you meant anyway!)

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