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WED: Who teaches the teacher? Networking professional staff to implement learning technology innovations (Stefanie Anyadi)
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14 December 2014
Recent years have seen rapid development in the area of technology to support learning. This presentation will explore how innovation in technology enhanced learning (TEL) can be encouraged and supported in complex organisations like universities. Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation concept will provide a framework to discuss and address some of the difficulties.
TEL is supported by a wide range of staff groups in UK universities. We will focus on teaching administrators (TAs), professional services staff based in academic departments in student-facing roles. A case study will show how a network of TAs might be able to encourage and support innovation in TEL and the benefits and difficulties associated with this approach. The network has made it possible to roll out updates, enhance staff development, and implement TEL-related guidelines and standards. It has improved collaboration and sharing of best practice across traditional boundaries but has also highlighted difficulties such as variability of resources and management support.
We will discuss the development of the project artefact, a multimedia presentation about this case study which will demonstrate the benefits of networking teaching administrators to support innovation and best practice. The artefact will include interview extracts with teaching administrators, students and academic staff to illustrate the points made, and some of these will be shown as part of the presentation.
The final part of the presentation will report on the results of a survey which aimed to establish how wide-spread the involvement of teaching administrators is in supporting and developing TEL at UK universities. Early indications are that there is an increasing interest in involving this staff group and some of the reservations and perceived benefits will be discussed.
Text version of poster
Who teaches the teacher? Networking professional staff to implement learning technology innovations across complex organisations
Conference Theme: Implementation
The poster is designed to give a brief taster of the multi-media presentation for the H818 conference in February
Description of Poster
Below the boxes containing the title and author, there are five icons for sources which the presentation will draw on for some background information and statistics. This includes the UCISA Report 2014 (with a link) which summarises the results of a comprehensive survey of technology enhanced learning support at UK universities. It also includes icons for relevant professional associations, namely the AUA (Association of University Administrators) and ALT (Association for Learning Technology), HESA (the Statistics Agency for UK Higher Education) and JISC (a charity which supports and develops the use of Information Technology in UK Higher Education).
Underneath these icons, under the heading “Barriers to developing technology enhanced learning”, a chart provides an image on Everett Roger’s theory on the diffusion of innovation (with a link to the Wikipedia article). Then, under the heading “Opportunities for supporting technology enhanced learning” an arrow points to an image showing teaching administrators in a central position between students, academic staff and central divisions. Another arrow leads on to an image of a workshop group.
From this image, an arrow leads on to the lower part of the poster, with an image of a computer screen at the bottom left, under the heading “Case study”. This links to a Youtube video of some teaching administrators talking about their role. There is a smaller “Digital Department” icon on the computer screen which links to the UCL Digital Department blog, which provides some additional information but is not essential for understanding the poster.
A final arrow then points to the heading “Implications and opportunities for UK HEIs and FE colleges”
• UCISA report: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/~/media/groups/dsdg/Tel 2014 Final 18 August.ashx
• Wikipedia page on Diffusion of Innovations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations
• Teaching administrator clips on Youtube: http://youtu.be/xYa-J_fd_g0
• UCL Digital Department blog: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/the-digital-department/
Interested? Please join my H818 Conference Session in February to find out more!
07:18 on 27 December 2014
Summary of the content of the presentation
- HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) reports show a significant increase in the number of students in recent years for UK universities.
These increases in numbers, the increased student expectations in the light of large tuition fees and new technologies have transformed teaching in Higher Education in recent years.
- UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association) carry out a bi-annual survey into technology enhanced learning (TEL) in UK universities and further education colleges. Their 2014 report found that staff are aware of the opportunities for improvement. The main barriers are lack of academic staff knowledge and a lack of time. The top challenges they identify are lack of support staff, specialist skills and resources, and issues with staff development.
- Roger's (1962) model of the diffusion of innovations shows that innovation happens gradually, and Moore (1991) developed the model further to emphasise the chasm that an innovation has to cross to become used widely.
- Support for innovation varies considerably between different institutions.
- very large and complex university, de-centralised.
- teaching administrators are involved in supporting TEL across the organisation; these are professional services staff working in academic departments at the interface between academic staff, students and central divisions like the Registry with very varied job roles. They have made it possible to implement some TEL innovations unexpectedly smoothly and quickly across the university, e.g. the introduction of minimum requirements for the virtual learning environment.
- Networking this staff group has led to an active Community of Practice which has given teaching administrators the confidence to suggest improvements and challenge less good practice, and to appreciate the value of their contribution, unlike colleagues investigated by Regan et al (2014).
- I plan to produce a short multimedia clip to include video, animation and graphs to showcase the work of this network, encourage new colleagues to get involved, and to demonstrate to their line managers and to senior management the value of this activity.
- some of the components are already available (video clips of teaching administrators and academic staff).
- teaching staff are extremely busy so need tailored, just-in-time support to encourage the use of innovative teaching and assessment methods; local but networked support is ideal for large organisations.
- collaboration between professional and academic staff can improve the student experience (see also Parkes et al 2014).
- there is interest in involving this staff group to support TEL at a number of other universities, as a survey I carried out recently has shown, but concerns about teaching administrator work load and job descriptions would have to be addressed (see also Graham 2013).
- it would be useful for all higher and further education organisations to think about who supports innovation in their organisation, and how these colleagues can be supported and networked.
16:54 on 13 February 2015
Graham, C. 2013, ‘Changing technologies, changing identities. A case study of professional staff and their contributions to learning and teaching’, Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, vol. 17, no. 2, pp.62-70.
Moore, Geoffrey A. 1991, Crossing the Chasm, New York, HarperCollins Publishers.
Parkes, S., Young, J. B., Cleaver, E., & Archibald, K. 2014, Academic and professional services in partnership literature review and overview of results, Higher Education Academy, viewed 1 February 2015, http://scotland.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/research/Prof_Service_Partnerships_report_final_200214_updated.pdf.
Regan J-A, Dollard, E and Banks, N. 2014), ‘A comparative study of the perceptions of professional staff on their contribution to student outcomes’, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 1-15.
Rogers, E. 1962, Diffusion of Innovations, Free Press, Glencoe.
UCISA 2014, 2014 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK, viewed 6 January 2015, http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/~/media/groups/dsdg/TEL Survey 2014_29Sep2014.ashx.
16:55 on 13 February 2015