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Sustainable Support (Three Short Papers 0060, 0073, 0093)


09:00 - 10:00 on Thursday, 8 September 2011 in 8.62
0060 Using Dialogue to build Sustainable Capacity in a Challenging Climate Christine Davies
0073 Supporting Technology Enhanced Learning in Turbulent Times Anu Sharma, Phil Alberts
0093 Infecting academia! Where to base TEL support: in academic departments, in the university centre, or both? Panos Vlachopoulos, Kevin Brace, David Pollard
0060 Using Dialogue to build Sustainable Capacity in a Challenging Climate Christine Davies

In this paper, we explore approaches to capacity building informed by a clear developmental strategy at institutional level. As part of a JISC Building Capacity Project at the University, a plan was developed to implement changes in staff engagement with technology for learning and teaching. The research approach adopted was highly staff-focussed, and involved appreciative inquiry with a significant discursive element influenced by Laurillard’s ‘Conversational Framework’ to create andragogical opportunities. This dialogical approach facilitated the introduction of specific technologies to improve the learner experience, in line with institutional objectives, including augmenting the existing dissemination of good practice and maintaining support for innovations in learning and teaching.

The paper will report on the outcomes of the research: initial findings indicate that the one-to-one dialogues used to communicate with academics have promoted good relationships with institutional core staff and staff in faculties, and have led to the exploration of several new technologies within different subject areas, with a focus on free and open source tools and resources. These included: online mind-mapping as a planning tool for individuals and groups; screen-casting to make instructional videos; blogs for reflection on practice; text-to-speech software to assist literacy and extend accessibility.

The conversational approach utilised has helped achieve some of the key objectives of the JISC Building Capacity Project. It has led to significant re-thinking of curriculum design within departments, and has resulted in learning and teaching practices that show a new engagement with technology.

The paper concludes by looking at ways that institutions can build on the approach taken to sustain the development of staff and build future capacity in the face of the cold and increasingly challenging climate facing Higher Education.

0073 Supporting Technology Enhanced Learning in Turbulent Times Anu Sharma, Phil Alberts

In the face of funding cuts and limited resource allocation, it is becoming increasingly challenging for Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) support teams to cater for and deliver sustainable e-Learning initiatives across institutions.

Considering this scenario, it is suggested that TEL support teams should become more proactive in providing an increasingly needs-driven service. Furthermore, the sustainability of TEL initiatives and the development of local School-based strategies to support this process are equally important.

Within this presentation, Brunel University’s Learning Technology Team (LTT) describe their recently launched ‘School Learning Technology Consultation’ initiative. This initiative was developed to enable the LTT to liaise with key stakeholders of TEL across the institution in an effort to understand key needs and requirements across the range of Schools and departments. Stakeholders included Deputy Heads of Schools, academics, administrative staff and students.

The rationale underpinning this methodology is two-fold: allowing LTT support to become increasingly needs-driven and forward-thinking, as well as a mechanism to inform strategic development.

The study has provided a useful insight into the work of academic Schools. Some key outcomes include identifying the potential for TEL design interventions, identifying important collaboration opportunities with central support teams and raising the profile of TEL within Schools.

However, the initiative also has wider-reaching implications, in helping to inform the development of both the new institutional Learning & Teaching Strategy and associated local (School-based) TEL strategies. Furthermore, the process has already helped to inform and shape the implementation of Brunel’s next VLE.

Having engaged the academic Schools, the next stage involves the review of their TEL strategies, informed by the evidence base gathered. By giving Schools greater ownership and using evidence-based inputs to both facilitate dialogue and inform academic School strategies, we promote transformative change which is far likely to remain sustainable and drive higher value pedagogically-informed outcomes in the future.

The session will outline Brunel’s approach to this study and some key outcomes. Most importantly, it will highlight practical considerations for other institutions considering a similar approach.

0093 Infecting academia! Where to base TEL support: in academic departments, in the university centre, or both? Panos Vlachopoulos, Kevin Brace, David Pollard

Introduction

We ask the question: are funded central support and staff development models (Author B, 1995) changing academic practice? Do academic staff perceive the use of central support teams and local champions as pivotal to their adoption of TEL tools to transform learning?

In addition to these recognised and funded support mechanisms most tertiary educational organisations rely strongly upon the unspoken yet well known “infection model.” Whereby the local champions and central support services work closely with the early adopter demographic to help spread the message and benefits of TEL, using peer pressure. Are these two approaches mutually exclusive? Or do HEIs require both models to help embed TEL (Author A, 2000)?

Method

This paper investigates the perceptions of academic staff in 4 autonomous Schools in a research-led University. Questionnaires and focus groups examine how, and to what extent, teaching staff are influenced by three forms of support – peer viral, in-school professional, and central professional.

Results and conclusion

Findings will be data-driven, and will shed light on the respective strengths of these three mechanisms both individually and when employed together. The presentation will stimulate the audience to reflect on the most appropriate mix of support for their own institution.