Monthly Archives: August 2013

Part 2: How to make Technology Enhanced Learning work for a University – Training and Culture

In my last post I talked about the importance of technology that works and that people find reliable and easy to use.  We have now reached the 3rd level of Gliddon’s Heirarcy of TEL, Training and Culture.  The aim here is to move your organisation along a path from where a technology is not used/known about to where it becomes part of the culture or just something that is done.

Training

The first thing to have is an “Introduction to….” training session, the aim is to take those staff that know little or nothing about the system and get them to a stage where they are using it for the basics.  Keep it short, make sure it is about what kind of things you can do rather than which buttons to press and when you have nearly finished the training say

It can do loads more, do have a play around with it and see what you can do, if you want to know more we have more training, or you can contact the helpdesk, or if you are trying to do something interesting we will sit down and help you plan it out”

Have a handful of more advanced training sessions, again things you can do rather than which buttons to press.

Provide training that people want and that supports projects.  You want to talk to senior staff at your institution and ask them what problems they would like solved in their area, then design training to solve these and offer it to train their staff.  Similarly any project you are doing consider if training would make them more successful.  The key point to remember here is that academic staff are very time poor and struggle to find time for training, however if what you are doing is making one of their problems go away they will make a real effort to find time.

Experiment with different times and ways to deliver the training (face to face, blended, online).

Culture

Then simply sit back and wait for the culture to change?  Sadly no the training above will cover the Innovators and Early adopters and then if everything goes well a year or two later you will start getting the Early Majority turning up for training.

What this means is that you are likely to have 60-80% of your staff either not using your TEL systems or using them to do the minimum and not really aware they can do more (because they haven’t had any contact with you).

Fortunately there are ways to accelerate cultural change

Packages

What is a package?  Well its a group of things that are bundled together that can then be put into multiple courses – think of it as an elaborate “Copy and Paste”, and if your institution has a Content Repository you can update anything deployed in one simple change.

So if someone wants their students to do group projects, rather than training them to add a wiki, set up a shared folder, create groups and make things visible to only one group.

Instead you import the “Group project” package; 6 wikis, 6 shared folders, 6 groups, all things visible to the correct group.  Video and handout instructions on how to use wiki & shared folders for students, Video and handout instructions visible to staff on how to assign students to groups and how to assess wikis (possibly even tips and a link to a case study).

You can also import a package into a lot of courses at once (most VLEs you can do this kind of thing server side using the same kind of processes that you do for annual course copies or archiving) a good example of this would be where a faculty wanted every course to do a particular thing for example Online Assessment, An Assessment Package is dropped into every course.  Because the support is built into the package its easy for staff and in one year/term you go from assessment being something they were considering to something that is done by nearly everyone (you will need to provide additional phone support and hand holding for the 16% laggards)

Ok – its late and this post is getting quite long, so I will pick up on what else you can do to change culture (and there is a lot!) in my next post

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How to make Technology Enhanced Learning work for a University

If you believe that Technology Enhanced Learning is a good thing (and I do), then if you have institutional responsibility for it you have a duty to your students to see that it is as widely and effectively used as possible.  However education is one of the most complex work environments, unlike a factory rolling out a new production process you cant just insist that everyone “does” Technology Enhanced Learning.  In this post I explore how to move forward with technology improving the educational experience while at the same time supporting and enhancing individual staff creativity.

To help illustrate this I am going to use “Gliddon’s Heiracy of TEL” that I designed a few years ago.

GH_TEL

Starting with the bottom level Functional Technology, most institutions see their VLE as a mission critical system and so they are adequately resourced in terms of the hardware and the staff to support them.  Having worked with VLEs for a decade I can rapidly fix any problem that they have and have trained others to do the same.  Similarly I have advised other institutions via mailing lists on how to fix their problems – this is a key aspect of modern VLEs, when they break you have a whole community of minds to draw upon to get a solution.  The other key area of TEL would be the cloud tools that are available and the vast majority are robust and reliable, one of the functions of a TEL department should be to recommend various cloud tools to staff.

Most institutions have this level for most of the technologies they wish to use, when bringing new technologies in try to avoid getting overenthusiastic and using systems before they are running reliably a single bad experience will put staff off for a long time.

Reliability/Useability ideally you will have selected technology that is reliable and easy to use.  However what is important here is the staff/student perception of how reliable and easy to use a system is, there are a number of things you can do to improve this.  The first and most effective is to have a helpdesk where the staff are familiar with the system.  The second is to have clearly laid out support materials and videos of the most common uses of the technology.

The idea is that most staff/students must feel confident that they can make it do what they want or rapidly find out how to.

In my next post I will look at the most difficult level to get right Training/Culture.

Why giving everybody money could be good for education and innovation

So last weekend I went camping with a group of friends, sitting around the campfire with all the kids finally in bed, the wine flowed and the conversation went in strange directions and I found myself trying to explain why an idea from the Green party (see here) might not be quite as stupid as it at first seems.

Now its clearly silly season in EdTech (dont believe me check out this post) plus our summer upgrade and course rollover has gone swimmingly so I am going to be a bit frivolous this week and take up the argument I failed to make at 2am on Saturday morning (hey I was on the second bottle of wine – Im pleased I could make fully functioning sentences).

The Physical IllusionSo whats the idea?  Well its to give everyone in the country a “Citizens allowance” basically acknowledging they are human and part of society and it would be mean to let them starve to death.  Everyone gets it, without means testing, benefit forms etc etc from the person huddled in the shop doorway all the way up to the multi-millionaire in the penthouse.

So how does it work and how do you pay for it? Well the Green party doesn’t give many details, so here is a very back of the envelope estimate.  Lets say its £10,000 for each adult.

For the currently unemployed that’s roughly Unemployment benefit + Housing Benefit so lets say that its roughly cost neutral.  For others we currently get about £5,000 because the first 10K of earnings are not taxed, for the rest lets raise income tax by 20%.

  • Someone on minimum wage (£6) working 35 hours a week would be about £3,000 better off (Total income would be about £15K vs £12K).
  • Someone on the (mean) average salary of £26,000 wouldn’t gain or lose – £10K citizen allowance vs £5k tax free and £5K extra tax(26 x 20%)
  • Someone on £50K would be about £5K worse off.

(as a rule of thumb it works out for every £1000 below 26K you gain £200, for every £1000 above you lose £200).  It would make society more equal moving money from the rich to the poor (this is considered by some to be good for society as a whole – see “The Spirit Level“).  You could also make the argument that it would be good for the economy because poor people tend to spend money and rich people save it, spending money boosts the economy.

What if everybody did nothing! it would be a disaster the economy would plummet society would fail and everyone would starve, but as every person that decided to do less/nothing would see an immediate fall in their income it is unlikely that many people would do this.  Similarly because anyone that started doing some/more work would see their income rise it is likely that replacements would be found for those that decided to do less work.

So why is it good for education?  Well because being educated is expensive both because you have to pay for the education and because for the hours you are learning you are not getting paid.  With a guaranteed minimum income more people would find the time to study either full time at the start of their career and/or off and on part time for the whole of their career (looked at over a life time, young poor uneducated you would be given money to learn, then later old rich educated you would pay out money).

What about innovation?  Well if you look at this Ted Talk

and then this one

You can see that the standard salaried job might be much rarer in the future, particularly the unskilled low education job.  What we will be looking for is inventive creative un-repetitive thinking and imagining.  Giving people the space (and the safety net) to try interesting ways to make a living will be essential and some will fail!  The more people we have spending time thinking (and sharing their thinking) the more successes society will have and the successes will more than pay for the failures.

This surge of inventive thinking will in turn feedback into a demand for more education (if your career involves thinking you will want to have as many “thinking tools” as you can get). It might even transform education because the paradigm will shift from

“Here are all the things you must learn in order to get a successful job, even if you are not interested in them”

Becoming instead

“You need to try to do brilliant things, what are you interested in? Ok here is what we can teach you about that”

Conclusion

So while at first glance it seems a rather daft idea and a lot of people will struggle to get past the “whats the point of giving everybody money?” stage.  Looked at in more detail it has promise and it is unusual ideas like this that will help us get though some of the changes in work that will be coming in the next 50 years (if you don’t think that anything weird is already happening to employment have a look at the % unemployment in Spain).