Part 3: How to make Technology Enhanced Learning work for a University – Culture Change

Cultural change is more likely to happen if there is a lead from the top (for a good example of how much difference a good leader can make have a look at the blog of George Couros – this post deals with the idea directly).

So the first thing to do is to make appointments to see senior staff in every School & Faculty (basically make appointments to speak with anyone who will talk to you).  At the meeting find out – what problems they would like solving and what they would like to see done with technology in their area.  If you can then solve one of their problems because once you have proved to be useful they will come to see you again.

Staff induction – when staff first start a new job is when they are most receptive to new ideas and ways of doing things.  If you have a slot at induction you get to demonstrate to staff that using technology is an accepted/expected part of working at your institution.   They will also know that your team exists and that training and help are available if they ask.

Teacher Training – work closely with the teacher trainers at your institution, ideally see if you can get your staff involved with the delivery (ideally co-teaching some sessions using technology as part of the learning rather than just delivering a session on “tech”).  Even if you cant be involved in the teaching make sure that you help and support the teacher training team as much as possible – remember this is a case where helping one teacher could change the practice of 20-30 rather than just 1.

Human Resources/Staff Development – always good to have a good relationship with this team as they can direct staff your way and feature your training on their website.  If you get a very good relationship with them you may reach the stage where your courses are added to recommended training for staff looking for progression/promotion.  Also similar to the teacher trainers – if staff development use technology in their teaching then the number of staff exposed to the practice is much larger than when you train a single academic.

Student induction – tread carefully and make sure you have permission for this, but if you can show students some of the ways they can use technology to enhance their learning then you start to have a digitally literate student body, which will generate a groundswell of support and will make adoption of new practice by staff easier (example – its very easy to get your students to produce a reflective blog post if they are all blogging already)

Admin Staff – I expect you already know this but having admin staff enthused and trained up can really make a difference in adoption in the area those staff work in.  There are often admin processes that can be made easier using things like the VLE and admin staff will really appreciate it if you save them time (a trivial example was putting a sickness form into courses – it was on the website but they still got several students every day wandering into the office asking for them).  They often have some responsibility in a number of courses and so a change in their practice can affect 100s of students.  They can also act as a first line of troubleshooting and support for academics (freeing up your staff to deal with the more complicated and demanding requests).

Library staff – much like admin staff, these people can be a great help in adoption.  They are fantastic at finding resources and will often be happy to work with teaching staff adding those resources in various courses.  They can also work well as a first line of support for students giving hands on advice to students who are in the library.  Talk to senior library staff, train library staff and see if there is anything you can do to help them (eReserves is a good place to start)

Open door policy – encourage people to visit you, allow them to pop in to your office – every conversation you have with someone should be moving them slightly in the direction of competence then literacy then eloquence.  Similarly get out and about, if there are staff rooms sit in them and work, if the library has academics in it sit there as well.  The idea is that people recognise you and your team and are happy to approach you when they want to do something.

Annual course/program review – this is the one time of the year that you can be absolutely certain that staff are thinking about how they teach and how to improve and/or fix what went wrong.  If you can be sat in the room with them then you will be there to suggest solutions and things they might try.  Its also a fantastic chance to improve your knowledge because you will get to hear all the things they did that were successful –  and you can pass these ideas along to others (I like to have a few non-technical solutions to problems it helps to show that you are pushing good learning not just pushing technology)

New course or unit approval – same as course review above but even more so, this is a chance to help someone design their course from scratch.  Remember you are helping them not designing it yourself, make sure the structure is something they are fairly comfortable to teach, but do stretch them a bit.  A few successful courses designed in part by you will massively help your reputation a few years down the line.

If you are managing to do most of the above then you should start seeing some fairly decent cultural change.

Ideally you should keep a brief record of who you have worked with and what on (it really shouldn’t be massively detailed, more an aid memoir – if you are doing everything above you shouldn’t have time for too detailed documentation).  Then when contacted by staff you can put them in touch with someone who has already done something similar, building a community of support for each other and again driving that cultural change.

That should be enough for now, next post I will outline how using blogs, social media and communities can help embed the cultural change and look at the top 2 levels of Gliddon’s Heiracy of TEL (Recognition and Professionalism) and suggest what you might do to achieve those.


Captured by the Beltsville Electron Microscopy Unit, part of the USDA.

3 thoughts on “Part 3: How to make Technology Enhanced Learning work for a University – Culture Change

  1. Iliana

    Great ideas to change the culture in our universities! How do you share or very innovative efforts of some teachers to the university in order to replicate success? I look forward to read how social media and blogs can help that cultural change. Do you have students blogging? Do you as a teacher keep a class’ blog?

  2. josephgliddon Post author

    Thanks Iliana, we share the efforts of teachers in a number of ways, though putting case studies on our website (I get the impression that not many staff actually look there though). We get staff to present at our annual teaching conference (this works well). But the most effective is simply name dropping when talking to academics (example “oh John in the Vets school tried this and his students really engaged, look here is his site”).
    I don’t currently teach students (I teach teachers how to teach using technology) however I help a lot of other staff and they are starting to use blogging more – 2 requests this week, one a member of staff who started blogging with one group of students and now wants to extend the practice to several year groups and a few more staff. Second a member of staff who wants his students to construct a portfolio of their ongoing work and experience on the course – we will be looking at individual blogs and wikis for the students with a central class blog for sharing (I suggested they could do it all out in the open internet but as this is the first time they have tried something like this they went for the secure walled garden of our VLE)

  3. Pingback: Part 4: How to make Technology Enhanced Learning work for a University – Recognition | More than just Content

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