Tag Archives: strategic change

Part 4: How to make Technology Enhanced Learning work for a University – Recognition

Building on my last post on culture change I want to look at how providing recognition for staff will increase the uptake of TEL and strengthen the cultural change.

If someone gets recognition/praise/esteem for something they have done they are dramatically more likely to do something similar.  Similarly others that see them get this recognition are more likely to try doing something similar

33rd America's Cup - Valencia, Spain

Internal recognition – you should by now have a group of staff that you have done a significant amount of work with.  You can provide them with some recognition by writing up what they have done as case studies (and surfacing the case studies on your website/VLE etc) and asking them to speak at any conferences that you organise.

Similarly you might wish to nominate some of them for Teaching and Learning awards if your organisation has such awards (interestingly at Bristol for the past 2 years every single person receiving an award has been someone that has done work with the TEL team – although the awards were frequently for something else they had done).

If you ever have the opportunity mention the work staff have done to their management.  Although it is outside of your control, informing areas about staff who are making a change increases the chance they will be praised for that work and may even lead to them being allocated time to do further work in this area.

Mention their names to others that are planning similar work (“we did this with Dr X last year, have a talk to her I am sure she would be happy to give you some advice”).

External recognition

Of course you can do the traditional things and name check people if you present to external conferences, you might even want to co-publish a research paper on some of the work you have done with staff if you have the academic background.

However there is a more immediate form of external recognition available – blogs, social media and communities

Now there are advantages to being a connected educator, and I hope that by the time you are considering external recognition you have already been encouraging your staff to blog. If your staff are engaging and connecting via a PLN (personal learning network) then they will be sharing what they do – and the first time they get a like/+1/comment they will get a little rush of endorphins because someone likes what they are doing.  The more they do it the more they will get.  You as a TEL team can jump start the process by providing/directing staff to communities to share with so that they have an immediate audience and don’t have to start out sharing with emptyness


Actually this is an area that TEL staff have very little influence over, the decision to make TEL part of your professional practice is either

  • an individual’s decision (“I want to teach well, I believe integrating technology into my practice makes my teaching better, thus using technology is part of my job“)
  • Or an Organisational decision (“This University believes in good teaching and believes effective use of technology encourages good teaching.  So we will discuss TEL in recruitment, promotion and annual review.  Thus using technology is part of everybody’s job“)

What TEL staff can do is make sure the support structure is in place so that when those decisions are made they are a concrete change rather than just an optimistic expression of intent.

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.

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.


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).


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


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

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.


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.