How are UK higher education institutions managing their services, what are they targeting for development and how is this work being conducted?
UCISA has just published a collection of case studies on institutional approaches to the management of technology enhanced learning (TEL) services within the UK HE sector, which goes some way to answering these questions. The publication is available here [pdf] and can also be found on the UCISA TEL Surveys webpage: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel
The publication is a companion resource to the 2014 UCISA TEL survey report and aims to probe themes in the 2014 survey data – shedding light on TEL trends through the eyes of the 13 higher education institutions across the UK which were interviewed.
The case studies reflect a picture of increasing senior management engagement with TEL developments, driving efforts to improve the range of online services made available to students and the level of staff adoption with learning technologies in course delivery. Whilst stand-alone e-learning strategies now appear to be a thing of the past, TEL statements and action plans are very much in vogue in shaping how technology will be used to enhance the student learning experience. This is evident across the full range of UCISA case studies, from City College Norwich’s commitment to supporting electronic submission of assessed work to Edinburgh Napier’s ambitious plans to create a digitally integrated university in the period leading up to academic year 2019-20. We may draw parallels here with our own context at York, where University Teaching Committee last year endorsed a statement summarising our ambitions for the use of learning technologies in teaching and learning, focusing on our commitment to standardising the provision of rich learning resources for our students across all study programmes, whilst also using technologies to support active learning opportunities for our students, based on participant-controlled online learning activities. The full vision statement is available here [pdf].
The case studies reveal that UK institutions are facing many common challenges in developing their TEL service provision in a context of rapid technology change. Top of the list is mobile technologies and services supporting bring your own device (BYOD) provision. The 2014 UCISA TEL survey data revealed that the number of institutions engaged in the optimisation of web services for mobile access has doubled since 2012, with work currently focused on improving the wireless infrastructure and opening up access to student services. The case studies offer insights into how this agenda is being pursued, with institutions such as Edinburgh Napier, Edge Hill and the University of South Wales developing institutional apps to support access to key services, as well as investment in mobile friendly content resources for learning and teaching. The development of transformative pedagogies around mobile learning affordances is less in evidence, but project funding is being offered at Edinburgh Napier and Northampton to support pedagogic innovation in this area, and South Wales actively encourages students to use devices in the lecture theatre through its own ‘switch on’ policy.
The development of lecture capture and video services and provision for e-submission and electronic management of assessment activities also feature as common challenges for many of the institutions. This is in marked contrast to distance learning and much-hyped MOOC developments, where investment in fully online delivery has not progressed that far. European institutions appear to be far more active in this regard, judging from recent findings from the E-Learning in European Higher Education Institutions Survey (December 2013), which highlighted over a hundred institutions planning to introduce MOOCs in the near future, driven by strong institutional leadership as well as by external funding incentives.
Instead UK institutions are grappling with staff engagement strategies for their existing and emerging TEL services that they are supporting for campus-based course delivery. This touches on the cultural challenge of finding ways of encouraging staff to develop their digital skills and consider new approaches to teaching delivery through the medium of online course delivery, through a variety of interventions including digital excellence programme, networking opportunities, one-to-one support, as well as through accreditation and award incentives. Feedback from students also appears to be gaining traction as a driver for technology adoption, as reflected in recent Jisc initiatives such as the current digital student project. The case studies shed light on how institutions are harnessing student feedback, with staff-student partnerships a common feature of institutional practice at a number of institutions, including City University and Sheffield Hallam which both employ students to assist the central e-learning team in addressing the ‘students as partners’ agenda. This may prove to offer a more fruitful way of engaging staff in TEL developments, helping academics to become digitally fluent in their teaching practice, embracing the affordances of new technologies and services in support of learning and teaching activities.
To access the full 2014 UCISA Survey findings and case studies, please download the reports at: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel
Posted on behalf of Richard Walker