April 24, 2017

Strategic thinking about e-learning

The University of Victoria

On Monday and Tuesday this week (June 7 and 8) I attended the BC Educational Technology Users Group Spring Workshop at the University of Victoria: ‘3 cups of tea: Teaching, Technology, Transformation’.

I was leading a presentation on strategic thinking in e-learning, with a panel consisting of

  • Mary Burgess, Director of Teaching and Educational Technology, Royal Roads University,
  • Catherine McAteer, Associate Vice President, Academic, at the University of Victoria, and
  • Barbara Thomas, a faculty member in business, and a member of the steering committee on e-learning at Vancouver Island University.
  • Paul Stacey, of BCcampus, had the unenviable job of keeping us on time and to the point.

This was the first public presentation of the main results of the study of 11 institutions that Albert Sangra and I have made of the strategic management of technology in universities and colleges. Regular readers of this blog will know what I was presenting but here is a very brief summary.

1. Institutions are too conservative in the goals they set for e-learning (usually: to enhance the quality of classroom teaching). They should be using information and communications technologies to innovate in teaching, and in particular to increase flexibility of access, to develop 21st century skills and competencies, and to improve  the cost-effectiveness of institutions. Goals should be set in measurable terms – and measured.

2. All university and college instructors should receive mandatory pre-service training in teaching before appointment; and senior academic administrators needed to be better prepared for decision-making about technology

3. Institutions need to track the costs and benefits of e-learning more carefully.

This led to three questions for the panelists:

Should technology be used to reinforce the current classroom model, or should it be used for radical change in how teaching and learning are delivered?

Should it be a requirement for all faculty and instructors in post-secondary education to have formally accredited training in teaching before they are allowed to teach? And what do senior administrators need to know about technology?

How can we evaluate the investment we are making in e- learning (especially as we don’t track costs or benefits)?

I have to say that I think this diet was too rich for the panelists, although Barbara Thomas did come out clearly in favour of mandatory training. Mary Burgess argued that Royal Roads University, which is a hybrid model by design, is already meeting many of these challenges, and Catherine McAteer of the University of Victoria pointed out that UVic already has in place a good program for faculty development.

The whole session was web cast and recorded, as I believe was the debate. They are not yet available at the time of posting, but should be up soon on the ETUG workshop site: http://etugspring10.crowdvine.com/ (I will update this when the videos are available)

In the meantime, a pdf version of my slides is available here

The workshop ended up on Tuesday afternoon with a debate on evolution or revolution, but unfortunately I had to leave before the debate, to get to Ottawa for Thursday. However, I have reported (or will) in another blog post on two of the best sessions I did attend.

Lastly, the University of Victoria is notorious for its rabbits, which run amok and terrify faculty and students alike. At great personal danger, I managed to get this snapshot (I was no more than six feet away!):

Comments

  1. Hi Tony,

    For what it’s worth here are my thoughts on the three questions:

    1. Institutions are too conservative in the goals they set for e-learning.

    I agree and I agree with most of the rest of what you say in that point although the goal setting and measuring point needs a lot more thought. For me student outcomes are what matters most so they essentially be your goals and outcomes. I’m not interested in counting how many people use blogs or wikis in their course delivery.

    2. All university and college instructors should receive mandatory pre-service training in teaching before appointment; and senior academic administrators needed to be better prepared for decision-making about technology.

    I don’t agree with the first part of this but I agree that senior academic administrators need to better prepared about edtech. Regarding the first part. I think Universities are only partly about the process of teaching and learning and the practices of T&L are becoming increasingly complex. I would rather faculty have some idea of curriculum design and development but that they be effectively subject matter experts supported by educational teaching and learning experts.

    3. Institutions need to track the costs and benefits of e-learning more carefully.

    Yes definitely and this tracking should not be done by educational technology groups who have a vested interest in demonstrating particular outcomes.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Cheers

    Mark

  2. Thank you for sharing these wonderful information.
    Here is my thinking about the three questions:
    1. Technology should be used to reinforce the current classroom model. For we can’t avoid it, it’s the trend. And also it’s effective.
    2. Yes, teachers should receive pre-training befor using these tochnologies, for we these things are new to them, every teahcer should adapt themself to these things br receiv some training.
    3. The cost of e-learning is indeed a little hard to measure. Because, the we will use less resources like buildings or classroom(it’s online), but teachers have to contribute more to design a cource, they have to learn more and have more skilles which may cause a high training fee.

    Cheers

    Joe(Wondershare Software Co., Ltd)
    quiz maker for making easy online assessment

  3. Diane Janes says:

    Hi Tony…I completely agree with your second point (actually I agree with all your points 😉 but most specifically with the second)…in research that I conducted for a university last year, it became apparent to me that this issue was only going to get worse, unless, like finishing your PhD (as part of your contract if you are hired ABD), the need to make technology training and use, a mandatory part of the hiring of all new faculty was a necessary major direction for universities and higher education. This needs to be tied to tenure and promotion and it needs to be supported by the strategic planning process the same way (or perhaps even better) then say a science department might have labs outfitted for the use of a new faculty member. It is part of the instructional design support for all new curriculum development…I don’t disagree with Mark S. “they be effectively subject matter experts supported by educational teaching and learning experts” but I would argue this does not have to be either or…in fact training our faculty to be more able to incorporate technology into their teaching does not remove educational teaching and learning experts but I would say, increases their need to be present! Cheers, Diane (Cape Breton University)!

  4. Hi Tony,

    For what it’s worth here are my thoughts on the three questions:

    1. Institutions are too conservative in the goals they set for e-learning.

    I agree and I agree with most of the rest of what you say in that point although the goal setting and measuring point needs a lot more thought. For me student outcomes are what matters most so they essentially be your goals and outcomes. I’m not interested in counting how many people use blogs or wikis in their course delivery.

    2. All university and college instructors should receive mandatory pre-service training in teaching before appointment; and senior academic administrators needed to be better prepared for decision-making about technology.

    I don’t agree with the first part of this but I agree that senior academic administrators need to better prepared about edtech. Regarding the first part. I think Universities are only partly about the process of teaching and learning and the practices of T&L are becoming increasingly complex. I would rather faculty have some idea of curriculum design and development but that they be effectively subject matter experts supported by educational teaching and learning experts.

    3. Institutions need to track the costs and benefits of e-learning more carefully.

    Yes definitely and this tracking should not be done by educational technology groups who have a vested interest in demonstrating particular outcomes.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Cheers

    Mark

  5. Tony Bates says:

    Hi, Mark

    Many thanks for ‘answering’ my questions, Mark. Much appreciated.

    My only comment is: can we afford the number of extra ‘educational specialists’ that would be needed to assist faculty when everyone is using technology?

    Good instructional designers are really hard to find anywhere, and we will still need them, but in the long run I think it’s better to ensure faculty have a good grounding in teaching, if that training can be provided while they are still graduate students.

    Many thanks for your comments,

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