Comments to date on Managing Technology to Transform Teaching

It’s now Friday, five days into the week, and I’ve tracked the following comments or responses to the webinar and my earlier post on this topic:

ZML Didaktic (Austria): Good set of notes of the webinar and a few comments

Death by Structure Very interesting posting by Viplav Baxi with very thoughtful comments.

Umair comments on the need to change the classroom model.

x28′s new blog directly addresses one of the key questions for this week: can change come from within?

Multilitteratus incognitus discusses participation in MOOCs – not directly relevant to the managing technology topic, but I’ll be responding to this later

Paul Prinsloo in a deeply thoughtful posting discusses the ‘enhance’ vs ‘transform’ issue, arguing that even though there are still benefits in using technology to enhance teaching and learning, in fact in the end technology will transform it.

Squire Morley has excellent notes from the webinar and an interesting discussion

Jenny Mackness in Jenny Connected asks ‘Is our education system in crisis?’ and discusses the issue of whether change can come from within or without.

Jeffrey Keefer’s Silence and Voice wonders why there has been so little discussion on this topic, a point I will address below.

Jaapsoft in Connective argues that education is about relationships and changes will come from technologies that support relationships

Squire Morely has excellent notes from the webinar and a discussion that includes the issue of costs of technology.

Have I missed other postings? If so, please let me know and I will add them – or please add your comments directly below.

Discussion of the topic

I’m finding it difficult here to separate form from function. The nature of a MOOC clearly influences the form of participation and the nature of the comments.

Not surprisingly, the discussions were less than conclusive on whether change will come from within or from without the institution. In general, those who commented argued that change will come both from within (but slowly) and from without. I particularly liked Paul Prinsloo’s discussion of how technology changes the nature of knowledge, that even using technology to enhance traditional forms of teaching will effect change.

Change from outside

Surprisingly though no-one argued that if digital technologies are to be fully exploited that this is more likely to come from new ways of teaching and new forms of organization that will exist outside the traditional institutional models of schools, colleges and universities (an argument I was expecting from a MOOC organized by Stephen Downes and George Siemens). This also happens to be my view of what is likely to happen.

In other words, innovative teaching that fully exploits new digital technologies and which help develop the core skills and competencies needed in the 21st century will mainly come from outside the formal, public education system (or will be marginalized within the system). The inertia and the barriers to change within the public institutions are just too great, unless they reach a crisis point, by which time it is likely to be too late. This would fit the pattern of disruptive change argued by Christensen (2011).

The full exploitation of digital technology for teaching and learning is likely to come about in two distinct ways. The first will be through the privatization of education. Institutions such as the University of Phoenix do not face the current barriers to change of the public institutions (especially universities), and will move aggressively into providing more modern and more sustainable forms of digital education that will increasingly be attractive to employers and to students.

The second means of change will be through open non-formal offerings, such as MOOCs, open educational resources, and possibly free or low cost new organizations, something along the lines of the University of the People or the Khan Academy, or regrouping of existing public institutions into new structures such as oerU. However, such regrouping will be at the margins of public institutions, not core. The main barriers to these developments are employer acceptance of such forms of education, which I don’t think will last for long, and academic credibility, which I think will be more serious.

Change from within

It is the threat to academic integrity that most concerns me about the failure of traditional institutions to change quickly enough from within. There are many important aspects of academic knowledge that could easily be lost through these new forms of learning and learning organizations, in particular, academic freedom, academic integrity, and a loss of scientific thinking.

This really needs a book to explore fully, but I would be concerned about the likely impact of the privatization of higher education on academic freedom and academic integrity. Academic integrity is more of a challenge to explain, but it is partly related to the quality of thinking and research needed at an advanced academic level, and the need to enforce standards when learners are increasingly demanding entitlement to qualifications, irrespective of performance. I see traditional public universities more likely to insist on these standards for all types of learning.

It would be better then if our current formal, public institutions attempted to change their methods of teaching to take full account of the potential of digital learning, while ensuring academic standards are maintained or enhanced. The full exploitation of digital learning and academic integrity are not contradictory, but without an institutional framework, they could become separated. Critical, evidence-based thinking and argument, scientific methodologies, and authenticated original work that is assessed through the application of high academic standards are more likely to be developed and maintained within an institutional framework, although the form and structure of such a framework may or probably should be very different from what it is now. However, I still struggle to understand how such standards are likely to be developed in an unstructured, entirely open or non-formal system of education, although open and non-formal education are excellent for the purposes of lifelong learning, once academic standards have been established and internalized.

This is a very lengthy way of arguing for change from within, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, and the consequences could be dangerous for the maintenance of of rationale and scientific thinking.

However, I would really appreciate your thoughts on this.

MOOCs and discussion

Related to the issue of the difference between academic and everyday knowledge, I was struck by the nature of discussion in this week of the MOOC. Jeffrey Keefer in his post asked:

Why so little discussion on something seemingly so valuable? Even after talking about this on the live #change11 session (with thousands of people registered and others informally participating),….and even with those finding this through other means,why so little discussion?

It’s a good question. (To be precise, Jeffrey was not just commenting on this MOOC, but on the lack of discussion in general on the web about the book). I tracked 11 comments related to my post in the MOOC. There were about 30 participants in the webinar and an unknown number of downloads of the webinar recording.

There could be all kinds of reasons for the shortage of comments on this week’s topic, but I was more struck by the form in which they occurred. Participants did not comment directly to my post for this week, but within their own blogs. I call this the syndrome of the selfish blogger. We all do this. If we have something interesting to say, we’d rather say it on our own web site than someone else’s (it would be nice though if the post was also copied to the site that originated the topic). I had to go and cull all the comments from the #Change 11 newsletter and from pingbacks to get them into one place, so I could comment on them as a whole.

The advantage of posting comments on the participants’ blogs is that the MOOC reaches a wider audience – all those who follow the blogs of the participants. The traffic on my site did increase by about 30% from Monday to yesterday (an increase of over 200 hits a day), mainly because of the MOOC.

However, no-one commented directly to my post, and up to the time of writing, no-one had taken advantage of the forums on the book site that are directly related to the topics covered this week (even Jeffrey commented on his blog, not to my post, which is somewhat ironic). Thus I failed to generate a conversation or set of conversations around this topic (at least so far, five days into the week). This is different from my experience of using threaded discussion forums in a learning management system, where I’ve been able to generate intense and prolonged conversations around topics. In my view, this is more likely to lead to deeper engagement and hence better learning and certainly a more structured discussion than the very scattered responses in this week of the MOOC.


  • Could I have done something that would have resulted in more comments, more discussion and more integration of the discussion in this MOOC?
  • Or is the topic itself the problem – just not of interest to most people in this MOOC?
  • Or are people just too busy to go beyond the webinar and a short response?

Over to you! (if you’re interested)


Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, Louis Caldera, Louis Soares (2011)Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education Mountain View CA: Innosight Institute




  1. Tony, you did a great job bringing these disparate posts together into one place, and I like how you summarized your thinking, along with some of the things your read over the week in reaction to your work.

    To your point about discussion, I agree that tracking things that happen within the #change11 MOOC is a challenge at best, and this one of the things I also like so much with using a threaded discussion instead, or in addition. However, one of the things I so like about the decentralized approach is that when all is said and done, we do not leave our work behind in some body else’s system; it stays with us. This also means that it is a lot of work to try to follow up with conversations, as you so rightly pointed out. To this point, are you aware you do not have a way to subscribe to comments on your own blog, meaning that if you reply to my comment here I do not have a way of being notified of it?

    Yes, that way of customizing alerts is an element of this current status of technology and education, namely once I find something useful, how can I keep up with it or otherwise locate it again–nothing like a robust notification system (even of related threads).

    Perhaps this is more related to the challenge of change and managing all this technology and teaching / learning itself. There are not road maps for change, and while there really cannot be any, I think the problem is still a step before, namely that there are not even road maps to get into our current situation. I wonder if this is a reason why thousands of people started with the MOOC, but far fewer now show any presence here? There is still such a fractured perspective as to how or if technology is worth all the efforts to achieve whatever outcomes are desired, and I still meet people every week who struggle to manage their Outlook or Google calendar, much less filing things related to their inbox. This population is what I believe to be the majority (those who know specific things about technology use) at this time, and for the foreseeable future. I do not imagine people changing their approach to utilitarianism, especially with the vast amount of multitasking that technology seems to afford.

    I think your questions you raised in your session and this week are still well ahead of the curve. Yes, that is what needs to be asked there, and while the time to do so is before the mass of people get there so as to be prepared, this may explain while there is limited discussion. This may just be how you do the sort of work you do, while not everybody else does. People talk about what they need, and not about things they still struggle to see as relevant right here and now.

    Another problem you are raising concerns the structure of the MOOC itself, as there is not a guide for how to do it save to figure it out for oneself. We are not particularly well-trained for such critical thinking or constant activity without an expected outcome or reward system. How many people can really maintain focused effort without feedback or some acknowledgement? That is why social media is so popular, and why children now touch a television screen so it will respond to them and then wonder why it does not react.

    This is an important area to continue to discuss, and I hope that will happen. While my response here is a little choppy and fractured, I thought it may be interesting to post it before I do my levels of review and clean-up, so as to show the early stage of my own thinking about this, thinking that simulates how complex some of these seemingly simple issues you raise really are. Thanks for helping to start it off.


    • Many thanks, Jeffrey, both for your initial comment and your response to my second post.

      First, I will look to see if I can find a way to enable people to subscribe to comments from this blog – there must be a WordPress plug-in for this!

      I think one answer to coping with the proliferation and development of technology is increasingly to work in teams or through communities of practice. Many people do this already but it’s often not built into one’s thinking. I’m still finding new ways of using my iPhone and short of reading through the 400 page printed manual you have to rely on other users who have more experience or knowledge. However, it’s all random and unstructured and I feel I should be learning more efficiently.

      You raise another point about being ahead of the curve. I think that’s a nice way to put it. I see it more as preaching to the converted. My struggle is to get the right people to listen to the messages, in particular, influential senior research faculty and senior administrators. I feel that most people who are interested in participating in a MOOC are likely to be sympathetic to these ideas, but finding ways to reach senior administrators and influential academics on a large scale has proved to be a challenge.

      Anyway, I much appreciate your comments


  2. It just took me a bit of time to catch up, having reinvested my time this week in the paid work of ending the semester with students, touching base with the phd and then, revisiting the twitter feed on #change11 and seeing jeffreys blog prompted me to re listen to your talk.
    It may seem incredibly ephemeral to give a talk and not know where it goes, there’s little concrete evidence of it making a change 🙂
    Some things just take a little more time.
    Your questions are definitely of interest, to me at least,
    and yes, busyness is the problem …but the ideas continue to ferment. Thanks for providing what i found a stimulating talk .

  3. In your talk you touched on Institutional Projects being introduced in some Universities, but not being part of a/the broader strategy and therefore failing. Could you please comment on my following example.

    One of our local institutions was involved in such a (institutional) project “to produce an online course introducing Open Distance e-learning”. The infrastructure was in place, necessary personnel trained and support given from outside from formidable e-learning and management experts. There was a vision, a mandate and buy-in on all levels. In addition there was excitement around the possibility of collaborative efforts with other universities, and recognition of the potential for saving through cost sharing in development and research using technology. As you mentioned while this worked during the project, once the stage of “Adoption” came, the hurdles manifested themselves.

    Ultimately, it was the differences in (cultural, academic/pedagogical) practices and skills between technologists, Instructional Designers and Subject Matter Experts that was the root of the problem. Needless to say, while some of the efforts for change and integrating technology from within have been commended, among older faculty there are still beliefs that technology is more like a runaway train that has the possibility of derailing institutions by giving all autonomy to the learner. There are some serious discussions of curriculum review and heavy pedagogical debate. Meanwhile we are on the perpetual merry-go-round of babysitting the possibilities of as you so correctly put it, “Transforming teaching and learning through technology management”.

    You might have answered these questions somewhere else. Apologies in advance if you have since I haven’t had the time to do all the appropriate reading.
     What else do we have to do, to go beyond the Institutional Project Stage and on to “Adoption’? In other words: beside some IT skills training should all faculty have to be re-educated in the new model for teaching/learning?
     The same way technology in the form of social networking has dethroned governments do you perceive the same happening to our prominent Universities who might be too tied up in bureaucracy to catch up with the pace of change?

    Now, on to the next level and MOOCs: perceived by cynics like a learning bonanza, with no control over learning outcomes, because learning takes place everywhere. That reminds me to thank you for your contribution to the MOOC and more importantly for collating all the information on this week’s presentation on your webpage. I look forward to your comments and appreciate that my contribution is late!

    • Hi, Lucky

      Thanks for a great post – you provide a very interesting example of a successful project failing to scale into institutional change. What was missing?

      1. First, commitment from the whole senior management to move the whole institution more strongly into digital learning, which should be part of the institutional strategic plan, and then communicated strongly throughout the institution.
      2. An e-learning plan, which would show how the move to digital learning would fit the overall mission and goals of the institution, and would have highlighted your project as a first step. Faculties should be involved in drawing up the e-learning plan.
      3. Some visioning activities with the main faculty departments, providing them with examples of how technology has been used for teaching in their discipline, and then brainstorming on how they could be teaching in five years time.
      4. As much faculty training in both pedagogy and the use of technology as possible before they start using the technology.
      5. Putting instructional designers into curriculum planning meetings before courses and programs are designed and approved.
      6. Putting in place real rewards for effective, innovative teaching.

      You can find more details in the book. You can see that it needs a strong, directed effort if real change is to come about, but there are well established change management strategies such as these that do eventually work.

      I tried to answer your second question in my post. Yes, technology will eventually ‘run over’ universities unless they change, but they are likely to survive for some time because there are no immediate compelling alternatives that will provide the quality assurance that students and employers alike are seeking – but they will come.

      Thanks again for a very interesting example and great questions

  4. Thank you for providing a comprehensive set of activities that enabled me to learn about a pressing challenge in post secondary education. Your webinar and book chapter highlighted the issues. The questions you posed in the webinar helped me think about the path of my own university with respect to managing technology to transform teaching.

    You state “I failed to generate a conversation or set of conversations around this topic”. Certainly threaded discussions would have helped in this regard. Although the conversations weren’t many, those that did occur helped me see the many sided ways of looking at this topic. For example, all week long I thought about the Jaapsoft graphic and began to understand the challenges I’ve faced in designing blending learning courses. This one post gripped me all week long!

    In terms of your question “Could I have done something that would have resulted in more comments, more discussion and more integration of the discussion in this MOOC”? I want to offer a few comments.
    First, managing technology to transform teaching is a highly complex topic. It seems to me that it requires some knowledge of how universities work, the issues facing universities, and the efforts made by scholars to stimulate change in universities. The question “can change come from within?”, requires some consideration of factors related to governance and management of universities. For example, and selectively, with respect to the space occupied by faculty, “perception of influence over decision-making and governance decreases with institutional size…results suggest that faculty governance is eroding…role of Senates has diminished…double impact of the structural bifurcation of career lines between researchers and administrators that has occurred over the last two decades, as well as the increased emphasis and pressure placed on faculty to research and publish” (Scott Metcalfe, Fisher, Gingras, Jones, Rubenson & Snee, p. 168) will influence change from within. These and other factors raised by the authors may well explain why the “change from within” may be fraught with difficulty.

    Further, in terms of dealing with your question, I somewhat belatedly wonder if (yet) another technology may have helped us grasp the intricacies of the topic, managing technology to transform teaching. Two years ago I participated in a six-part Issue Mapping webinar series led by Jeff Conklin.

    We used a free software tool called Compendium, which, from my experience in the course, requires a steep learning curve. Yet these seminars enabled me to understand issues such as “Should the province of Saskatchewan establish a nuclear reactor?” in a holistic sense, to see the big picture and to consider competing views. As I recall Jeff used GoToMeeing, displayed the agenda for the day, built visuals of issues, explained concepts, and invited participants to control the screen and to join the discussion. It was the most “awesomest” learning experience. Being able to do the back-and-forth talk and to clarify and contribute in-the-moment made a complicated process easier to understand.

    Part of your recent post compels me to offer a final comment and perhaps some hope. You say “The inertia and the barriers to change within the public institutions are just too great, unless they reach a crisis point, by which time it is likely to be too late”. Well lets suppose a public institution has reached a crisis point, has, as you mentioned earlier, reached the state of “getting it” and wants to do a bang-up job of managing technology to transform teaching. Well, two weeks ago I participated in a three-day workshop called “Leading Transformation: How to Set up Your Changes for Success” facilitated by Linda Ackerman Anderson. We learned about being conscious of attending to the content, people and process in a change effort and to determining whether the change we sought was developmental, transitional or transformational. The bulk of the workshop was spent on going through a Change Process Model, a roadmap to guide thinking, a navigation system so to speak. This Model starts with an organization “hearing the wake-up call”, or as you stated earlier, the crisis point, or getting it. There are other models of leading organizational change. This is one model that can be used if we are able to be involved in leading change efforts in our organizations. For ChangeMOOCers involved in such efforts the article “Awake at the Wheel: Moving Beyond Change Management to Conscious Change Leadership” gives a good overview.

    The Nine-Phase Model Video provides a description of the Change Process Model. Link is at bottom of this page.
    With respect to your guiding question for the week, I am leaning towards a “both” answer. Yet most days I am overwhelmed and overjoyed at the many ways of learning outside traditional institutions. Thank you for doing so much of the thinking and writing about managing technology to transform teaching. Your work enables me to see my world in a changed, often challenging, and sometimes troubling way.

    Metcalfe, A. S., Fisher, D., Gingras, Y, Jones, G.A., Rubenson, K., & Snee, I. (2011). Canada: Perspectives on Governance and Management. In W. Locke, W.K. Cummings & D. Fisher (eds.), Changing Governance and Management in Higher Education [electronic resource], The Changing Academy-The Changing Academic Profession in International Comparative Perspective Volume 2, Dordrecht: Springer Science + Business Media B.V.

    • Thank you, Glenis, for a stunning response. I will follow up on the GoToMeeting. However, you should remember that in this MOOC, I had no idea how many would be participating, and I suspect that the GoToMeeting may work better (as with most teaching technologies) with smaller rather than larger numbers. However, I’ll definitely look into it. Has anyone else any experience of using this for large numbers of participants, I wonder?

      Second, yes, there is excellent, evidence-based change management processes developed in the private and some areas of the public sector. However, in HE this would probably mean bringing in consultants, because university administrators are rarely trained in management, so it does require another culture shift. I myself did draw heavily on some of the principles of change management when writing the book.

      Many thanks for a great contribution to this topic

  5. Tony Bates talks like a 1000 people. I think there is need to have a collaborative and deliberate effort to have a global effort to assist all academic institutions to embrace technology for teaching and learning. A resolution very close to that of combating AIDS should be called by most powerful countries to assist the poor.

    Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcomes. Leading Professors are teaching with paper notes that have oxidized with time. The future African professional must be trained with new web 2.0 tools so that he will be a life longer and he will be able to share his vision and mission using the same tools with the masses. If we truly desire to improve health of the people in the developing world technology holds the key. Tele Medicine by use of simple free web 2.0 tools ie Skype, y tube and flicker can facilitate consultation that can be life saving. Note to mention education where connectivism can do wonders in Africa.

  6. Perhaps the decision to leave out the learning management system from the Change MOOC has not been a wise one. In earlier MOOCs, such as PLENK2010 there was a lively discussion around topics each week on Moodle and the Moodle discussion environment provided a place where people might congregate and find connections. Research carried out on PLENK2010 shows that social presence is an important factor in connecting with people and although forum discussion boards are by no means perfect, there are for instance power issues and the discussions became less and less over time, at least it was possible to catch up with others. Twitter and the #tag was an environment that increased in use over time during the course, but clearly writing 140 words is not taxing, does not allow for too much depth, but proved to be excellent at passing on links. There was also a clear difference between genders in preference for using particular tools, environments, and in engagement related to communication. Women tended to ‘glue’ participants together, while male participants tended to be more task oriented.

    • Thanks, Rita

      I agree that having an LMS ‘hub’ would have allowed for more coherence. However, I suspect there are also other ways to achieve this in a MOOC, using web tagging, Delicious, or some other off-the-shelf tools. Any suggestions will be welcome

  7. Hope I’m not repeating what was said by others above–very busy at work and moving house so it’s been hard to find a moment. I will come back and read comments later.

    Your thoughts on education are relevant to where I work. Our college has taken on the challenge of moving to larger and larger online offerings but we are cursed by by shortages of qualified people and an awful location which results in not being able to attract any new talent. Regardless, I have purchased the book on evidence from your presentation that there is useful information for those of us exhausted by the rush to be “21st century relevant” and want to start thinking about what real change looks like. How will our talents in building appealing techno content be delivered in a manner that actually results in learning? Not did we follow all the proper guidelines, popular theories and etc but did learning result.

    As for losing comments to people’s blogs, there are still a few of us MOOC’ers who live by responding to blogs and discussion boards. Could be the demands of our careers don’t require us to record our comments for future retrieval. Or maybe we like the role of tourist / hunter-gatherer / rag-picker over the settled life? I found the reference to your blog at Jenny Connected and enjoy her’s and the thoughts of many other bloggers (and now yours). Maybe some like to set up shop while others prefer strolling along (think William Gibson spoke of this). New environment and new ways of populating it.

    This particular MOOC seems a bit quiet. Too long, too ambitious? Each MOOC varies and this one seems either too sedate or just too full of consequential ideas to be able to follow. A MOOC can be like an amusement park and all the rides in this one seem over-sized, too fast and too loud to stay up with. Maybe also, as we get closer to change we exceed the number of things we know work that need replacing with things we hope will work. Experience tells me things must change but what tells me which possibility is the one to change too? An unsettling position to be in.

    Thanks for you posting and the presentation on change MOOC. More later.


    • Thanks, Scott. Interesting comments from a stroller!
      I think it all comes down to what one expects from a MOOC. I see this one as a crash course on the topic and different people will take away different things from the MOOC, depending on their interests. If though one’s intent is to ensure a proper grounding and measurable learning outcomes in the topic, then I don’t think a MOOC is the best way to do this.

  8. Hi Tony,

    I have responded to your posts via and followed up with another post on Educational Leadership.
    I shared Rita’s views as we got such findings through our research. Should “we” use a LMS such as Moodle Forum for the discussion? This seems to be a matter of preference, both for facilitators and learners. In a MOOC, participants have often been “confronted” and challenged by the abundance of information, blog posts, forum posts, just to name a few. This together with the facilitators’ recommended readings, or artifacts would mean a lot to most novices, if not more for the veterans. So, I don’t think you have failed in connecting with “us”. Rather, your prompts and provision of generous resources have led me to re-think about the significance of forum sharing when the focus lies with more open sharing. As I have participated in most of the MOOCs in the past, I have accustomed to posting via blogs, rather than forum. Our previous research on Blogs and Forums as learning and communication tools also revealed the idiosyncratic nature while learning in MOOC. The power issue is, however, a significant factor in determining whether the participants would really like to engage with the conversation, as too much “perceived power” would undermine one’s confidence, autonomy as revealed in participants’ feedback. I also think this relates to the topics itself, in terms of its sensitivity and impact of the voices of participants on their work and institution. This may be a subtle, but as Jeffrey has asked, why were there so few MOOC participants posting and sharing their views.

    I have subscribed to your blog, and so have been deeply interested in every post you created. I have also posted comments and created posts in relation to the areas that you mentioned. May be, I could have related to my past posts in response to this important topics.

    Finally, I am not sure if there are “selfish bloggers” out there in MOOC. I am sure that I would like to share in whatever platforms that suit’s. However, in past MOOCs, I have realized that this could be challenging, as posting in forum “alone” could be like talking with myself. Is that selfish too? Obviously, most of us as educators would like to share in an open manner, but this is only my assumption. May be I don’t know whether forum is still the best way to share in a critical discourse, on such a sensitive, though important topic. Who are the audience? The administrators who would make the decision to change, or the educators?




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