Elements of a TEL strategy pt 3

So we’re now down to the final five.

11. Provide blended and online learning options

When I was doing the mapping between the Jisc NUS tool and the Brookes TEL framework, I linked two principles, from the tool: “Provide online and blended options where they offer genuine enhancements” and from the framework “Learning, teaching and assessment at Oxford Brookes enables all students to reach their potential and does not disadvantage any groups of students.”

This might seem like a bit of a fudge, but actually when you unpack the two principles, there’s a lot of coherence.

A strategy needs to enable students to overcome the access issue, access not in the sense of making all content of use to students when they’ve got to it (i.e. screenreadable for visually impaired students, captioned for deaf students, and so on) but access in the sense of enabling all students to get to it in the first place. With constraints of geography and time, not all students can engage with all aspects of face-to-face teaching, so providing an online version of all the teaching, so that students can mix and match as they need to, reduces this disadvantage. As with the other sort of accessibility, though, what supports the most disadvantaged students actually helps all students. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that because online content reduces this access barrier, it always offers genuine enhancements.

12. Digital identity and well-being

Identity leads of from the concept of citizenship and community, but is fundamental to the online experience. Knowing who we are when we’re online is informed by what we understand of digital citizenship, and most social theories go into some depth about how community roles and identity complement each other. Supporting students to develop an identity as a learner helps them with their learning, supporting them to develop an online identity helps them with their online learning, and stands them in good stead for life after university.

Digital wellbeing might be a new one for most people, but it makes sense that we also need to work out how to encourage students to take care of themselves online, and the Jisc NUS benchmarking tool also lists knowing when to switch off amongst its student experiences. I summarised digital wellbeing in one seminar as everything from cyberbullying to lumbar support. The latter particularly weighing on my mind at the moment as I’m typing this standing up through not paying enough attention to my posture while sitting for too long.

 13. Virtualisable transformative learning spaces

The Brookes strategy has a line in it which says “The University will continue to develop and exploit the potential of digital and physical learning spaces, and will encourage and support staff and students in partnership to find different ways of using these spaces effectively and creatively.” As I mentioned in a previous post, in parallel to this work, I was also working with a group of academics who were interested in benchmarking these spaces. People contributed ideas (specifically Kathrine Jensen, Liz Falconer and Andrew Middleton – let me know if I’ve missed anyone out) and then Richard Francis and I organised them into a whole.

What we ended up with was a matrix in which each row followed a constant theme, and not only that, each one actually fitted in with one of the other principles of the matrix. We could have added these to the separate principles, but the response we got from the other people we showed an early stage of the matrix to was that they would find it more useful if it was kept in the format of the Jisc NUS tool. In the hope that if we made it useful for them, they would be more likely to contribute content, we went along with this, and just added this as a 13th principle.

Linked Good Practice Principle  First steps  Developing  Developed  Outstanding
7 – Support students to use their own devices for learning (Bring Your Own or BYO) Classroom activities that include use of personal mobile devices for individual use. Classroom activities that include use of personal mobile devices for collaborative activities. Group work spaces, flexible furniture and shared plug-and-play screens in classrooms. Use of augmented reality approaches in co-creation and collaboration.
8 – Provide a robust, flexible digital infrastructure Classroom and meeting environments for cross-site meetings.
Develop and maintain experimental teaching spaces
Classroom environments for satellite classrooms, online DL, conferences, symposia etc.Experimental teaching spaces available to all staff. Fully integrated participation of co-located and distanced participation in class activities. Fully integrated participation of co-located, remote and virtual participation in class activities.
9 – Communicate with students about their digital experience Convene a learning spaces development team to ensure joined up approach. Extra-curricular spaces and networks established / encouraged.
10 – Use digital systems to build a sense of belonging Performance art, e.g. drama performances, fashion shows, craft exhibitions. Students’ interaction / dissemination to professional / educational networks Students developing and sharing their work in open online spaces, using appropriate open licenses, tagging and engaging with relevant communities outside the university (e.g professional, arts, etc.).
11 – Provide online and blended options where they offer genuine enhancements Field trips to physical and virtual spaces.Guest visits to classrooms through remote access. 3D virtual space replication of physical space activities.

Augmenting of physical environments with virtual attributes, eg.data visualisation etc.

Practice-based activities in virtual and remote environments such as law courts, forensic examinations, psychology counselling, laboratory work. Integration of virtual and physical spaces, via augmented reality technologies.

14. Assessment

Assessment is covered in the Jisc NUS tool but is separated across the other principles. In the DC matrix we just link to a search on the term. The Brookes strategy however, adds assessment as a separate principle.

I think assessment affects TEL in two ways. One is that it offers a lot more flexibility and robustness to assessing the usual stuff. You can use online submission – which is more admin than TEL, but it does enhance the student experience to be able to just send an assignment in by clicking a button, rather than print it out, stick it in a folder and travel somewhere to stick it in a box. Particularly if you’re doing this at 11.59 p.m.  And then GradeMark and TurnItIn and so on. You can do computer-aided assessment like multiple choice, which then means you can do formative assessment more easily, and gamify it if you’re into that sort of thing. Formative assessment is also excellent for making sure that students do the preparation if you’ve gone down the flipped classroom route. If you don’t pass the online quiz on the content, you don’t get to go to the class.

What’s maybe more interesting though is how TEL then affects what you assess. If you have online forums, to which students contribute, how do you assess the contribution? If they can submit multimedia content instead of essays (number 3 of this list), do you know how to assess them? I’ve produced a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B036xtd0d_4 summarising these. I produced it for the Teaching Online Open Course that I’m a tutor on at Brookes. For Brookes. I was actually on the top floor of the Hyatt in Kathmandu when I did it, you might be able to hear the altitude in my narration. I know … Grant Morrison has a transcendental epiphany involving rippling, dribbling blobs of pure holographic meta-materials, angels or extraterrestrialswhile in Kathmandu, which led him to write The Invisibles, and I create a video on online assessment …

 0. Staff development

Also not included in the original Jisc NUS tool (because it’s not directly related to the student experience) but is in the Brookes TEL strategy is the principle of staff development. The Brookes strategy states “All staff who support learning participate annually in collective professional development to ensure that their practice is evidence-based, informed by the scholarship of learning and teaching, and employs up-to-date learning tools and technologies.”. As the starting point for putting the Digital Choices matrix together was to come up with a staff development programme for TEL, we obviously had to add something on this.

As mentioned in a previous post, the idea is that we have a zeroth principle, sitting alongside all the rest; teachers come for the ideas on improving the learning experience, but stay for ideas on how they can repurpose this for their own professional gain. We’re assuming that there may be different reasons for developing practice, they might need to boost their experience to get their HEA fellowship (or associate fellowship if they’re not directly connected to teaching), or they might want to use their teaching development as a basis for research, and to get published. Or they’ve been told to by their line manager. The professional development strand is there to support them through whatever they need.

 

So that’s what I’ve been able to glean so far from a comparison of the two frameworks. There’s some small differences, but overall most of them match. It’s interesting that independently, the same basic principles emerge, and I wonder if those themes are present in other strategies, or if there’s some that both have missed. There’s obviously some overlap between some of the principles, but overall they seem to be discrete identifiable aspects of the TEL experience at HE. So far, anyway.

Advertisements

Elements of a TEL strategy pt2

I should point out that I’m doing these in the order that they’re in the Jisc NUS Digital Experience Benchmarking tool, as that would be more helpful to anyone looking at that for more detail. You’ll notice I’ve split these posts into fives, and there are twelve principles in that tool, which means there are three extra in these posts. All will be revealed in the next post.

6. Access and inclusion

In this category I mean access in the sense of enabling equity for people with disabilities, access in the sense of people being able to log on comes later. This one is a no-brainer though, and shouldn’t really need any clarification. One thing though, if you think assistive technologies are just for people with disabilities, you probably ought to take a look at the work of TechDis, or EA Draffan. Technologies that I first encountered through working with students with disabilities, actually make life more useful for everyone, or at least offer people more choice and flexibility. For example, podcasts – really picked up first by dyslexic students, and those with visual impairment, but a great source of learning. Listening to audio books on your walkman was pretty much the first instance of mobile learning. Having everything readable by screen readers for example, and making presentations available in advance, doesn’t just help the students who need it read on their devices, it helps everyone.

7. Augmenting the physical environment with technology including BYOD

As I said in the last post, some elearning strategies I’ve seen have equated “technology” with “VLE”. I think we’re getting away from that and the idea of using technology in the classroom, for people to interact with each other in different ways, and with online content is making more of an impact due to devices like the smartphone and tablet. Of course an immediate reaction to these sort of proposals is “but they don’t all have them”. I’m not sure what is the most appropriate ethical response here – do you impair all students’ learning because you can’t provide the same experience for everyone – is that better or worse than introducing a disadvantage? Although of course there’s always disadvantages between students. Not all will have the text book. Some will have a disability. Some will have a better social life so be there with a hangover. We’re just introducing one additional inequity to the prevailing mix of scores of inequities, but it gets noticed because it’s new and shiny.

8. Providing an appropriate infrastructure

Technically, maybe, not TEL, references to this aren’t in the Brookes TEL strategy for example. Providing an IT infrastructure is the role of the IT department, not the pedagogues, but the reality is that if you divorce one from the other, things aren’t going to work so well. Ideally, decisions about what to support are made for pedagogical reasons, so the supported technologies are those that lecturers need, not what the IT department think are appropriate. This isn’t necessarily the way things work out though. Being able to just rely on WiFi and the VLE being up, and having a power socket within reach when you sit down don’t just happen, but people expect them to. The problem with IT infrastructure is that when it works you don’t notice it, when it doesn’t it does. But then, that’s fair enough really. It’s the same with oxygen. The Brookes IT strategy has a great line – “Systems that just work”.

The Jisc NUS tool calls this principle “Providing a robust, flexible digital infrastructure”. I’m not sure that’s the goal really. One of the important things to do as a teacher is to innovate, and that means adopting new technologies, and often when we do so, we don’t get the support we need from the IT department, because they’re focusing on keeping the basics running. Robust and flexible are, (with limited resources) mutually exclusive. I’d like yes, most of the effort in making the basics robust, but with a bit spare for looking at the flaky flexible stuff that maybe doesn’t always work.

9. Understanding digital citizenship/rights/responsibilities

This is a bit trickier a principle to really pin down than the last one. The Jisc NUS tool labels this as “Communicate with students about their digital experience”, Brookes expresses the goal that “Students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning, to engage actively with feedback and assessment, and to develop their own justifiable ways of thinking about and constructing their view of the world.” When you unpack these, there’s stuff around understanding plagiarism, intellectual property and netiquette, but also where to go to for support and including digital issues in the curriculum. This also includes students engaging with their own digital support, so being polled about how effective the other 14 principles are being conducted. For Brookes I added a line to the DC matrix that “Students develop their view of the world through global digital citizenship.”. This probably needs summing up better than I’ve done here, but strategies need something in this field, understanding what it means to be a participative responsible student (initially) when online, but ultimately a citizen. This links also with the idea of digital wellbeing (number 12) and segues nicely into …

10. Creating and supporting digital communities

If 9 is a theme on supporting students’ understanding of what their role is as netizens (perhaps abstaining from painful portmanteau neologisms could be one attribute we should instil in our graduates), 10 is about enabling them to participate fully in online communities. Both the Jisc NUS tool, and the Brookes TEL Framework have this as their tenth principle, and the wording is very similar. One summarises this as “Using digital systems to build a sense of belonging”, the other says that “We will provide the digital environments and technologies that enable students easily to create and support their own groups and networks comprising Brookes students and staff and relevant groups and individuals.” Retention of students is highly dependent on the students’ feeling of inclusion, and providing the right platforms for them to communicate with each other, and with the institution, can increase this. Communities extend outside of the institution too, and creating effective links through these can enable transition to the students’ lives after graduation.

Changing the student digital experience pt 4

Soon after these rounds of consultations, the three of us working on the staff development site also were asked to redesign the Brookes virtual landing page. This is a sort of portal into all the support for technology that staff might need, and is actually the most visited page on the Brookes site. At the moment it mainly links to information on the tools – but we also wanted to integrate the student digital experience advice too. I think this is part of a larger, maybe even ideological, issue with technology-enhanced learning. It’s often seen as an issue of just getting the kit working, what plugs into what and what button to press. I think the pedagogical issues are far more important, such as what is the student supposed to get from it? what teaching skills are needed to ensure it is used effectively? This is partly because this aspect gets overlooked and yet has a huge impact on the learning that takes place, and partly because this is the bit I get paid to do and I want to keep my job. However, it is fair enough to say that getting the stuff to work is probably what people focus on first.

This then leads into the fourth design principle for what we’ve put together:

#4 Integrating as many different perspective into the tool as possible (alternatively: keep as many people happy as possible).

The gateway has gone through some re-designs but essentially it has always aimed to do two things;

  • provide a point of entry for people who know what technology they want to use, but not how to use it in parallel with a point of entry for those who know what change they want to make to the student digital experience, but not how to achieve it.
  • keep the CPD angle in the forefront of people’s minds, by having links to advice on how to do it throughout the site.

The structure then, looks like this (there are more options within the technologies and CPD sections, but if I included everything it wouldn’t fit on the post.

TEL gateway

The structure of the new Brookes Virtual Gateway

The other aspect is how to provide the filtered view. Applying the general principle of keeping as many people as possible happy, we also wanted to have explicit links to Brookes’s TEL framework. This was an ideal opportunity to do both simultaneously and have the different views match the different lines of the framework. The assumption being that if the TEL framework is successfully implemented, people will need advice based on whichever line of the framework they’ve been tasked with implementing, and the DC matrix would then provide the right targeted help.

There are 12 principles in the Brookes TEL framework, and 12 in the Jisc NUS benchmarking tool. 8 of these actually map pretty closely with a one-to-one correspondence. I can post about this in detail if anyone is interested. There’s also a line in the Brookes TEL framework on assessment, which is split across many of the benchmarking tool’s principles. So 3/4 of each framework is actually very similar to the other.

This made creating the filtered views very simple. All that was needed was to come up with a question that reflected both the TEL framework principle and the corresponding Jisc NUS Benchmarking tool principle; the user of the site picks the question that most closely matches what aspect of the student digital experience they want to (or have to) develop and this will link them to the right grid in the DC matrix. That grid then shows the complete range of components that address this experience, divided into levels of complexity, with links (eventually) to resources and examples of good practice that support that particular component.

One thing, though, that the TEL framework has focused on, which the Jisc NUS benchmarking tool hasn’t is the idea of transformative, mixed, coalescent spaces. When adapting the DC matrix to take account of this, we had the thought of adding to each of the existing principles. The reaction from the community was not to mess with it, though. So instead we’ve created a 13th principle (otherwise the filtered view would link to a blank page).

Before getting to this point in the development of the DC matrix though, I’d already worked on putting together something similar, as part of a group set up by Katherine Jensen at the University of Huddersfield. She’s interested in these sort of in-between space , and set up a Google hangout on the subject, inviting me, Andrew Middleton, Liz Falconer, Catherine Cronin and too many others to list here (but who don’t read this blog). Andrew, Liz and others contributed to putting together a set of benchmarks for people to progress through if they are thinking of developing these sort of spaces. We adopted the First Steps, Developing, Developed and Outstanding categories as they’re useful for structuring thinking about benchmarking, and I half-expected it might be useful for the DC matrix.

Richard also realised that it would be useful to show how these cross-referenced to the existing principles. Between us we tweaked and merged the grid the Google hangout group had come up with, to produce the grid below.

13th principle

We’ve tested this out a couple of times already, with workshops called Course Design Intensives. These are similar to the Carpe Diem sessions run at Leicester and the CAIeRO sessions at Northampton. A group of people from a programme team get together to discuss the issues they are facing with the programme and between us we resolve those issues. We’ve actually found it more useful to have programme teams from two different faculties simultaneously, as the cross-fertilisation between the ideas being generated adds a lot to the process.

The DC matrix has proven really useful in terms of that initial breakdown of the student experience. When a question crops up such as “but what are the digital literacies we need students to know for their course?” we can just click on the right principle, and there’s the answer, subdivided into various stages. All we need to do now is open it up for everyone to start submitting their examples and resources for how to achieve those stages.

 

Changing the student digital experience pt 3

With the groundwork done of turning the Jisc / NUS benchmarking tool into a structured website of resources, and incorporating a CPD element, the next step was to ensure the DC matrix met the following criterion.

Goal # 3 ensure that the programme meets users’ needs

The DC matrix had already been used with DMELDs, but getting an idea of whether this was actually the approach that other people would find useful is obviously something to address as soon as possible. Between us, George Roberts, Richard Francis and I showed it to a range of people for feedback. These included:

  • academic staff at Brookes
  • librarians at Brookes
  • the other academic and staff developers within OCSLD
  • the wider community through the Jisc Students Experience Experts Group meetings

We had a mixture of responses. The first of which is that looking at the staff capabilities from the perspective of student experiences wasn’t helpful, in that usually staff started with the process of engaging with technology-enhanced learning from the perspective of identifying a technology that could help, and then needing help with that specific tool. I’d found too that when I had an example of good practice to share via the site, that my tendency was to think (for example) “where would webinars go?” rather than think about the student experience it was providing. The search function helps here, in that you can just search for the relevant element, but it’s not really in the spirit of reframing TEL from the student perspective. That shift in perspective will take time, I think. In the meantime, this suggested we needed alternative routes to the resources.

The second response was that there is a lot in the DC matrix as a whole. This is unavoidable as there are so many aspects to the student digital experience and we didn’t want to deliberately avoid looking at some aspect. Suggestions were to highlight some principles, or to produce filtered views depending on who was looking.

The third response was that there are other models, and other repositories of resources, and this is just competing with them. For example, there is the TEL framework at Brookes, the Brookes graduate attributes, and this proliferation of models is confusing. Also – what’s the point of having a structured access to resources if no-one ever populates the structure?

The response from the wider community  addressed some of these issues, however. The creation of a site based on the Jisc / NUS benchmarking tool meant that it was shareable across all institutions, rather than tied to one TEL strategy. There was considerable resistance to the idea of changing the DC matrix away from the original structure of the benchmarking tool, therefore. However, this addressed the problem of how to populate it; if everyone uses it, then the resources should soon be populated. The problem of it appearing too large was acknowledged, but we got the advice to develop walkthroughs for the principles that might be more commonly used. Finally, what people really liked was how the site also incorporated advice on how to also use any TEL intervention for CPD. The “one cell from the top and one from anywhere else” model for staff development seemed to go down very well. Although probably better coming from Rachel Riley.

 

 

Changing the student digital experience pt 2

Continuing to chart the progress behind Brookes’s new staff developmental programme for TEL. With a structure for mapping the student digital experience in place, from Jisc and the NUS – there are other concerns – the first of which is:

Goal #2: Integrating developments in learning and teaching with staff CPD

One of the things I didn’t want to do for the new programme was set in place a whole new set of courses. There are plenty of effective developmental opportunities already; from online courses that are part of the Postgraduate Certificate for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (which I teach on) to one-off workshops on how to use the various tools needed for TEL. Adding to these would add to the workload for staff, but also, who’s to say what should be on a course? There are over 200 different elements to the student digital experience tool as put together by Jisc and the NUS, we shouldn’t be choosing on behalf of the teacher which is the important one for them to address.

Rather than have a course, therefore, it made sense to me to just add different types of continuous professional development to the DC matrix, alongside the 12 principles of student digital experience that were already there. The intention being that the member of staff would plan to do some sort of TEL intervention and use this intervention as the basis for some CPD activity. This would create a model that could be light-touch, incremental, and adaptable to meet the specific needs of a staff member (and ultimately his or her students) at a particular time. It also follows the practice of not focusing on the staff member’s digital capability as a goal in itself, but as a means to improve student digital experience. It also borrows a bit from the idea of activity-led learning; you’re not learning any skills for their own sake, but to achieve a specific goal.

And this also recognises that people don’t (normally) just do professional development for the sake of it, they are directed towards it for different reasons. I wanted the programme to actually meet the needs of people who had CPD-related task on their plate already, rather than try and generate an additional rationale for engagement. These were the four reasons I thought that people might need the site:

  • Having something in their own courses that needed improvement, or a need to be addressed. This could be identified by them, by their line manager in a performance review, or in student feedback.
  • Wanting to get into publishing research, and thinking of using a TEL intervention as a good basis for this. Brookes has a lot of internal mechanisms for publication, for those just starting out, and of course there’s the whole range of TEL journals and conferences out there.
  • Going for HEA accreditation as a Fellow, Senior Fellow or Associate Fellow and running into the criterion of “using and valuing appropriate learning technologies”.
  • Actually having already done something, but wanting to get into dissemination of their practice and not knowing where to start.

The basic structure of the Jisc NUS benchmarking tool (First Steps, Developing, Developed, Outstanding) is helpful in developing ideas, so I adopted that and formed another table similar to the 12 already existing. When integrated into Richard Francis’s site it looks like this:

zeroth principle

 

The idea is that if it sits alongside the other 12, as a “zeroth principle”, then people who come to the site looking for ways to improve the student experience will be drawn into considering how to make something of their TEL development as CPD. Ideally they’d pick a cell from somewhere on principles 1 to 12, and one from the matrix above, and in combination those two elements will form their CPD for that academic year. It’s similar to the numbers round in Countdown – one from the top and one from anywhere else.

Changing the Student Digital Experience

One of my roles at Oxford Brookes University has been to come up with a Technology-Enhanced Learning programme. It’s laid out in the university’s TEL framework – under the line

Redesign and implement a staff developmental programme for TEL based on the Brookes Attribute of Digital and Information Literacy.

The structure for this programme is just about to go live, so this is a useful point to reflect on why it looks the way it does, and what the aims of it are.

Goal # 1 – put the student experience first

Staff developmental programmes usually look at what skill sets staff need to develop. The approach suggested to me (by George Roberts – my line manager and also a Principal Lecturer for the Student Experience at Brookes) was to start with the Jisc / NUS Student Digital Experience Benchmarking tool, which you can see at this link. The tool breaks down students’ experiences into 12 principles, and each principle is further subdivided into around 20 different attributes, on a scale from first steps, to developing, to developed, to outstanding. It’s quite comprehensive, and has a good provenance, (supported by Jisc, the NUS and collated by Helen Beetham). Furthermore it reframes the whole debate about TEL from the perspective of “what should a student get out of it” rather than “what do we need to put into it?”

Fortuitously, a colleague at Brookes, Richard Francis, who is the Digital Services and Learning Technology Manager, had already developed an online site based on the Jisc / NUS tool. This site replicates all 12 principles as separate wepages and for each cell of the matrix on the page there is a link to a further page which can be populated with resources. Richard had even begun populating the site with resources through a series of workshops with a group of people Brookes calls DMELDs, or Digital Media and e-Learning Developers.

The two images below show what this looks like:

DC matrix

As resources are added, each cell is ticked, which means that users can see quickly where the resources are. Clicking on text in a cell links to a page such as this:

resource page

Looking for a name for this website tool, we toyed with Digital Capabilities matrix, and Digital Capacity matrix, also Digital Competencies matrix. Unable to choose, we just went for DC matrix. However, as we went out to talk to more people about it, we (quite reasonably) met resistance to the idea of yet another abbreviation. So we went for Digital Choices matrix, as that seemed to actually describe what it did, rather than what it was for.

The idea is then that a member of staff who wants to make a change to their students’ learning experience, goes through the DC matrix, looks for where they need to develop their practice, and by clicking on the link are not only provided with a list of resources, there is also a link to a forum of people who are also engaged in that area. Ideally once they’ve completed the intervention, they can upload the results and so provide resources for people who come after.

The site could also be used as a personal audit tool. A staff member looks through the matrices, decides where they are at, and looks to the cell to the right to identify where next to develop their practice.

The next step in the development continues in the following post.