Tuesday, Liverpool and my first Jisc Connect event. What I like best about the Jisc advisors, apart from their digital expertise, is how they help you feel less alone. Developing digital capabilities is never easy. The innovators and early adopters don’t need me while the digitally resistant don’t need me either -because changing practice is not high on their agenda. This can be for valid reasons. I have sympathy for workloads as well as reluctance. Ask me to create a pivot table in excel and see the fear in my eyes. But sometimes it isn’t lack of skills or confidence, it’s lack of interest. Indifference can be less to do with technology and more about adherence to traditional delivery modes like lectures .
What can we do about lectures?
Staff new to higher education expect to give them. New students expect to receive them. At Hull we’ve just acquired Panopto and the TEL-Team have banned the words lecture capture. We’re operating a fine system. One pound for each word. The problem is the connotations. We want to avoid the idea of passive replication of a didactic mode of delivery but it may be too late.
Thanks Phil Vincent @philvincent from YSJ for this quote “The uninspired label ‘lecture capture’ fails to convey the disruptive potential of this tool” (Russell, 2012). All technology has the potential to disrupt traditional ways of working but it can mimic them too. When contact time with students is squeezed, digital environments can offer ways to extend and enhance learning. Collaboration and interaction beyond the time table might initially involve a learning curve but TEL-Teams can help make small yet incremental changes. But sometimes even a small change is a step to far. So lectures are replicated with little consideration if this is making the most of the opportunities offered by technologies which are tools and not enemies.
The gap between the possibility and the practice of technology is deep and wide beneath me. I spend my working days balanced between theory and reality. It’s a tightrope above a chasm where learning technologists and digital educational developers fear to tread. Full of late adopters and those with no intention of changing, the walls echo with cries of ‘but the students love my lectures’, ‘I don’t have time for digital stuff’ and ‘what’s a VLE anyway?’
What are we to do?
We need to talk about reluctance and resistance. For too long the focus has been on innovation and pushing the boundaries. The divide between the metathesiophobic and the pioneer wearing an occulus or programming NAO robots is increasingly invisible. It’s a clever defense. The best form of protection is to hide.
Jisc are comforting. They reassure it’s not just me but a similar story in other institutions. Events like Jisc Connect are full of participants who smile with recognition, heads nodding knowingly. It helps temporarily but if the issue is endemic then eradication becomes more difficult and TEL Teams can find themselves in the thick of it.
What are the wider issues? What are staff afraid of? Are these fears evidence based? What works well and why? Some institutions have digital leads at school and programme level, strategic direction, reward and recognition schemes, digital portfolios for CPD and staff development, others have put teacher education online, changed validation processes, resorted to bribery with coffee, cake and chocolate. TEL Teams need more opportunities to talk about sharing practice and the different possibilities for action. I keep my faith in the power of the internet to support student learning and educational opportunities but the digital nut is a long way from being cracked.
Cracking the nut image from presentation by Saf Arfam, VC Development and Innovation Salford City College