Final Reflection

This final reflection on my learning in EDEM630 is a chance to synthesise what I have learnt about change in education due to technology and how the new knowledge can be applied in my own educational context, now and in the future. EDEM630 has been an asynchronous e-Learning course on Change with Digital Technology in Education. One of the most valuable aspects has been the practical context of actually experiencing that change for myself as I used various new technologies to enhance my own learning. For example, creating and maintaining my own blog was challenging initially but the value of the tool for sharing and reflecting on learning soon became apparent. It and my fellow learners’ blogs are now resources I find myself returning to repeatedly to help clarify my thinking.

I enjoyed the flexibility of the online course. It suited my learning style as I like time to ponder on the material and what has been said by others. The asynchronous format allowed me to think more deeply about the issues, and writing the public forum forced me to consider my responses more carefully. I also liked the variety of resources, from written to visual and audio, and what I thought were a well-scaffolded range of activities. So, while I read about the impact of technology innovations on teachers and students as part of the course work and for my research article, I find myself critically reflecting on some of the findings. For example, I share Hrastinski’s (2008) views that asynchronous online learning is more appropriate for cognitive participation, including individual reflection and critical assessment of peers’ ideas.

We started by looking at change with technology from an ecological perspective. It was a good starting point as I immediately understood how complex innovation adoption is and the range of stakeholders that affect and are affected by it. I have seen time and again the truth of the teacher as the ‘keystone species’ (Davis, 2008). In the tertiary environment, the institutional ecosystem definitely exerts a powerful influence also as technology enhanced learning is driven as a strategic goal. As I refined my topic and reading it’s been reassuring to find empirical evidence that supports some of my own observations, for example that IT stakeholders often have the power to promote or restrict technology adoption (Davis, 2008).

We also looked at theories of change with technology in the personal context. We looked at conceptual frameworks that stress the process of innovation adoption and the individual concerns and priorities at different stages of the process. I focused mostly on the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) and, to a lesser extent, its refinement in the Learning Adoption Trajectory (LAT). I currently find myself at the beginning of an innovation project with Microsoft tablets (nothing to do with my research topic). As I prepare a staff capability plan, the CBAM has been helpful in reminding me to identify personal concerns and implement professional development and support that directly addresses those concerns (Evans & Chauvin, 1993). It’ll be interesting to see how the theoretical framework plays out in reality.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the course for me was the scenario planning. This was because it was also the most challenging, stretching my limited creativity to the max. After a false start with my matrix, I revised my axes to better effect. I enjoyed focusing on my own vocational tertiary context as it forced me to examine the key drivers of change in the region. I think scenario planning is a very useful tool for forcing decision makers to look past current trends and assist planning for longer-term, possible futures.

The final topic of learning was Marshall’s (2007) e-Learning Maturity Model. It is a self-critiquing and reflection tool that can be used by tertiary institutions to evaluate their levels of maturity in five dimensions that categorise e-Learning. It is based on assessments of current normal practices, so is highly reliable. However, it is a very complex assessment which would require considerable resourcing and time commitment. One ITP had been using it for six years to benchmark its capability (Marshall, 2012).

Most of all, what this EDEM630 course has given me is the ability to be a knowledgeable participant in my workplace. I have been able to synthesise my learning about change theories, technology trends, scenario planning and the eMM and feel I can now make a more informed contribution to the direction, implementation and assessment of our Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy.

References

Davis, N. (2008). How may teacher learning be promoted for educational renewal with it? In J. Voogt and G. Knezek (Eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education (pp. 507–520). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Springer.

Evans, L., & Chauvin, S. (1993). Faculty Developers as Change Facilitators: The Concerns-Based Adoption Model. To Improve the Academy. Paper 278. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/podimproveacad/278

Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Educause Quarterly, 4, 51-55. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0848.pdf

Marshall, S. (2012). E-learning and higher education: Understanding and supporting organisational change [Case study report]. Wellington, New Zealand: Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Marshall, S. (2007). E-Learning Maturity Model: Process descriptions [draft report]. Retrieved from http://learn.canterbury.ac.nz/mod/page/view.php?id=186287

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Reflection #3

eMM

Way back in weeks 9-10 of this course, we looked at Stephen Marshall’s e-Learning Maturity Model (eMM). It is a self-critiquing and reflection tool that can be used by tertiary institutions to evaluate their levels of maturity in five dimensions that categorise e-Learning. When assessing an organisation’s capability using eMM the practice is to select a number of actual courses (e.g. three or four). The selected courses should be be representative of organisational practice rather than exceptional. The purpose of eMM is to assess actual activity rather than intended activity for the future. A 4-point scale focuses on colours which give an overall picture (‘carpet’) of capability in a particular dimension, visually identifying areas for action and guiding an institution towards maturity.

I did an intuitive assessment of an online distance postgraduate course from a New Zealand university, focusing on just one process dimension (Delivery). The activity helped me to understand the comprehensive nature of the assessments, in this case the institution’s capability around the course’s learning outcomes, documentation and student support. I also created a mindmap to highlight the relationship between the different structural components of the eMM. I found that quite difficult to do, maybe because I’m a more linear thinker, or perhaps because I was already distracted by the looming prospect of the research article.

I do think this is a useful tool for tertiary institutions to use to self-critique their own e-Learning capability or maturity. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m on my institution’s Learning Technology Steering Group. On our social media site we have recently been discussing Marshall’s case study on a mid-size ITP with a lot of similar e-Learning goals to our own (Marshall, 2012). Interestingly, the ITP had been using the eMM for six years to benchmark its capability, with the biggest gains coming when they gave responsibility to the teaching staff and focused on developing staff capability and new teaching models. Rather than Roger’s model of innovation focused on early adopters, systems were put in place for adoption by all staff. That’s quite a commitment, requiring considerable resourcing to engage all staff.

Research assignment

I am struggling somewhat to clarify my research topic, finding it difficult to move from the review essay to a research focus. I have no primary research nor case study to analyse, which means I’m relying on limited secondary research on the topic I chose – innovating with online synchronous technologies to develop students’ academic literacies. My reading and thinking has moved back and forth from Niki’s ecological perspective, looking at all the stakeholders that affect and are affected by adopting the technology, to a focus primarily on the tutor and student. While web-conferencing provides a viable, flexible alternative to face-to-face academic support in individual consultations, the literature suggests real issues around group or class engagement when the tutor is not the regular class teacher and has little time or opportunity to build rapport and trust. I’ve been reading about Michael Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance and wondering if that is a relevant concept to use to analyse online learning practices. Moore’s theory examines three factors that influence the teacher/student relationship in distance learning: dialogue, structure and learner autonomy (Falloon, 2011).

So, anyway, I digress. I’m not sure how many theoretical concepts to use. Is three too many? (I want to include the CBAM). What I’m thinking is that I need to turn this around and consider what guidance other tertiary learning advisors would appreciate if asked to teach and support distance students online. What information and skills do they need? What support do they need? How do they engage students in a meaningful and timely way? What are the barriers and pitfalls to look out for? And that’s where I’m at; purpose identified and the article still in the conceptual stage.

All that’s left to do is write it… time

References

Falloon, G. (2011). Making the connection: Moore’s theory of transactional distance and its relevance to the use of a virtual classroom in postgraduate online teacher education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(3), 187–209.

Marshall, S. (2012). E-learning and higher education: Understanding and supporting organisational change [Case study report]. Wellington, New Zealand: Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Marshall, S. (2007). E-Learning Maturity Model: Process descriptions [draft report]. Retrieved from http://learn.canterbury.ac.nz/mod/page/view.php?id=186287

Personal Reflection #2

InsomniaThis reflection is emerging in the wee small hours out of an inability to shut my mind off and let sleep embrace me. That, and having earlier read Lyn’s comments on procrastination…

The SP4Ed mOOC was a mixed experience for me; I found the topic of scenario planning fascinating, but the timeline challenging. For the 2 weeks I was part of it I felt like I was in a parallel world, not quite in sync with this one. For unavoidable personal reasons, I missed the first 4 days of the mOOC. I didn’t follow advice NOT to do every activity, choosing instead to work my way through the variety of activities I felt were giving me a scaffolded understanding of scenario planning. As a result, I was always a couple of days behind the timetable of activities, always wanting to catch up and contribute but never quite able to. The result was my microblogging was sporadic and I feel I missed timely opportunities to connect and network.

It wasn’t that there was too much to do (though the workload was intensive over such a short period) but rather that the selection of readings and videos were interesting enough to invite prolonged exploration. I compliment Wayne and Niki on the variety of stimulating resources and activities.

I really enjoyed delving into the processes and ‘worlds’ of scenario planning. I’ve learnt not to call scenario planning future prediction (although I’ve used the phrase in an early blog post) but rather a tool for planning for possible futures. It has already affected my perspective on planning in the Learning Technologies Steering Group I’m on at work. It’s reassuring that we have been looking at documents like the Horizon Reports in our strategic planning but there is also value in extending the scope and looking beyond the next five years.

However, I did not find my own scenario planning easy. I don’t think I’m a naturally creative thinker or writer and creating my matrix was a difficult process. I can see why scenario planning is undertaken mostly by groups of creative experts rather than individuals. I took on board what Wayne said about needing to test the scenarios against your drivers and found that I did indeed need to change one of my original key drivers. That was a lightbulb moment for me. I approached the article with trepidation (and a lot of procrastination). What really helped was identifying major events on a timeline. Once I had the bones sorted, I found that I enjoyed the writing process a lot.

Also interesting, and very instructive, are the blogs of my peers whose posts I find creative, insightful and often amusing. It’s great to have that resource at hand to provide an interesting range of perspectives and they contribute significantly to my own understanding. They can also be a bit daunting; the high quality challenging me to maintain a certain level of writing. I see that as a good thing to strive for!

It’s been difficult this week to switch focus back to my research topic and review essay. Getting a couple more annotated bibliographies under my belt has helped. I find I’m looking forward to the challenge, happy in the knowledge that I’ve completed part of the course assessment, and ecstatic about the extended deadline!
Right, off to bed and, hopefully, to sweet dreams!

Learning Reflection #1

I’m pleased that I waited to the end of week 3 to write this, as the last week has provided some clarity for me. Or perhaps I should say the last 2 days, as this has been the only time available to put significant time and effort into reading, reflecting and making important connections between my topic, theories on change and the review essay. I guess I’m now starting to see the ‘big picture’ that I was lamenting as missing last week. Writing a bunch of annotated bibliographies this weekend has helped develop my understanding, as well as helping me realise the valuable contribution to completing the essay itself. While I was initially frustrated with the workload, I know that it will mean less time required at the other end.
I admit to being quite frustrated in the first two weeks, as I struggled with setting up the blog and navigating the online course with an unfamiliar structure. However, repetition bred familiarity and I now have a reasonably clear sense of how to navigate to the information and links I need. With another change in the form of the Scenario Planning for Educators (SP4Ed) micro Open Online Course (mOOC) staring me in the face next week, I feel better prepared to deal with any frustrations, confident that understanding will come over time if not immediately. I’m enjoying writing my blog posts now and getting feedback. I like how all my important ideas and reflections are aggregated as, in other online courses I’ve done, important contributions were often spread through a number of discussion forums. The downside seems to be progressively less discussion in the Moodle forums, of which I’m guilty myself. I’d be interested to know if other participants agree and if they feel it is an issue?
A nagging frustration that I still do have is around my choice of topic, which is the impact on learners and academic advisors of introducing online teaching, specifically synchronous teaching of academic tutorials and workshops. I’m happy that what I’ve chosen is relevant and, with feedback from others, become progressively focused and specific. However, in the last week CPIT has launched its Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy, along with a raft of technology initiatives including lecture capture, Moodle-based ILPS and the purchase of a significant number of Microsoft tablets for teaching and learning. I know I could probably change my topic, but don’t want that distraction. I guess I’m still bemoaning the need to choose a topic in the first week.
My reading around change theories has been edifying. Understanding Niki Davis’s Arena of Change helped me understand the impact of the online learning environment for us teachers at the ‘coalface’, as well as the increasing influence of ‘people in the stands’ such as other tertiary collaborations. Both the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) and the Learning Adoption Trajectory Model (LAT) are useful models for addressing concerns at different stages of adopting online teaching technologies. This formal approach to identifying and addressing the concerns of individuals as they face change with technological innovations will benefit me not just for this course but in my work role on the Learning Technologies Steering Group, as we discuss introducing new technologies.
So, I look ahead to new changes in week 4 still with some trepidation, but also with the confidence of knowing I’ve addressed (most) concerns and developed strategies to successfully get through the first three intense weeks.