The UK Higher Ed context

Shelleyann Scott and Kathryn Dixon (2008 ) in their edited book, The Globalized University: Trends and Challenges in Teaching and Learning, offer educational leaders a discussion about the changes information and communicate technology is bringing to their institutions.

Chapter 4: “Frequently, university-wide strategic decisions about technology are made without fully understanding the implications for resources, administration, teaching programmes, teaching practices and learning approaches, often resulting in technology-led course design” (p.83). There has been too much time and effort placed on the technology ICT infrastructures and improving instructors ICT skills, and not how teachers and students might benefit from it. Yet, a government initiative to increase institutions’ focus on student learning will provide a better focus. What is more, “many academic teachers lack a pedagogical understanding of the form of their practice” (p.89) increasing the frustration with using technology. As well, online courses are quite public accentuating port teaching practices.

What is more, professional development programs focus on how to use technology that reinforces current teaching strategies and not transforming them. Working in online courses and developing them requires instructors to think about their pedagogical views and beliefs and to understand them in the context of online learning. “Technology-led innovations do not improve educational practices in themselves – it is teachers who are the agents of change” (Kirkwood & Price, 2005). Barriers that cause faculty to revert to teacher-focused approaches were time to change practice and lack of systematic changes at the departmental level to enhance learner-centered practices as “their approach is mediated by their work environment” (p.92). Departments need to encourage the improvement of student learning.

As well, reflecting on the departmental and institutional contexts is important when designing PD frameworks as well as providing an academic rationale for using ICT.  And, besides the instructor, professional developers need to focus on the support staff and managers to ensure the proper policies, support, resources and infrastructures are in place. For instance, senior university managers work with policy and decision making about ICT use. By exploring the impact of these on students, staff and resources more strategic decision making will develop. Departmental managers can reflect on the same at the faculty and department levels. The need to make informed decisions, determine the time and money needed, and choose strategies to implement technologies in the programs with awareness of the organizational context. Whereas, individual teaching and learning staff must come to understand the pedagogical rationale of using ICT and its impact on students, staff and resources, encouraging a reflective practice and strategic choices.

PD also needs to include higher levels of pedagogy such as philosophizing about teaching, increased teamwork and collaboration than working with strategies and tactics. Students also need ICT and information skills training to use consistently throughout their degree programs. For PD to be successful there needs to be supports in place, consultations with faculty to implement innovation and follow up research on the impact of changed practice.

The review of teaching, as mandated by the QAA a quality assurance agency for higher ed, looks at curriculum, teaching, assessment, student achievement and support, resources and quality management. More so, quality assurance initiatives are needed to monitor and maintain quality student experiences, through quantitative surveys for instance. Evidence-based research is a way to examine teaching practices and assumptions.

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