EdTech Handbook – Notes

Update – now got a working title: Integrated Learning Systems Design Handbook.

Been chewing this one over for a while. It’s along the lines of ‘what the other guides don’t tell you’. Over 10 years ago I did a guide to Flexible Learning for the QAA while working at the UHI. It was received quite well at the time and helped to lay the foundation of the Viewpoints learning design project at Ulster University, while I worked with them on the TrustDR project. A lot of good work has been done in this area but I felt at the time, and now even more so, that there is a lot that is not said or covered because there is a kind of self-censorship in the EdTech scene. I was working towards this when I wrote the Flex learning guide at the end I was talking about the kind of obstacles and delusions that get in the way. Since then I have worked in quite a few organisations and seen the same patterns recurring. So, to kick things off I start by quoting the end of the QAA Flex learning guide:

Some Conclusions on ‘Making it Work’

From the QAA Guide

As we have mentioned above more work needs to be done on examining this aspect of introducing and sustaining change. As Mayes (1995) points out our educational institutions are a part of the wider political, economic and social web of our society, which is itself going through a period of rapid change, aspects of which are being contested. The response of our educational institutions so far to larger, more diverse numbers of students and fewer resources has been ‘more of the same’ (Twigg 2005); larger lectures, longer teaching days, put notes on the web, create ever more ‘content’ – but not share and use it, use virtual learning environments to mimic classrooms, continue to teach as individuals, use expensive academics to teach at a low level, and so on.

As in any period of rapid change the situation is often marked by contradiction, paradox, opportunities and threats to the various players. The path for those who want to change this situation will need some clear thinking, tact, and patience and not be for the faint-hearted. Here is some useful general advice from the economist J.K. Galbraith (2005):

“I have learnt that to be right and useful, one must accept a continuing divergence between approved belief – what I have elsewhere called conventional wisdom – and the reality. And in the end, not surprisingly, it is the reality that counts…

…, out of the pecuniary and political pressures of the time, economics and larger economic and political systems cultivate their own version of the truth. This last has no necessary relation to reality.”

With this general advice to guide us we would recommend the reader to look at the guidance provided by Laurillard (2001) on developing an institutional framework. The guidance she provides is still extremely relevant and useful, like Ramsden (2003) she stresses the need to take a holistic view, to see the institution as an interconnected ‘educational system’, and for that system to be able to learn about itself through proper evaluation of its own activities.