Opening scenario: MARIANA ANGELINA NEGREIRA, WASTE WATER MANAGER AND LIFELONG LEARNER, GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN
In preceding chapters we have identified and critiqued a number of strategies employed by our case study institutions. In this chapter we have two aims. The first is to suggest a number of practical steps that senior managers and administrators can take to ensure the better use of technology for teaching and learning. The second is to provide a very brief summary of the main conclusions that we have drawn.
TAKING CONTROL OF CHANGE
Hope and reality
We have argued that the post-secondary system internationally is facing major challenges, and major structural changes are needed, if universities and colleges are to meet the needs of learners and society in the 21st century. The management of technology should be a key part of that restructuring. In particular, our expectation for technology is that it can:
- facilitate an increase in the overall number of students receiving post-secondary education
- provide more flexibility in delivery to meet the needs of a very heterogeneous student body
- help improve the quality of teaching, through the development of 21st century skills and competencies
- and do all this at the same or less cost as conventional classroom teaching.
We have also argued though that to date, these expectations, with the exception of increasing flexible access to learning, have not been met. In particular:
- we could find no convincing evidence, either in the case studies or the literature, to indicate that the investment in technology was leading to improved learning;
- there was evidence that technology costs are going up, especially in the areas of faculty workload, learning management systems, and learning technology support;
- in some cases, there are concerns about quality through the failure to follow best practice, the use of untrained instructors or adjuncts, or through the inappropriate use of technology, such as lecture capture for distance delivery.
Developing effective strategies to drive change
Thinking holistically (extract)
A book is linear; management and especially decision-making are not. We have written about leadership, planning, organization, quality assurance, resource management, training, and organizational culture as if they are separate, independent activities. They are not. They all inter-relate.
Furthermore, technology now permeates throughout the whole organization. Faculty and students make decisions about technology, not just IT staff. At a senior management level, it is essential to think holistically about the management of technology. Senior managers need to have the whole picture about where decisions get made about technology; this will be particularly important when it comes to technology governance, but it is also important to be clear about where decisions of different kinds are being or should be made in terms of network infrastructure, choice of teaching technologies, teaching applications, technology support, resource allocation, security, privacy and many other areas. Figure 9.1 provides one way of looking at the whole picture of technology management in academic areas (details will vary from institution to institution).
You will notice that this is not quite the same as a typical organizational chart showing line management. Nor is it top down (or bottom up). All the circled entities are key areas for actual decisions about the use of different technologies for teaching. We have deliberately not identified individual positions, such as VP Academic or CIO, as it becomes increasingly unlikely that decisions about technology will be taken by an individual acting alone.
The rationale behind the model is that expertise in technology and its applications are spread throughout the organization. A good governance structure ensures that all the key stakeholders are engaged in decision-making at the right time and the right level. In a sense, we have presented a model for knowledge management rather than a model of command and control. Such a ‘knowledge management’ model fits not only the collegial culture of higher education, but also represents a model for organizations with a heavy dependence on information technologies and knowledge creation and dissemination.
The executive team and board’s main responsibility lies in overall leadership (‘championing’ the use of technology for teaching and ensuring that it is properly managed) and in the governance of technology, not just the technology component but also the ways in which it is used and particularly to ensure security and privacy issues are being properly managed.
The strategic plan should have some very broad stroke references to the importance of technology for administration, teaching and research and the direction it should be taking over the next few years. The Academic Plan will be more detailed, setting strategies for the use of learning technology, driven by the overall academic direction in the plan, which in turn should be influenced by input from the Faculties, Schools or academic departments in particular.
We will discuss the role of the Technology Committee in more detail below, but for us this would be the heart of institutional strategy, resource allocation, evaluation, and project approval for both academic and administrative technologies.
The role of Senate, Faculties, Schools or academic departments in making decisions about learning technologies is in our view relatively small. These bodies will of course approve programs, and programs will have plans for technology, but at the level of the Senate, Deans or Faculty approval committees, we would not expect detailed decision-making about what technologies should or should not be used in a program, although they may have something more to say about the method of delivery (campus, hybrid or distance). The main job of these bodies is to ensure programs (and their use of technology) align with the overall institutional and departmental academic plans.
For us, the critical location of decision-making about technology should be at the program level, which is why we have placed it at the center of the chart. It is here that the market for the program, and the vision for teaching and learning, should be determined, as well as the method of delivery, and the main technologies to be used, with strong input from central or local IT services and learning technology units to the discussions.
At the course level, the course teams begin to make specific decisions about the role of technology and how it will be used. Individual instructors will also usually have some freedom to decide on how the technologies will be used, and of course students will too, as they also have access now to a wide range of technologies that may help them with their studies, whether recommended by faculty or not.
Note also that individual instructors and students have access to technologies ‘in the cloud’, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Google, that are outside the direct control of central IT services or the institution. These web 2.0 tools are not only located on servers anywhere in the world, but are also open to those not within the institutional community of students, instructors and staff. For this reason, the institution needs to have policies in place about the use of such technology by instructors and students, within a context where control and enforcement of policy is difficult.
It is probably contentious of us not to include either IT services (central or local) or learning technology units as key decision areas. They certainly can and should heavily influence decisions and be completely integrated into the decision-making process, but the responsibility for using technology for teaching and learning lies elsewhere, at the level of the program, course, individual instructor, or student.
Lastly, such a model provides an essential component of a governance structure for (information) technologies, extending beyond a narrow definition of IT to include the application of technology to a core component of a post-secondary educational institution, namely teaching and learning. The governance structure suggested in Figure 9.1 will need to be integrated with or expanded into a similar model for administrative and research applications.
The need for multiple visions for teaching and learning in the future
Developing measurable strategic goals for learning technology
Develop a systematic annual academic planning process that drives budgets
Create a high level Technology Committee
Building a coherent governance structure
ROLES FOR GOVERNMENT
Strategic goals for technology investment
Funding to support innovation in teaching and learning
Creation of new institutions
Mandatory training in teaching
EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION?
BUILDING BETTER UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES
The benefits of successful technology integration
A balanced approach to technology integration
Successful technology integration requires professional management
Creating an environment that encourages innovation and change
What does not need to change
The existing system is showing signs of strain and more importantly the trend is towards increasing pressure on the system. Institutions have adapted poorly to the massification of higher education. Our current higher education institutions are costly and inefficient, and could do a lot better, if information and communications technologies are applied intelligently.
We see this as a work in progress. Much more research and evaluation of the conditions necessary to integrate technology are needed. We know that there are other methods and approaches that could be tried that might well be more effective. What we want to encourage most of all is innovation and change in our institutions, so that the needs of students and the public are better served in the future. We want to stimulate a debate or discussion about how best to do this, so we hope readers will follow up this book by going to our web site at http://batesandsangra.ca. At this site, you can join us in online discussion about the scenarios, be able to access a collection of resources on this topic, including many of the references in the bibliography, see reviews of this book by academics and other readers, and above all, we hope, make your own contributions to the black art of technology management in higher education. In the meantime, we thank you for your interest and patience in sharing this journey with us.