Week 24 – Activity 18: Considering the TEL Complex

Timing: 4 hours

The reading features many quotes and highlights. Good for TMA. 

Scenario

Imagine that an educational institution you know well has asked you to help develop a plan for rolling out learning analytics, either across the institution or across one section of the institution. The management team’s vision is that, in the future, they will be able to claim on their website that ‘learning and teaching at this institution are supported by learning analytics’. At this stage the management team is not sure what would be involved in implementing a change of this sort, so they need an outline of the changes and developments that might be required.

  • Start by reading the introduction to the report below, and Section 6, ‘The process of TEL innovation’.
  • Use the text in Figure 1: The Beyond Prototypes model of the TEL Complex as headings. Under each heading create a series of notes about what the institution would have to take into account.

Answer:

Policy Context:

Student Community

“The communities associated with these different sets of stakeholders [teachers, students, etc.] often have different sets of values, perspectives, objectives and above all, expertise.”

In my organisation this speaks to the parents of children, or the friends of adults, who might well have other ideas of education and practice. It is not only about the student, but also about satisfying the customers networks.

Ecology of Practices

“The strong community present within the TEL Complex constitutes a major challenge for TEL innovation, and in many cases exhibits super-stability, meaning that change is extremely difficult to achieve. In particular, current expectations of teachers and students affect the adoption of TEL innovations.”

In my organisation, I would include managers into the decision process. Ultimately the decision lies with them. There is also a slight variance in what teachers ‘on the ground’ see, and managers expect or assume. This disconnect can result in any large scale changes that would change the system, being seen as unfavourable.

Environment:

Pedagogic Res Community

“Pedagogy comprises an extremely complex and distinctive process which involved both student and teacher engagement, delivering a set of education services by means of specific channels.”

Consideration would need to be given as to how this relationship between student and teacher might change, given the potential unequal distribution of learning analytics. I.e. with the teacher holding information about the learner. Ethical considerations would need to come into account.

An open approach would be needed in the institution (Phoenix) to share with adult learners why certain actions are taking place. It would be challenging to assure that all students receive a similar level of teacher/with similar tasks. Especially in group contexts.

Revenue Generation:

Technical Communities and Teacher Communities (combined for ease)

will need to take into account the ecology surrounding the practices decided.

“Current practices are not easily altered; they are at the core of super-stability in the overall educational system.”

Both student and teacher practices need to be considered, and how these will be affected by changes in TEL. Training, apprenticeships, and experience is required. The changes cannot be made in isolation, i.e. likely a shift in TEL approaches in my organisation will result in shifts in other pedagogical aspects of the classroom.

Tech Context

“They are the technological elements that are used to support the pedagogy with the aim of achieving a vision that is concerned with enhancing learning in a specified way.”

Financial concerns might arise within my institution, due to new training and tools being required. Extensive decision making processes, as to ascertain what analytics will be deployed and how, will need to be agreed upon.

Technical

“These complex interdependencies make it difficult to get ant one element to work or make a difference by itself without consideration of the whole.”

“Ultimate success depends on the totality of the configuration or bundle, rather than on any single component.” Furthermore, often existing technologies come together to form new innovations. Which of the existing technologies in our institutions, such as the NOS, or the ETS, could be used in this manner?

As mentioned above, any changes to the system of teaching would surely result in changes being seen or needed in other areas. I.e. the changes to e-books over standard paper textbooks, which bring enhancements such as advanced annotation, however will limit the ways a textbook can be used in a  teaching context and could result in external concerns, such as distractions.

Funding:

“In the case of TEL, if policy dictates that funding for TEL is subsumed within general educational budgets or within special project funding, then competition with regular demands to the time-limited nature of project funding can work against long-term sustainability and adequacy of support. This is important, because complex innovations typically require decades for effective diffusion.”

Within my organisation, such consideration are important for much the same reasons as given above. Furthermore, employee wage demands based on workload increases could also play a role. This funding might not come from external sources, and could be bared on management to control.

  • In your notes, consider these questions:
    1. Which groups and factors fall under each heading?
    2. How are these groups likely to feel about the management vision identified above (would you recommend changing the wording)?
    3. Which barriers will need to be overcome?
    4. What changes would have to be made in order to achieve the vision?

Answers:

1. Done.

2. How would the following feel about the management vision:

Student Community

Changes not only to students syllabus and teaching style will need to be made, but student’s wider networks, such as friends and family, will need to be considered. How can the changes be conveyed to those paying, for example?

It is likely that student who have been with us for a longer period of time, will exert more confidence in changes.

Pedagogic Res Community

Changes in one aspect can overflow into others. It is important that in my institution we do not assume that TEL innovations/implementation occur in isolation. How will students, teachers, and management be affected by, for example, the instruction of analytics?

Important quote: “[A research group is] lulled into thinking that when the have a successful pilot the next step will be easy. This next step is the hardest step of all. When they go to schools with their piece of kit and their wonderful technology [they fail because] other factors such as curriculum, professional development, sustainability and appropriateness are not taken into consideration.” (pg. 32).

Senior staff would likely show reluctance to change, especially if it require new workloads. The vision of how such changes will benefit the organisation need to be clear.

Technical Communities

Training, and general experience is needed. Both for students and teachers. Extra budgets or time would need to be allocated to assist the transition.

Again, the benefits need to be clear for all stakeholders, as to move away from personal cost-benefit analysis, and a broader consideration of positive effects.

Teacher community

The influences of potential challenges and changes need to be made clear. Training and general fascination will be needed. Concerns in my organisation would relate to the division of labor, and in particular, if hierarchies emerge. A concern could be that younger employees are more accustomed to the technologies, making older employees less welcoming of changes that might see their skills becoming outdated.

  • In a blog post, or in your learning journal, write a short, informal report for the management team about the changes that would need to be made to the ecology of practices, and the technical context at the institution, in order to introduce learning analytics successfully.

Answers:

  • Take into account:
    • access to resources and training
      • The project would need to focus on design-based learning (pg. 34 summary), to take into account all stakeholders concerns and wishes.
      • Due to the nature of analytics or other TEL innovations, on ground support would be needed for training. This is especially true for senior staff.
      • Consideration of the cost-benefit analysis concerns (where individuals might reject the innovation due to time and work constraints vs. understood benefits) will require training to be a very important step in explanation to staff of what is occurring and WHY.
    • what the major barriers are likely to be
      • The vision is rarely achieved from the offset, and instead “emerges and evolves through exploration, through networking and through the active engagement in research, development and educational practice.”
      • “Engagement [with students and teachers during the design process] may also be a necessary condition to properly understand the ecology of practices that will be the context for any particular TEL innovation.”
      • Major barriers are likely to occur in the following sections above:
        • Student community/Ecology of practices – as these are the customers, their satisfaction and understanding of the new process is paramount. How it would affect them positively needs to be considered. The support of those paying, be it students themselves or parents/other needs to be considered.
        • Teaching community – for the reasons given above, teachers need to be on board with changes and willing to sacrifice some of the status quo.
        • Technical – training will be a large component, and would likely need to continue for an extended period of time. Senior staff in particular need to be considered. Furthermore, for newcomers into the company, training schedules will need to be defined to consider how easy it will be to have them catch up with developments and why they have occurred.
        • Funding – in my organisation this will occur internally. Concerns over staff workload will recur in relation to wages.
    • who would be responsible for dealing with problems.
      • Likely a team-leader will be selected, and a team constructed to deal with all aspects of the project/innovation. This leader will need to pay attention to all factors above, with particular concern to the spin-offs of a change affecting all sectors of the institution.

    If you conclude that it is not possible to achieve the management vision, make it clear why this is, and how your conclusion is influenced by the ecology of practices and the technical context.

  • Share your conclusions, or a link to your blog post, in the forum. Discuss there, or in OU Live, whether you think your chosen institution will be able to claim in the future that ‘learning and teaching at this institution are supported by learning analytics’.
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