This conference presentation will outline the results of the first year of a three-year research project funded by QAA Scotland focusing on transitions to blended learning, particularly the outcomes of a literature review and semi-structured interviews with 20 key informants across the university (senior management, services management, teachers, learning technologists and a student representative). While examining student and staff transitions to this changing digital landscape, it is clear that the institution itself needs to evolve to support increased/enhanced blended learning.
The research questions underpinning the study related to the perceived motivations, benefits, challenges and barriers associated with transitions to blended learning, as well as the support required to enable the institution to effectively transition. The support recommendations especially form the basis of an emerging institutional framework which comprises four layers. At the heart of the framework are the stakeholders (students, staff and management), the institutional alignment of which can be encouraged through organisational preparedness. Organisational preparedness involves communication, collaboration, commitment and competence of stakeholders, and comprises the second layer. The third layer comprises six dimensions of institutional considerations relating to institutional culture, management and organisation, pedagogy, learning technology support, physical infrastructure, and ethical/legal aspects. Lastly, the outer layer is the sector-level external drivers for change that include the changing digital landscape, student expectations, quality assurance and enhancement, and internationalisation.
An institutional working team have been consulted as stakeholders and accepted the model in principle but highlighted the particular importance of management and organisation, and institutional culture, in implementing progressive change. We are using this model as a basis for further discussions with stakeholders across the university to identify ‘anchor points’. The hope is that by identifying appropriate interventions and evaluating these, we can try to ensure that efforts to increase and enhance blended learning across the institution do not regress over time, thereby enabling us to move from what Graham et al (2013) would call the interim ‘adoption/early implementation’ phase to the ‘mature implementation/growth’ phase.
The take-home message from this presentation is that while learning technology is everywhere – creating the potential for increased blended and online learning – its use needs to be considered within a much larger context. This context goes beyond the pedagogy of learning and teaching; it represents a much more complex system of institutional considerations, shaped by internal and external stakeholders, where institutional culture and the influence of management and organisation are seen as critical to the success of blended learning.
Gardiner, K. (2015) Reasons to be open – embracing the digital landscape. Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C), 8–10 September 2015, University of Manchester.
Gordon, N. (2014). “Flexible Pedagogies: Technology Enhanced Learning.” Retrieved 15 March, 2016, from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/flexible-pedagogies-technology-enhanced-learning.
Graham, C. R., W. Woodfield and J. B. Harrison (2013). “A framework for institutional adoption and implementation of blended learning in higher education.” The Internet and Higher Education 18: 4-14.