This short presentation will describe the roll-out of a new teaching technology for synchronous online tuition, Adobe Connect, to around 4500 staff across a large Higher Education distance learning university. This was a ‘major change project’ which involved a number of collaborations within, and external to, the institution. These included the Learning & Teaching Innovation unit, the Associate Lecturer Support and Professional Development unit, Information Technology services, Computing Helpdesk, Faculty representatives including our Associate Lecturer tutoring staff (ALs), Communications unit, and our external collaborators Collab8 as well as Adobe itself.
We will discuss our approach to finding a product that could fulfil the University’s extensive requirements for a learning and teaching online rooms tool that could work at scale. Staff from across the institution were involved throughout the full extent of the project, which lasted around 24 months. The requirements gathering process involved experts from each area and crucially was opened up to teaching staff, including a comprehensive tendering process.
The project involved various workstreams. In addition to introducing a new tool we had to align with new processes in tutorial delivery. A robust communication plan was put in place, identifying key messages to be released to both staff and students. A central website where all resources for guidance and training could be found and linked to, as well as a support forum where the project team could be on hand to respond, were also put in place.
AL teaching staff were involved in writing training material and in assisting staff as they participated in the training. The basic training included demonstrations run by our external partners, Collab8, in collaboration with our team of ALs. The training was developed through an iterative process to produce a set of resources and guides for all staff. Providing a secure, single sign on for users to access online rooms was integral to the student journey. Working across units within the University and with Collab8, Adobe Connect was integrated with our Moodle platform. This provided not only a consistent entry point to join the online rooms, but also gave access to data on attendance and recordings.
Central to this change, it was important to involve staff and student at key stages, ensuring they felt a part of the process and the direction of online rooms. Listening and building trust was maintained throughout the process. The end result is a powerful tool, integrated with the University’s systems, which has enhanced synchronous collaboration, allowing ALs to have online tutorials with their students and for students to have a space to meet with other students.
Our procedures and collaborations as well as the lessons we learnt during this project will be useful for colleagues in other institutions facing similar challenges.
In this session, participants will learn about:
• how we ran a large-scale change technology project within The Open University
• the challenges we faced and how we used collaboration and openness in working to overcome these challenges
• the reasons the project was ultimately highly successful.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
With any major change it is important to have governance in place. For this we set up a steering group with senior management as members, this made space for decision making to take place in the context of the wider University. To support operational decisions, an advisory group encompassing representatives for Faculties, ALs, students and key units was established – this group played a key role in not only giving critical feedback but also in supporting key communications. As you would expect form such a major change, those responsible were held accountable, therefore having a framework and data to support this was key. A dashboard was created to report back and the training plan, bookings, attendance, and feedback from this were a necessity.
Around 4000 AL staff undertook the training with an additional roughly 500 Faculty staff joining the basic demonstrations. The training was evaluated using a number of different methods as the project was underway, in order that we could make in-flight changes and improvements to the learner experience. We used a combination of exit surveys and reflective activities during and at the end of training to evaluate the training. Exit survey data was shared with our advisory and steering groups on an ongoing basis, and has also been made widely available in internal presentations. We will share summaries of our evaluation, discuss some of the common themes arising in comments, and how we reflected and acted upon them.
Getting buy-in from staff, both central academics and ALs, was fundamental to the success and use of this tool. However, not all staff were happy to move to a new product, or in some cases, to use online rooms at all. We will discuss how our collaboration with faculties and with super-users helped us address this. Another challenge was training a significant proportion of staff who had little or no prior experience of using online rooms.
Our peak concurrent use averaging approximately 1000 users any night, at peak reaching over 3000, with evening and weekends being our peak time. As part of the transition, we also monitored our Computing Helpdesk tickets and looked for key areas we needed to emphasise in the training, rewrite guidance and improve entry to online rooms.
We believe that the project succeeded as a result of ongoing development, feedback, evaluation, and reflection, and the strong collaborations we had with colleagues from across the University and externally.
Marshall, S. (2010) Change, technology and higher education: are universities capable of organisational change?, ALT-J, Research in Learning Technology, 18 (3) 179–192, available from https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/886/1137
Kirkpatrick, D L and Kirkpatrick, J D (2006). Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels. 3rd edition San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler.
Resources for participants
Hi everyone, thanks for coming to our presentation this afternoon. The slides are available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/l12oxwtb8hzdcqn/ALT_conf_CampbellGipson.pdf?dl=0 , cheers, Anne