Digital Capability Maturity (DCM) is the ability of an institution to keep up with continuously evolving technologies while utilising them to achieve teaching and learning objectives. The use of digital tools and resources in Higher Education (HE) has become the norm, consequently, the need for highly qualified Educational Technologists’ (ETs) has become vital. Anecdotal experiences HE settings, have informed us of the pertinent role of ETs in facilitating technology adoption and utilisation in the learning environment. A systematic review on the current body of knowledge on DCM in HE reported various stakeholders and roles contributing to the effectiveness of DCM including learners, tutors, facilitators, ICT enabled teachers, training organisers and managers among other technical and non-technical roles. However, the results did not feature ETs, giving rise to the possibility of similar roles, or a conceivable misalignment between theory and practice.
This study is an extension to a greater PhD research towards developing a DCM Framework and was initiated by observations from the systematic review. The session will start with a summary of the outcomes from the systematic review followed by presenting the objective of this study: exploring the role of ETs and the impact of such a role in the effective implementation of Capability Maturity Frameworks. The study employed qualitative techniques guided by a set of research questions to investigate whether the theoretical findings reflect the current state of practice. An in-depth focus group was conducted with ETs, and the discussion transcribed verbatim for content analysis. The results were subject to review by experts in the field of digital capabilities.
Preliminary findings support the anecdotal presumption that ETs play a pivotal role in the continuous development of capabilities in Tertiary Institutions. Their function varies depending on whether the ET is positioned centrally in the institution or locally (embedded in a school). Nonetheless, ETs are nuanced by the same ambiguity and complexity that is associated with many other Technology Enhanced Learning roles. The findings also suggest that as technology continues to evolve, educational resources will become more intuitive and ETs responsibilities will transition towards a focus on ensuring excellence in educational user experience; in fact, this journey has already begun.
This study presents a case where practice informs theory and provides other researchers with an insight into how ETs in practice feel about their roles and the impact they have on the institution. The clarity offered informs institutional strategic development plans and contributes to narrowing the gap between theory and practise. It also sheds light on managing the tensions that exist between technologists and other institutional stakeholders, thereby empowering ETs to make significant contributions to tutors’ performance; and consequently, teaching and learning. Furthermore, these findings inform the greater research work indicating that a Capability Maturity Framework would be well suited to ensuring continuous development in the learning environment.
The proposed session supports digital education practices, although it is a ‘wildcard’ since it does not relate directly to any of the conference themes.
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