Monday 14 November 2016

Case studies on institutional approaches to the management of TEL services

As a member of the UCISA Academic Support Group, I was honoured to be a part of the team who put together a series of institutional case studies describing the management of TEL services. This collection complements the UCISA TEL Survey Report 2016 - see this blog post for more details. 

The following post has been kindly shared by Richard Walker from the University of York. You can access the original version here.

As a follow-up to the 2016 Technology-Enhanced Learning Survey, UCISA has just published a companion Best Practice Guide (2016 TEL Survey case studies), showcasing different institutional approaches to the management of technology enhanced learning services within UK higher education. A sample group of 9 institutions from the 110 which completed the UCISA TEL Survey were selected for case study interviews, and were drawn from different national HE sectors and mission groups. E-learning managers and service leaders from these institutions were interviewed over the summer of 2016, and were asked to comment on their institution’s strategic outlook and governance framework for learning technology usage learning and teaching activities.

The interviews highlight the increasing profile of technology enhanced learning (TEL) in strategic thinking. As we know from the 2016 Survey data, TEL is commonly addressed as a theme in institutional learning, teaching and assessment strategies across the sector, with 91% of responding institutions confirming that this is the case within their institution. The case studies reveal how TEL is also influencing other areas of university business such as online and transnational education and distance learning provision. As an illustration, distance learning is identified as a growth area for Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Mary University of London and seven of the nine institutions that were interviewed have now established some form of fully-online provision. This represents a notable change  from the position recorded in the 2014 UCISA case studies (blog post here), where fully online provision and MOOC delivery had not progressed that far within the sector, with the institutional focus firmly on the development of TEL services for campus-based course delivery.

The role of learning technology in supporting the student experience on campus remains though a key priority for the sector. We have seen in the 2016 TEL Survey data (blog post here) how UK institutions have invested strongly in new TEL services such as document sharing and lecture capture services as part of their blended learning provision for campus-based students. Legacy services such as e-submission of student work and the flexible provision of learning and teaching resources through VLEs have also been ‘mainstreamed’ though policy initiatives to guide academic practice, including the introduction of minimum standards for technology usage in module delivery, and now represent a staple part of the student experience across the sector. Note also the recent 2016 Heads of e-Learning Forum Report on the electronic management of assessment, which highlights electronic submission of student work as the only form of submission as now ‘entering the mainstream’ across the sector.

Building on this context, the case studies shine a light on how TEL is now shaping the campus-based student experience in other strategic areas of institutional activity – most notably through IT provisioning for learning and teaching spaces and the development of the campus estate.  The interviews reveal how institutions are addressing themes such as the redesign of teaching and social spaces in support of active learning and pedagogic innovation.  For example, Edinburgh Napier University’s corporate strategy makes explicit reference to establishing teaching spaces supporting active learning which are ‘enabled by innovative technology’.  The University of Sheffield is focusing on the relationship between TEL, the estate and campus-based teaching to promote flipped learning delivery as part of the development of its blended learning strategy.
How are these strategic initiatives being overseen and carried forward?  The case studies are insightful in capturing how institutions are establishing dedicated governance arrangements to support strategic technology developments. Aberystwyth University, Queen Mary University London and Sheffield Hallam University have all established their own E-Learning / TEL Strategy Groups to oversee technology developments across the institution and The University of Sheffield has set up a Digital Learning group chaired by their Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning. Edge Hill University operates a two-tiered governance model, with a central Learning and Teaching Strategic Leads Group, combined with faculty based committees which also monitor TEL developments and report on them to a Student Experience sub-committee and then up to the University’s Learning and Teaching Committee.

In addition to strategic outlook and governance arrangements, the case studies also touch on institutional responses to the Teaching Excellence Framework White Paper and recent consumer protection law advice for students as set out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), exploring how TEL services may be affected as a consequence of these developments.  Each case study interview concludes with a discussion of future challenges in TEL service provision, which predictably touch on staff development provision and scalability issues in building up TEL provision to meet institutional demands.

To access the case studies, please download the full Best Practice Guide at:

For a commentary on what the 2016 UCISA TEL Survey data tells us about technology adoption trends and educational change within UK higher education, please see the following YouTube presentation:

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