Tentatively hugging the digital tree

Tentatively hugging the digital tree

As I undertake the design and construction of the new capstone subject Management in Practice for the School of Management at RMIT University I’m aware of the opportunity to embrace some newer, digitally delivered, tools and approaches to learning and teaching. But what does that mean in the context of our students? How might I go about doing it? Does it matter which approaches I use, or is the fact that this course is ‘digital’ be enough?

We’ve seen a significant shift at RMIT over the past few years as we begin to move towards a more digitally enabled organisation. The transformation has been going on behind the scenes for some years, but recently it has become increasingly obvious to front-line people that there is a significant transformation underway. For example, RMIT’s ICT strategy to 2020 is organised around five themes:

1. Best in class digital student experience – Invest in new technologies which transform the student experience and underpin the digital strategy
2. Innovative and efficient Service Integrator – Reposition the ICT function to source and manage services more efficiently and to focus on business outcomes through innovation
3. Elegant global service experience and systems – Move to single global systems and processes which enable the global operating model
4. Data to fuel differentiation & decisions – Ensure quality data and integrated systems are available to support data based decision-making, and enable personalised and contextualised services
5. Simple & secure technology foundations – Ensure foundation technology is simplified, free of duplication, and secure

When looking at that document, I was struck by what the authors had framed as ‘RMIT’s Perfect Storm’ (pages 6 and 7) where they framed the challenges that RMIT is facing:

1. Adaptive learning
2. Re-inventing credits
3. Social media
4. Flipped classroom
5. Self-paced learning
6. MOOCS
7. Digital assessments
8. Massive computing for research data
9. Listening and sensing technologies
10. Ebooks and digital content
11. Open micro-credentials
12. Predictive analytics
13. Advanced classroom technologies
14. Physical virtual presence

There’s a lot there to consider. Lots of moving pieces. It looks complicated. So what does all this mean for me as a teaching academic? The obvious themes in this document that I are ‘Best in class digital student experience’ and ‘Data to fuel differentiation and decisions’. The challenges that stood out included:

  1. Adaptive learning
  2. Re-inventing credits
  3. Social media
  4. Flipped classroom
  5. Self-paced learning
  6. MOOCS
  7. Digital assessments
  8. Ebooks and digital content
  9. Predictive analytics

It appears these are the drivers of much of the technology adoption in RMIT and if I want to remain an effective educator, I’m probably going to have to adapt my approach to teaching. You know, Academic Expectations and all that….

So, in thinking this through, some of the questions that I have are: How do I go about implementing some of these things in my practice? Do students want any of this stuff anyway? What’s the case for all this digital transformation in the L&T space?

/h2

The case for adopting a digital approach to teaching and learning

It appears that the case for the move to digital has been made mostly in the UK and in the USA. Australia seems to be following a similar path although a few years behind. Some interesting reading that I came across included an analysis by Delloits on the adoption of digital tools in education in the schooling system (not HE), and the Digital Student Project in the UK. When I dug into this report a little deeper and looked at the student digital experience tracker pilot report I was struck by some of the statistics:

The following comes from page 17 of the report:

With regards to the overall student digital experience:
Approximately seven in ten of students believe that
when technology is used by teaching staff it enhances
their learning experience
Around 6 in 10 students believe that digital
assessments are delivered well

Technology use by teaching staff:
» 72.2% of HE students and 70.1% of FE and skills
students agreed that when technology is used by
teaching staff, it helped their learning experience

And this is what the Higher Ed Students said they wanted (Pages 19–21):

Offer recorded lectures
Make better use of VLEs: standardise use by staff, add
presentations, teach students how to use it effectively,
and improve access (eg mobile friendly)
Improve online services: more online resources/
activities, assessment submissions
Provide access to better / more computers and devices

And this…

Keep providing online 24/7 access to as much content
as possible
Keep providing 24/7 library access
Keep providing as much material as possible (lecture
notes, slides etc) on the VLE, and make it accessible
any time any place
Keep using technology, and embracing new
technology services and resources

And, finally, this…

Stop sending irrelevant emails! (very many students
said this)
Stop early morning lectures
Stop “death by PowerPoint” and other boring lecture
behaviours eg too long, unbroken

The recording of lectures is a no-brainer. As a student, I wouldn’t bother getting up for an 8:30 lecture if I knew it was going to be recorded. It seems, then, the decision on how to do lectures in this ‘new’ environment is going to be a design question I’m going to spend a little time exploring. If, for example, I choose to put all lectures online, what’s the best way to do that? What opportunities do I sacrifice when adopting an online process? What becomes available to me in the digital space that isn’t as easy in the F2F space?

On Monday and Tuesday I’ll be working with Joyce Seitzinger from Academic Tribe as part of a Digital Design Sprint to learn how to think through many of the issues I’ll be facing as I create the new Management In Practice course. I’m going to capture much of that process as I can and publish it here so that others might learn from it as well. I hope you’ll join me.