This is my third blog post associated with my recent talk at the Italian e-learning society conference in Salerno. The previous posts reviewed e-learning policy to date and argued that despite the potential of technologies, the impact on practice has not been as extensive as might have been hoped. There is a gap between the rhetoric of policy and actual practice. Why is it that great policy initiatives still fail? I think there are three main reasons:
Common reasons for not engaging
- “I haven’t got time”
- “My research is more important”
- “What’s in it for me?”
- “Where is my reward?”
- “I don’t have the skills to do this”
- “I don’t believe in this, it won’t work”
Common resistance strategies
- I’ll say yes (and do nothing)
- Undermine the initiative
- Undermine the person involved
- Emphasis on the technologies, not the people and processes
- Funding for technology developments
In this post I want to put forward a framework designed to help bridge that gap and ensure that policy is more effective. To my mind policy needs to be considered in relation to three other inter-related aspects of e-learning: research and development, teacher practice and the learner experience. Only by taking account of these can we ensure that policy is effective. In order to maximise each of these we need to do the following:
Policy: Align with institutional and national initiatives and funding opportunities, ensure it is firmly embedded in relevant strategy, and align with broader technological trends.
Research and development: R&D enables us to explore what is possible with technologies, however it is important that we put in place effective formative evaluation strategies to observe changing user behaviour as they interact with the tools, as well as identification of drivers and challenges.
Teacher practice: We need to start from where teachers currently are, their motivations and fears, their skills levels. Upper most in our minds must be the question “What’s in it for them?” We need to observe and learn from actual practice, how the teachers are interacting with the tools, what is working and what isn’t.
The learner experience: Perhaps most importantly of all we need to identify what impact all of this is actually having on the learner experience, is there evidence of improvement? Because ultimately surely this is the overarching goal – pedagogically effective and innovative use of technologies to improve the learner experience.
All four aspects are inter-related: the research can inform future policy directives and help guide practice. The teacher and student voices can in term help shape policy and steer R&D activities. I concluded the talk by posing a series of questions and reflections:
- What is the relationship between Government rhetoric and actual practice?
- How can technologies support new forms of pedagogy?
- What is the relationship between technologies, physical and virtual spaces and pedagogy?
- How do we take account of a digital divide that is ever narrower but deeper?
- What new digital literacy skills will learners and teachers need ?
- E-learning innovation will require a radical rethinking of the curriculum,
- E-learning challenges existing norms about assessment
Too often policy is developed in isolation from the other components of e-learning and as a consequence too often it fails. By articulating the explicit relationship to these other components there is a chance that policy can begin to have a greater impact. Link to the other blog posts, resources, references and the slides are available on cloudworks.