Lost in transition? D-TRANSFORM as a compass for the use of ICT to transform the higher education system

During the EDEN 2015 annual conference in Barcelona (10-12 June 2015), the D-TRANSFORM project held a leadership workshop, from 11.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. on 11 June.

The workshop had the title Lost in transition? D-TRANSFORM as a compass for the use of ICT to transform the higher education system. Its objective was to demonstrate and contrast change management approaches to ICT in e-learning at various institutions and then generate a lively discussion on the implications for participants’ own institutions.

The workshop was led by Paul Bacsich of Sero Consulting Ltd. It included four presenters:

  1. Professor Belinda Tynan, at the time Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning & Teaching at the Open University, UK – now Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Innovation).
  2. Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland.
  3. Jim Devine, former President of the Institute of Art Design and Technology (IADT) in Dublin, Ireland from 2001-2011; now a consultant to the European Union.
  4. Professor András Benedek, Director of the Institute of Applied Pedagogy and Psychology, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary.

The aim of the workshop was to demonstrate to and discuss with participants how senior staff have navigated through the problems of change management in institutions, and from their experiences and those of the audience draw lessons on what are the crucial barriers and how to surmount them. It was assumed that many EU universities now at last have a reasonable grasp of the learning technology and pedagogic aspects of e-learning and have installed adequate IT systems and staff development to deliver e-learning. However, as universities move from incremental change involving early adopters to step-change and then massification in e-learning, the role and skill set of leaders becomes increasingly important – and an increasingly important barrier. Thus it becomes important to hear from leaders with knowledge and experience of how to overcome these barriers.

Each presenter spoke for 10 minutes, identifying two or three areas which posed challenges to them and how they were overcome:

  1. Belinda Tynan drew on her experience at Australian institutions to look in particular at the challenges of leading collaborative projects in the area of ICT in learning.
  2. Clive Mulholland reflected on the challenges of his former institution in Northern Ireland and how he engendered academic cooperation in Wales in connection with OER policy development and initiatives.
  3. Jim Devine looked at the challenges of leading a small specialised institution in a small country, in the context of his wider background in distance learning in Ireland.
  4. András Benedek looked at the ICT in education issues in his institution from the perspective of a senior manager over many years.

The session leader encouraged the audience to bring their own experience of such issues, either as institutional leaders, senior managers, or staff, for example as members of committees and teams chaired/led by leaders. It was useful to have questions from some in the audience from beyond Europe and in particular there were perceptive questions from Canada and South Africa.

As background to the workshop, the D-TRANSFORM project had prepared an initial classification of relevant topics for change management, as a first draft of the syllabus needed for later work packages in the project:

  1. Implications for universities of the digital learner and European policies on e-learning
  2. Handling relationships with governments and government agencies in respect of e-learning, and implications on funding
  3. How to TRANSFORM and restructure your university to focus on e-learning
  4. Developing an e-learning strategy and reviewing e-learning annual plans
  5. Market research/finding the students you want from where you want
  6. Developing and rewarding ‘digital staff’ in respect of e-learning
  7. Understanding and managing the different cost patterns of e-learning
  8. Managing quality, accreditation and reputational risk in e-learning
  9. Managing research in e-learning (should you encourage it?)
  10. What leaders need to know about pedagogy
  11. Leading the decisions on e-learning systems (LMS, etc)
  12. Leading the opening up of e-learning with OER and MOOCs.

That topic list was generated from the following sources: standard headings for the current European benchmarking schemes MIT90s, Pick&Mix and E-xcellence; critical success factors schemes (UKeU, Re.ViCa, Pick&Mix, VISCED); discussion with leaders over many years and consultancy work for government agencies and universities.

After the workshop, it was felt that there was no need to modify the classification, although the various topics might need a different emphasis from that earlier envisaged. For example 6 and 8 were seen by the audience as particularly important.

Selected references

Benchmarking e-learning in UK universities: lessons from and for the international context, http://www.ou.nl/Docs/Campagnes/ICDE2009/Papers/Final_Paper_338Bacsich.pdf

Critical Success Factors, Chapter 5 of the Re.ViCa Handbook, http://revica.europace.org/Re.ViCa%20Online%20Handbook.pdf

E-xcellence, http://e-xcellencelabel.eadtu.eu/

Global overview of quality in online and open education, ICDE, http://icde.typepad.com/quality_models/

Organisational Change in UK education – Report 1, http://www.scribd.com/doc/110519260/Organisational-Change-in-UK-education-Report-1

The relevance of the MIT90s framework to benchmarking e-learning, https://www.academia.edu/4238190/The_relevance_of_the_MIT90s_framework_to_benchmarking_e-learning

University ‘showcases’ for ‘quality in e-learning’ procedures, EADTU, http://sequent-network.eu/images/Guidelines/Sequent_Showcases.pdf

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