Monday, December 5, 2011

Understanding the reasons academics use - and don't use - endorsed learning technologies

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Gregory Kennedy, Deb Jones, Dianne Chambers, and Jon Peacock started their presentation with a wee cartoon that pictured a person in front of a computer that read "either there is an error, or you are too dumb to use this computer". This introduced the research project that the team has undertaken around the question "What are the drivers of technonolgy use in teaching and learning at the University of Melbourne?". Shannon and Doube (2003, 2004) identified a list of barriers impacting the uptake of technology, and this has been extended by Birch and Burnett (2009) - reasons are categorised as institutional, individual, and pedagogical.

Gregory introduced some of the internal University tools available (Blackboard, Moodle, Turnitin, Echo etc), but these enterprise systems were then being extended by 'unsanctioned' technologies freely available on the Web. The team undertook a survey with staff, and the quantitative data was reported on. The survey was completed by 268 faculty members, and the demographics were unsurpising. Some of the trends in what they found included a high percentage of faculty used the institution LMS tools, followed by about 50% plus using things such as Turnitin, and then 60% and up of staff who have never used the institution tools...some of which they didn't actually know about. The non-University-based technologies included onlined video (48.4% using them). Interesting that one of the areas where they could make the comparison was the blog and wiki tools. In an area where people are not using many of the more advanced social media tools, there is a rough equivalence between institutional and non-institutional tools.

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There are a number of reasons for people using technology, especially value for students. Using a factor analysis the data was analysed and the reasons for using the technology are innovation and learning, and the sencond factor was the convenience. For not using, the reasons included support and skills, and relevance and value where there were concers about how relevant it would be for both staff and students. The four scales were put through a cluster analysis which pulled together all areas that were 'alike'. There were four clear set of staff that emerged - Regular citizens (n=41)not strong dirvers for technology); Convenience driven (n=37) most value in the ability of technology to make things more convenient; Perfect citizens (n=72) not that driven by lack of relevance, motiavated to use technology based on value, relevance etc; Dedicated warriors (n=95) similar to perfect citizens are in it for the right reasons but still have another of concerns; Disgruntled pragmatists 9n=17) dominated by the reasons not to use technology.
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"Although technology is now commun place in most higher education institutions - most institutions have invested in a...VLE and employ staff dedicated to support eLearning - there is little evidence of significant impact on teaching practice" (Blin & Munrol, 2008).

Time is a huge issues for staff. Strategies need to be developed to encourage more faculty to invest time and effort, and one of the key factors identified are professional development.

Some interesting findings - it would be interesting to hear how the findings from the data have been used. At the moment they have been sent through to the academic board at the University, and this will then go foward into practical strategies to tailor PD programmes in response to that.
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