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[ 2004 Proceedings Contents ]
To gain the full educational benefits of the major new investments in corporate technologies supporting online teaching and learning it is argued that a strategic, systems based approach of academic professional development (APD) is required. Such an approach requires a clear view of the key areas of potential and enduring teaching and learning benefit which can be realised from online developments, including an understanding of the changing role of the academic teacher in higher education, the identification of the desired professional capacities to educate online and the implementation of a number of coordinated initiatives to develop these professional capacities in order to engage constructively with the learning and technology opportunities. Based on previous work, we propose a '6' by the power of '3' model of Academic Professional Capacities Development for effective APD of online teaching and learning. The model can help inform the actions of policy makers, executives and practitioners in ways that promote an authentic learning organisation.
Holt and Segrave (2003) have argued that the central challenge for universities investing substantially in new corporate technology infrastructure is to create and sustain quality e-learning environments of enduring value for teachers and learners. Six key areas of potential value adding were identified for critical reflection in relation to the role of the academic teacher and other parties in the educational enterprise. Assuming the utility of these six possible areas, the challenge is to establish an organisational culture conducive to the development of professional capacities supportive of advancing these areas. Beyond current efforts to train staff to use the features of learning management systems, we argue that strategic academic professional development must come to the fore. We examine six strategic APD initiatives in support of six areas of potential benefit, relating to six major professional capacities: our '6' by the power of '3' model of Academic Professional Capacities Development for enhancing online teaching and learning across the institution. This model is illustrated in figure 1.
The value to APD professionals in using the 63 model is its depiction of the constant flux and interactions experienced when dealing with the six elements in each of the three fields. This is a contingency based model that properly reflects the need for APD professionals to act strategically in optimising the alignments of elements in their local contexts. It also calls for expert judgments about optimal APD courses of action for improving academic teachers' professional capacities. Our own University's attempts to put in place these types of initiatives are considered illustrative of the challenges of developing a learning organisation culture conducive to creating and sustaining quality e-learning.
Figure 1: '6' by the power of '3' model of academic professional capacities development
Moreover, at least at Deakin University, there has been a sharp strategic focus on determining online teaching and learning objectives, strategies and future implementation plans (see Deakin University Strategic Plan 2004 Taking Deakin University Forward, Deakin University Operational Plan 2004 and 'Deakin Online' Management Plan 2003-2007). While Strategy and Technology have gained greater clarity and direction in recent years, there still remains ongoing shifts in Structures and Management Processes in undertaking the new implementation agendas. Importantly, Individual Skills and Roles remain problematic, particularly in regard to the professional capacities required to make the best use of the investments in major new corporate technology infrastructure. Deakin has defined three levels of online presence: Basic, Extended and Wholly Online (see Deakin University Online Technologies in Courses and Units Policy). While the objective of providing every undergraduate unit with a Basic presence in the University's new Learning Management System (LMS), called Deakin Studies Online (DSO), has been achieved, the higher levels of digital and online development relating to Extended and Wholly Online remains challenging to say the least. The University Strategic Plan to ensure that every undergraduate student enrolled from 2004 undertakes at least one unit wholly online, irrespective of their mode of enrolment, and requiring that no face to face teaching be offered as part of the experience, provides a new context for major innovation. At the beginning of 2004 the University's Pro Vice-Chancellor (Online Services) advocated responses that are not rote and mechanistic but sensitive to the needs of different disciplines and student cohorts. This wholly online experience must develop student attributes in ways that would not be possible through other types of learning environments supported by classroom teaching. So far it is planned for 20-30 such units to be offered in this form between 2004 and 2006.
By emphasising learning rather than training, we do not intend to devalue the importance of appropriate structured learning activities. However, we believe that an overriding interest in how best to organise learning through training has taken attention away from the natural opportunities for learning that occur every day in a person's working life. Training usually refers to short term activities that emphasize practical skills immediately applicable to the job. ... By virtue of the fact that trainers design short term activities, they typically select a discrete array of knowledge, skills and attitudes that experts deem most appropriate to a topic the organization believes is important for its employees to master. ... However, learning then deals with situations out of one's natural context. We believe people learn in the workplace through interactions with others in their daily work environments when the need to learn is greatest.
What then of approaches to developing professional capacities required for designing and working within more elaborate online enhanced and online based learning environments, the new fronts for strategic developments?
We believe that new value will come from the understanding of the need to create new mental models of the newly emerging environments in all their multi-dimensionality. Drawing on the work of Senge, Rylatt (2000, p.20) observes that:
Learning organisations constantly question the assumptions and mindsets of their employees to ensure truth, openness and innovation are championed at the expense of secrecy and politics. Improved performance and potential are achieved by people's willingness to share their mindsets and to state the assumptions and values on which they base their behaviour. This generates a spirit and love for learning that touches the heart and soul of every employee.
Moreover, these environments are characterised by a set of constructive alignments (Biggs 2003) between curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and the broader range of media/technology options enacting these educational aspirations (see Corbitt, Holt & Segrave 2004). In universities, curriculum concerns are often informed by, if they are not the embodiment of, academic teaching staff members' research interests representing even broader synergy between research and teaching. Increasingly, we are seeing in our own University extended and wholly online developments focusing on ICT as a key object of study in a curriculum sense in the relevant discipline, and where interesting ideas on curriculum design have their genesis in various lines of research. All of which provide a mindset most conducive to thinking innovatively about the new digital media and online possibilities. New mental models also relate to the capacity to think of the organisation as operating as a set of interrelated systems as illustrated in figure 2 where the 'a's stand for the five key alignments between curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, media/technology mix and evaluation of impact, while the 'i's represent seven key types of interaction between teachers, learners and resources. Each learning environment must be seen as reflecting and being a part of other learning environments in different domains. An appreciation of systems thinking and new mental models are not fashionable topics for consideration in formal training programs on using learning management systems, for example. However, it is argued that these matters are central to enabling the creative engagements required for e-learning developments to progress systemically and in ways nurturing the agency of academic teachers.
Figure 2: Modelling education design concerns and systems wide impacts of education design
Source: Corbitt et al. (2004, p. 10)
Based on these characteristics of the e-learning 'learning' organisation, Holt and Segrave (2003, pp. 232-3) outlined six areas of potential value adding for teachers and learners in developing and using the new corporate technologies that we believe form the operational agenda for action in academic professional development: broadened and direct contributions from learning support stakeholders (1); opening up of learning environments to external parties (2); customisation and personalisation of learning experiences (3); sharing of learning resources (4); development of virtual practica (5); ecologically responsive e-learning environments (6).
It is envisaged that academic teachers will be critically reflective designers and creators of their own online teaching and learning environments. Academic teaching staff participating in such APD may be new to tertiary teaching; or new to tertiary teaching at the particular institution; or new to online teaching and learning; or experienced tertiary online educators. In the case of our own University, consistent with the institution's strategic directions and policy, academic teachers are faced with or immersed within the task of teaching online at one of the three levels described in the University's Online Technologies in Courses and Units policy (see above). Consequently, participants have a definite need to teach effectively for productive online learning and have some form of meaningful opportunity or context for experimenting with online teaching/learning practices.
In order to facilitate the development of academic staff as effective online teachers, institutions must design and enact a multi-faceted, supportive and responsive APD environment. This should be integrated with, and enhance, teaching and learning development resources and approaches. We envisage APD undertaken through facilitated, peer oriented, explorative and demand led learning experiences. Such APD must create supportive environments drawing on appropriate theories and contemporary practice. The APD environment should be integrated with various levels and types of expert and peer practitioner support at faculty and university levels provided online and through face to face encounters. Participants would work within, draw upon and apply the various APD resources in constructing and working effectively within their own local online environments. Hence, while participants would spend time in APD based exemplar online environments in order to experience different forms of online teaching and learning, the emphasis would be on translating these experiences into their own environments, and constructing and working effectively within these. The ultimate value of APD offerings would lie in the experiences of participants working effectively with their own students, in their own disciplines and in their own context.
This is consistent with leading practices in the commercial world and particularly in professional service firms dealing with knowledge intensive products. Peters (1992, pp. 382-412) highlights the importance of more formally managing the bodies of knowledge created by the organisation with particular reference to the knowledge intensive work of professional service firms like management consultancies. Professional consultants need at their finger tips the collective learnings of all staff in their organisation to maximise their impact for the benefit of their clients. Consistent with this development, it can be argued that those in professional development roles in universities committed to e-learning need at their finger tips the stories of online teaching successes to enhance their work with academic teaching staff in exploring and pursing new possibilities. These stories can also be shared directly among academic teaching staff in their own collegiate deliberations. Easy online access to stories which resonate with academics' needs, support academic teaching staff members' agency in shaping desired futures. The University's proposed gateway for its 'knowledge management system structure' is to be developed as the Deakin Teaching and Learning Portal and will encompass exemplars, student evaluation feedback, general guidance and support etc.
The assumptions underpinning the case portfolio were the following: the audience will range from academics new to online teaching and learning to those experienced in it; the audience will have a minimum basic level of information technology literacy (consistent with the Deakin University Code of Good Online Practice); case studies will be used in traditional professional development settings, as independent and group focussed JITT and in presentations to profile online teaching and learning at Deakin; case studies will be integrated with other training and professional development resources (such as 'step by step' technical training material); case studies need not necessarily be of 'complete' courses (i.e. one design-teach-evaluation iteration); case studies will be highly flexible.
Importantly, each case study has been conceived and developed as a complete 'story' and is able to 'stand alone' for professional development purposes. The cases, as a storytelling exercise, have covered the aims and context of the case situation, the planning and building of the online environment, the actual teaching of the unit, and reflections on the success of the development, proposed changes, and online teaching and learning possibilities for the future. In an environment requiring trust among staff, the cases have a high level of credibility with academic teachers speaking of their experiences to their peers. This seems to be important in winning the 'hearts and minds' of those embarking for the first time on significant online developments. The cases have been indexed to provide appropriate sections which are able to be taken independently and they are flexible to alternative structures and technology. Peters (1992, p. 385) observes that, 'Most talk about "learning organisations" is maddeningly abstract or vague - and perpetually falls short on the specifics'. We believe the Portfolio of Contemporary Cases of Innovative Online Teaching Practices initiative is a concrete example of how to progress the learning organisation ideal as it applies to online teaching and learning developments. We would like it to benefit from learning in other universities about e-learning, and also to contribute to learning in those organisations as part of inter-institutional collaborative arrangements.
While it contains stories of particular practices in particular discipline contexts, it also needs to be viewed from a number of additional perspectives. Beyond the discipline view lies teaching staff members' interests in examining key practice areas in online teaching by academic study entity (i.e. unit, major, course level), level of academic study (i.e. commencing undergraduate, advanced undergraduate, postgraduate coursework, professional doctorate), size of student cohort (less than 50, 50-100, 101-500, 501-1000, greater than 1000) by mode of delivery (i.e. on campus, off campus, international, mixed mode), by key educational function (i.e. communication and collaboration, assessment, materials design and delivery), by pedagogy ( e.g. problem based learning, project based learning, case based learning, workplace based learning) and by related discipline/professional field developments.
The value of the Fellowship was in part related to it promoting cross-faculty and cross-divisional teamwork, supportive of a broader range of collegial interactions and laying the foundations of a Deakin community of professionals collectively committed to enhanced use of ICT in teaching and learning.
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|Please cite as: Segrave, S., Holt, D. & Farmer, J. (2004). The 6 by the power of 3 model for enhancing academic teachers' capacities for effective online teaching and learning: Benefits, initiatives and future directions. In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (pp. 821-830). Perth, 5-8 December. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth04/procs/segrave.html
© 2004 Stephen Segrave, Dale Holt & James Farmer
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