This week we are talking innovation with the President of the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) and Digital Scholarship & Content Innovation manager at the University of Southampton, Fiona Harvey! @fionajharvey
Over to Fiona to get a flavour of the topic on Wednesday 22nd March.
Innovation is an overused term that means a lot of different things to many people with little innovative practice harnessed within higher education.
When we talk about ‘innovation’, some involved in learning technology will argue that they are innovative but are they? Is looking after IT systems or supporting the implementation of a VLE innovative?
What would be useful is a definition, and from that, we can start to determine what is innovation and what is ‘business as usual’.
In my search for definitions of Innovation in higher education, I came across a remarkably useful document from Educause. I encourage you to read it because it not only provides an explanation of their definition, but it also provides a toolkit for determining the level of innovation within your institution. They explain that for any institution to become innovative, there needs to be “a shared definition of what innovation means within the context of its work”. They also refer to the culture of an institution, and that is important, culture clashes are one of the main barriers to stifle innovation.
Factors for innovation
1) Learning spaces
This is not new, in 2006, Diana Oblinger (then director of Educause) published Space as a Change Agent In 2007, Learning Spaces formed part of the Learning and Teaching conference at Oxford Brookes; JISC produced the Designing and Evaluating Learning Spaces and of course, incubator ‘hubs’ like the Disruptive Media Learning Lab in Coventry, with their ethos of being a ‘safe space to fail’ enabling students and staff to explore and engage in real learning using technology.
2) Curriculum design and development
The development of digital literacies skills and capabilities as well as the effective use of educational technology to support collaborative, proactive learning. UCL have their ‘Connected Curriculum’ bringing research into education. The Open University have an Innovation Unit, actively exploring new ideas and technologies and in FE, some colleges have solo innovators to enhance the curriculum.
3) Supportive networks
Through Networked Learning, Communities of Practice and Communities of inquiry. MOOCs could be classed as a missed opportunity here. Open access fits here, as a tool to enable, share and support these communities.
4) Institutional support
Across these areas of ‘innovation’, creativity and risk-taking prevail. Without the backing of an institution the risk is personal, but with support, strategic direction and resourcing innovation can happen.
Regarding the UK government’s perspective, funding bodies resist ‘innovation’ as a risk and within TEF innovation is absent. On the other hand, agencies like the HEA, QAA, JISC and ALT actively support and encourage exploring and reflecting on working together to develop and share innovative practices. It is an exciting time, as arguably, the EdTech ducks are in a row, educational and network technologies have reached a point where they are more accessible (faster and cheaper) than ever before.
To join the LTHEchat, follow the #LTHEchat hashtag on Wednesday between 8-9pm. Join in the conversation or just listen in. Everybody welcome.