What kinds of staff support is needed to implement these new open connected approaches?
In 2013 the UKOER Programme Evaluation Team carried out surveys and interviews with individuals who had been involved in the Programme and they identified lack of time as the most significant barrier for individuals engaging with open practice. Second was a lack of awareness of the benefits and the next top barriers identified were lack of institutional support and lack of institutional strategy. Other barriers were also identified as significant but it is interesting to note that three of the top 4 choices where related to being supported by their institution. The Coventry open media classes were led by innovative teachers with a commitment to open practice. This was a vital component of the success of the initiative but as argued earlier managerial support was also a crucial factor. Managerial support in this context ranges from being given endorsement from senior managers to adopt CC licences and utilise non-institutional technologies to being given time and space by Department Managers to be experimental.
As described in the next section, teaching activities do change with these models – so for example, aggregating and curating content becomes important which may be balanced with additional input from external specialists in guiding and supporting students. The approaches adopted did take more time and required teacher input outside ‘normal work hours’, with online activity happening across time zones. Staff need to be committed to open approaches, to being experimental and to troubleshooting as new approaches are tested, this requires confidence and skills. Put another way, they need to lack attachment to, or confidence in, the traditional approaches, but have a radical willingness to learn how to do new things. For established academic staff trying out very different models can be challenging when they are also learning how to adapt with new technologies and teaching approaches and they need appropriate support mechanisms to share their experiences and responses to the new approaches. This is what the team describe as ‘the adoption curve’.
There are specific challenges and difficulties engendered by the fact that even within one department there are large variations in the awareness, acknowledgement and engagement with the ‘Open’ agenda. Therefore, as each individual/group is at a different point on the adoption curve it is actually quite difficult for colleagues to easily share information and mentor/support each other. (COMC Project Final Report, 2012)
This is where short term project funding, such as that provided by Jisc, can help departments make space for innovative practice as well as time for reflection and evaluation, not only with colleagues within the institution but also those from other institutions in different contexts. Staff need time to learn to adopt new technologies and time to look at other models allowing them to adjust to new open approaches.
Even when projects or initiatives are led by teachers, there are still challenges in trying to engage all staff with open approaches. UKOER projects adopted a wide range of techniques to engage staff and raise awareness but an interesting approach at Coventry is to employ staff with an openness or willingness to be experimental with their own teaching, to question their own practice and to look outside their own practice to what is happening in the wider context. The Coventry Open Classes require teaching and support staff to be competent with social media and confident about their own digital identifies. Each of the staff leading open classes have their own blogs and offer exemplars to their students.
See other findings: What critical factors led to the development of the open classes? | What kinds of institutional and departmental structures, strategies, policies and processes can support these models? | Open classes curriculum design and delivery | What was the impact of the classes on the various stakeholders? | How transferable are the models to other institutional contexts and subject disciplines?