Tag Archives: e-learning

Thinking Differently: The Persuasion


Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post called “I think differently”, back then I said then that

I use to think that the “message” of e-learning could be sold to practitioners.

I use to think that once the “message” was sold that these practitioners would then embrace e-learning and use it to enhance and enrich their teaching and their students’ learning.

I use to think, once sold, that these practitioners would continue to use e-learning as e-learning evolved and changed over the years.

I use to think, that these practitioners would sell the “message” to others in their curriculum area and the cycle would continue.

I no longer think this way.

I still agree with this.

I am still told though today by managers that the “case” for using learning technologies needs to be “sold” to the practitioners, and that persuasion should be enough to “convince” them of the value that using these technologies will add to the learner experience and learner engagement.

The problem I have with this, is if it worked then it would have worked years ago!

Don’t get me wrong I know that this way of engaging with practitioners will, and does work with many practitioners (or should that be some practitioners), it will also work for most learning technologies.

However let me ask you another question, is this the approach used when using administrative systems such as registers or assessment tracking? No you wouldn’t try and persuade practitioners to use the register, you would tell them that they have to use it as part of their job.

If managers want practitioners to be “sold” the benefits of technology and persuaded to use them, then they shouldn’t be surprised if practitioners “choose” not to use them, or not use them to their full functionality and benefit. That choice many not necessarily be an informed choice, or a rational choice.

However I also know that “forcing” or telling people that they “must” use learning technologies also doesn’t work, or isn’t very effective.

I should say that at this point my view is that learning technologies should not just be used for the sake of using learning technologies. They are best used when they help either to solve a problem, improves efficiency, makes things better or more effective, or allows for learning to happen in a totally different way that makes it more open, inclusive and accessible.

In order to get practitioners using technology extensively and creatively is to change the culture, from one where technology is the problem, to one where it is part of the solution. Now that is easier said than done.

Well I think differently!

I use to think that the “message” of e-learning could be sold to practitioners.

I use to think that once the “message” was sold that these practitioners would then embrace e-learning and use it to enhance and enrich their teaching and their students’ learning.

I use to think, once sold, that these practitioners would continue to use e-learning as e-learning evolved and changed over the years.

I use to think, that these practitioners would sell the “message” to others in their curriculum area and the cycle would continue.

I know others think this way.

I no longer think this way.


I no longer think this way because I have seen it tried and used in many different institutions, over many educational sectors, across varied curriculum areas and have never seen a holistic success made of this process, it does not work across a whole institution. For example, in FE we had ILT Champions who would “champion” the use of ILT in their curriculum areas.

So what do I think now?

Well I think differently.

We need to think differently if we are to make the best use of e-learning to meet the challenges (and opportunities) over the next few years.

We can’t continue to do what we have always done, just because we have always done it that way.

My methodology now, is more about changing the culture of an organisation so that when new technologies come along, we see it as an opportunity for enrichment, and not a threat to an existing practice. Learning technologies are there to provide solutions to practical, administrative and pedagogical problems, not to be a problem in their own right waiting to be solved.

Practitioners need to be wanting and able to take advantage of the opportunities and solutions that learning technologies can provide, and not see it as something that is annoying, unsuitable, inappropriate or dangerous.

We need to move away from excuses and obstacles, and move towards opportunities and solutions.

It’s not just about “not enough” staff development and training, it’s about practitioner taking responsibility for their own staff development, to seek out a community of practice, to build on their skills, share, collaborate and move forward. It isn’t enough now to rely on a single staff development day, week or event. Staff development is an activity that happens every day.

Community is important, local, regional, national and even international. Sharing practice, ideas and problems is a way of changing culture. Building communities of practice and personal learning networks should be the responsibility of every practitioner, and no they don’t all need to be based around Twitter!

We need to start thinking differently about how we do things, and not do things just because we have always done them that way. Sometimes we will continue to do it that way, but for the right reasons.

Well I think differently!

Do you?

Just remember teachers are like starship captains…

Providing any e-learning service to staff in an institution is a challenge.

Providing a service that meets the varied needs of staff in an institution is also a challenge.

Providing a service that exceeds the expectations of staff in an institution is sometimes an impossible challenge…

…unless you manage the (sometimes) unrealistic expectations of staff.

I remember many years ago in my previous role at the Western Colleges Consortium (WCC) explaining to key stakeholders about how long it would take to process a course creation request on the shared VLE. The process was in place to remove the burden of the task from staff in the partner colleges, ensure that it was only visible to the relevant staff and learners and had some content in it! Once created it was handed over to the staff to add activities and more content.

I recall announcing that we would ensure that all requests would be   fulfilled within seven days.

But the cry came out…

“This is the internet, it’s available 24/7, why can’t you just do it there and then!”

The issue was not about doing it there and then, but managing expectations. We needed to be realistic based on the staff available to complete the requests, holiday, conferences, and levels of requests.

Usually we would complete requests the same working day, however if we said we would do a request within one day and we fulfilled that request in two days, we would have been seen to have “failed”.

By setting a service agreement of seven days, say we completed the request within three days we would be seen as a miracle worker!

It was all about managing expectations.

If your users expect you to complete something in seven days and you take less than seven days then you have exceeded their expectations. Likewise if you say within 24 hours and it takes 25 hours, you have failed in their eyes and not met their expectations.

Realistic service level agreements need to be in place to ensure that you meet and exceed expectations from users. The agreements you have in place should be based on staffing and other resources.

You can of course review and evaluate the agreements over time to ensure that they continue to be realistic, fair and working.

So don’t say within 24 hours and seen to be continually failing, set a level of five days and be seen as a miracle worker!

Why is this The Scotty Model of e-Learning Services, well….

Have a look at this video…

It should start at the correct timeframe of 2 mins into it.

Just remember teachers are like starship captains…

A conference with a difference

Those of you who know me will know that I quite like online conferences and have participated in a fair few over the years. JISC are running another of their innovating e-learning conferences this November.

The JISC Online e-Learning Conference 2009 takes place between the 24 and 27th November.

Innovating e-Learning 2009 is just around the corner

Book now for the fourth JISC online conference ‘Thriving, not just surviving’ 24-27thNovember!

What are the challenges facing 21stcentury institutions? What opportunities does technology offer to help overcome those challenges? You can contribute to these debates in the company of leading thinkers, broadcasters and academics.

The 2009 programme features keynotes from:

Charles Leadbeater, (leading authority on innovation and strategy); Nigel Paine(writer, broadcaster, organisational learning specialist and former Head of People Development at the BBC); Rhona Sharpe(Oxford Brookes University) and Helen Beetham(JISC Learners’ Experiences of e-Learning theme); Peter Bradwell(Demos) on The Edgeless University.

Sessions include Brian Lamb(University of British Columbia) on opening up educational content, Graham Attwell, Martin Weller(The Open University), Rob Howe, (University of Northampton) debating the demise (or otherwise) of educational institutions, Becka Currantand colleagues (University of Bradford) on using new technologies to engage and retain students, Alan Staley (Birmingham City University) on acquiring workplace skills while on course, John Kirriemuirand Kathryn Trinder(Glasgow Caledonian University) on making the most of virtual worlds in teaching and learning, Mike Neary(University of Lincoln) onengaging key stakeholders in the design of physical learning spaces.

Looking for something else? You can also follow new work by JISC projects on transforming delivery of learning with mobile and web 2.0 technologies, and engaging employers and professional bodies in the design of the curriculum. James Clay(Gloucestershire College) returns as the conference blogger, guided tours of Second Life and opportunities for hands-on experience of innovative learning environments and resources in the Have-a-Go area complete a rich and innovative conference programme.

Innovating e-Learning 2009welcomes delegates from further and higher education in the UK and overseas. Proceedings take place in an asynchronous virtual environment so can be accessed wherever and whenever is convenient to you. Keynotes will be delivered live in Elluminate, a collaborative web conferencing platform (recordings will be available post-session).

Innovating e-Learning 2009 is a simply unmissable conference experience. Find out more and register now at www.jisc.ac.uk/elpconference09

Delegate fee: £50

There are a few advantages of online conferences over traditional face to face conferences, feel free to add to them in the comments.

With an online conference it is feasible to go to all the presentations and workshops even if they are at the *same time*.

If you are a reflective person, then like me the question you actually want to ask the presenter is thought of as you travel home on the train, with an online conference you have a chance to reflect and ask that question.

You can attend a meeting at the same time as attending the conference.

You can teach a lesson at the same time as attending the conference.

You can watch Doctor Who at the same time as attending the conference.

You can attend the conference at 2am, useful for insomniacs and those with small children.

Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college.

You can see presentations again, you can pause them, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

The coffee is usually better.