Time is still an issue

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Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

Though I have written about time lots of times over time (well at least the last twenty years); across the sector we are still discussing that we need to provide academics and practitioners with more time. There are still many voices out there, saying that the challenge with engaging practitioners with learning technologies is about providing them with time.

The trouble with talking about time, is that it is a somewhat simplistic perspective over what is a complex and challenging issue.

When we say practitioners need time, we may not actually be articulating what the actual issues are.

The problem, that we are discussing, is that academics and practitioners despite all their experiences during the pandemic lockdowns still need to adopt new practices and learn to do things in different ways, whether that be through the use of technology, or different teaching practices. They often picked up the technical skills required, but their pedagogical, design and delivery skills may need development and updating. When taking with practitioners they often talk about not having the time.

The problem appears to many others as well, to be a lack of time, especially when they ask for feedback from staff and get these kinds of responses.

“I don’t have the time.”
“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”
“I am going to need more time.”

Therefore for many the obvious solution is more time.

So is time the solution to the problems we face in education?

It can be nice to have the time to do new and interesting things, but the reality in which we live, work and learn, is that time is a limited resource and we don’t have the time to do everything we want to do. We have to make choices.

Well providing time is obviously a solution to the problem of not having enough time.

I don’t have the time to do this… so giving people the time is the right solution?

Well we know how that works out.

Messages go back to “management” that lack of time is the problem and if only they would provide more time the the problem would be solved. The management response, as expected would usually be there is no extra time.

That isn’t too surprising, as the detail is missing, the benefits. We also need to recognise that using learning technologies is not the only demand on time. The “management” will receive multiple requests for “more time”. 

There is a need to balance the unlimited demand for time (and resources) with a limited amount of time and often diminishing resources.

I would question though is the problem one of lack of time?

Once we focus on time as a solution, we lose sight of the actual problems we are trying to solve. Sometimes we need to go quite far back to really understand the problem we’re trying to solve.

We know also that when people say they don’t have the time, or they need time; what they are can be saying and often the meaning is…

It’s not a priority for me, I have other priorities that take up my time.

Priorities in theory are set by the line manager, who is operationalising the strategic direction and vision of the institution.

So time isn’t a problem. Lack of time is also not the problem. Trying to embed the use of learning technologies is also not the problem. Learning technologies are a solution to a different problem. The problem can be improving student outomes, widening participation, quality assurance.

Identify that problem. If development is required then that is a solution to solving that problem. Then resources (and time) will be prioritised.

This happens with other changes in the organisation, the introduction of new teaching methods, or new learning spaces. If the change rhetoric is isolated from the strategy, then the change becomes a problem to be solved, we don’t see the change as solving a different problem.  So can we blame people for wanting time to do stuff, when they see this stuff as an extra, an addition to the work they are currently doing.

So the next time someone says they don’t have the time, stop, reflect on what you are saying and maybe seeing solutions as problems, and focusing on the actual challenges that the institution is trying to solve.

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