The use of digital technologies for learning and teaching, doesn’t just happen. Staff don’t always instinctively pick up the skills and capabilities to utilise the range of digital tools and services available to them. In a similar manner the application of pedagogy to mobile, remote and online delivery is not as simple as translating in-person pedagogical practices.
Of course learning technologists and academic developers will know this and design and deliver a range of training programmes and guidance, and provide support to academics in their use of digital.
However on a recent post on a mailing list an educational technologist from an university outlined some of the challenges they were facing.
They found that academics were not attending staff development sessions, they thought that this might be perhaps because staff are very busy with preparation, delivery, marking, research.
Busy is one way to describe this, prioritisation might be another. They may well see the advantages of such staff development activity, but indicate they don’t have time to attend such development sessions. It’s not then an issue of time, but one of priorities. When you have a full week of “stuff” to do, finding that gap to do staff development may not always be possible.
Another challenge mentioned was about academics not seeing the benefit of training.
Picking this apart, some academics may feel they already “know” how to use the tools and services, and don’t see the value of further training. They may not know what they don’t know. Often the technical skills required to use a tool are quite easy to pick up, however the advanced skills to take advantage of the affordances, the potential of tools, and benefits it can being, may not always be apparent.
Another angle on this, was you might invest the time in staff development, only to discover that you either knew it already, or it wasn’t relevant to your role. That “risk” often means that the decision to attend not not to attend a staff development session, you err on the side of caution, and decide not to attend.
A further challenge was one of visibility, just because you send an email about staff development activities, doesn’t mean the people you want to read it, actually read it!
Thinking about the challenges faced by this educational technologist, I was reminded of the “Short and Sweet” sessions I use to run at Gloucestershire College.
Back in the day, when I worked at Gloucestershire College I faced similar challenges with limited or non-existent attendance at staff development sessions.
The solution for me was to take those staff development sessions, shorten them to fifteen minutes and take them to the practitioners.
I created a menu of sessions that I provided to curriculum managers, with how they could incorporate them into their meetings. It was a pick and mix type approach. Combined with the term short and sweet, we did go down a sweets theme in the look and feel.
These sessions were then delivered in their team meetings. I ensured I kept to time and only used the time I was allocated. This was important in getting invited back. I also made a note of requests for further follow up training sessions.
What I found was that the practitioners who were interested got some useful information about the practice or the tools which were demonstrated. Those who didn’t know about it would potentially learn about the potential, and could consider finding out more. Then those staff who were not interested at all, wouldn’t be wasting a whole day or a morning, it would be just fifteen minutes.
The impact was readily apparent with practitioners telling me about their implementation within days (or even hours) of the fifteen minute session.
Short and Sweet” sessions lasting fifteen minutes were not the only model of development we delivered, there were also sessions lasting an hour, half a day and the odd whole day development.
They were a little techno-centric, but they could cover anything, so as well as technology they could be pedagogy as well. It worked really well and many other teams started to use the term, saying things like “should we “short and sweet” this training?”
I am aware of a couple of universities that “borrowed” the concept for their own training, for example the University of Oxford.
So do you do something similar to the short and sweet concept?