One issue I have found with TEL research that is written about in journals or presented about at conferences, is that most if not all is based around small cohorts of learners and rarely looks at the impact across a whole organisation.
Sometimes the TEL research appears to be about doing research and not necessarily thinking about the scaling up and mainstreaming of the research at a later date.
Often the research has minimal funding, which means that you are forced to use a smaller number of learners. Often the lack of funding means that though there is existing research out there, rather than scale up from that, the research is duplicated (again with a smaller cohort).
It needs to be noted that sometimes TEL research shouldn’t be scaled up straight away because that may have a detrimental impact on the learners.
One lesson I would pass on, is if you are undertaking a small scale pilot is to reflect on how it would scale in the future. It’s not just about how the technology, device or process enhances and enriches teaching and learning, but what about all the other stuff. Logistics, charging, storage, training, support, staff development, sustainability, and end of life.
When the iPad was released in 2010, there were lots of iPad pilots undertaken by universities and colleges.
Most of these didn’t seem to take into account the challenges that a large scale roll-out of iPads would require. Where would the iPads be stored, how would they be charged? When it was released there were no charging carts available. I once asked a charging case company to provide a case for Nintendo DS, they couldn’t as there wasn’t the demand for one, and it was too expensive to test just for a single order. The end result was multiple six way gangs to charge the class set; it was no wonder so few people used them.
Another challenge with iPads was how a device designed for an individual could be use by multiple people. If you had a few you could reset them individually, fine if you had ten, impossible if you had a hundred. Then there was the challenge of getting apps on to them. You could sync multiple iPads to a single iTunes account, fine again if you had ten, not feasible if you had a few hundred! Eventually Apple released the management software to manage multiple iPads and the licensing platform to licence apps across multiple iPads.
However those initial iPad pilots weren’t always thinking in terms of that bigger picture, so weren’t able to scale effectively until those multiple iPad issues were resolved.
So if you are looking at a pilot, consider the following:
- If it involves a device to a technology, what about the storage, where will they live when not being used? How will they be charged? What will be the process for booking them? Even if you have a small number consider the perspective if you had enough for everyone!
- If it is a new process (or web based tool) you may be able to train the ten staff in the pilot, what about training the staff across the whole organisation, how is that going to happen and who is going to do it. Thinking about that at the pilot stage means that if the pilot is successful, it will be easier to scale and mainstream later. Similar considerations about staff development and support when things don’t go as planned.
- There is also considerations of sustainability, whose budget will those costs by placed in after the pilot? Are they onboard?
- What about end of life, equipment replacement, where will the funding for all that come from?
Small scale pilots are useful, but thinking about scale and mainstreaming early on will avoid major headaches and challenges later.