At this year’s ALT-C conference, Richard Walker led a discussion session on: ‘Open and flexible learning opportunities for all? Findings from the 2016 UCISA TEL survey on learning technology developments across UK higher education. The slides for the workshop are available here and as the title of the workshop suggests, they cover some of the key messages emerging from the 2016 Technology Enhanced Learning Survey of the UK higher education sector. The full report for the Survey has been published on the UCISA website at: https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel
The Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Survey is the eighth of its kind that UCISA has conducted, and offers a longitudinal perspective of TEL developments over a 15-year period within UK higher education, focusing on the provision already in place within institutions and the current, emerging and planned patterns of learning technology use across the HE community. Of particular interest in this year’s Survey was the progress that institutions were making with the implementation of lecture recording and learning analytics services, as well as developments in open learning provision. The Survey also sought to keep track of longitudinal developments in strategies and drivers for centrally managed TEL services, focusing on the range of TEL tools used by students, as well as staffing provision in support of these services. The Survey is typically completed by institutional heads of e-learning and for this year’s Survey 110 out of a possible 160 UK higher education institutions responded – a response rate of 69%.
So what were the headline findings?
(i) Drivers and barriers to institutional TEL developmentThe principal institutional driver for TEL development remains unchanged since 2003 with a continuing focus on the use of learning technologies to enhance the quality of learning and teaching. Unsurprisingly student expectations have a key influence on strategic thinking when it comes to the development of institutional TEL services. Meeting student expectations, improving student satisfaction and establishing a common user experience for TEL services all appear in the top five list of driving factors for institutional TEL development. Indeed Student learning experience and engagement strategies now represent the second most commonly cited category of institutional strategy informing TEL development after the Teaching, Learning and Assessment strategy, and have a higher profile than Corporate, Library or dedicated TEL strategies in this respect.
Lack of time continues to be the leading barrier to TEL development, with departmental / school culture rising up the list to second place. Institutional culture also features, along with Lack of internal sources of funding and Lack of staff commitment in the top five barriers to TEL development. Lack of support staff remains one of the lowest ranked barriers with the majority of institutions reporting an increase in TEL support staff since the last Survey; further staffing changes are foreseen over the next two years, primarily relating to increasing numbers as well as the restructuring of their services.
(ii) Modes of course delivery supported by TEL servicesHow then are TEL tools being used by institutions to support the various modes of course delivery?
Blended learning delivery, focusing on the provision of lecture notes and supplementary resources, remains the most common mode of course delivery using TEL. The key change from 2014 has been the increasing institutional engagement in the delivery of fully online courses, with over half of the responding institutions to the Survey now supporting some form of delivery through their schools or departments. This represents a key change from previous Surveys, where fully online delivery has previously been reported as a niche activity conducted by specialist distance learning providers.
In contrast, institutional engagement with open learning delivery has not progressed from the picture recorded in 2014, and only 11 institutions confirmed that they have an open learning strategy. The most popular open online learning format is online courses for all registered students at an institution – commonly referred to as OOCs! Despite the increasing adoption by institutions of open learning platforms such as FutureLearn and Open Education by Blackboard, less than half of responding institutions to the Survey are currently engaged in the delivery of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Where MOOC delivery is taking place, it tends not to be integrated with campus-based course delivery, with the majority of institutions opting to use a separate platform from the main institutional VLE to deliver their public courses. For a fuller discussion of the TEL Survey findings on open learning developments, take a look at the YouTube summary video by Martin Jenkins (Coventry University).
(iii) Centrally supported TEL tools and servicesHave there been any notable changes in the range of TEL services that institutions are now offering to support the student learning experience since the last Survey?
The key change since the last Survey has been the increasing deployment of e-submission tools within HE institutions. After the main institutional virtual learning environment, e-submission tools are now the most common centrally-supported TEL service across the sector, rising above text-matching (plagiarism detection) services in the list of supported services. Over half of responding institutions now deploy e-submission tools in 75% or more of the courses that they deliver to students. There have also been notable increases in the adoption of formative e-assessment and document sharing tools and a broader implementation of lecture capture solutions across the sector since the last Survey, with at least 50% of members from all university mission groups now supporting such a system.
In contrast to these developments, only 20 institutions reported that they have established learning analytics services which are used by students, with 17 institutions linking their services to the main VLE. These services typically have only been deployed across 1% – 4% of their courses, representing a small-scale implementation at this stage. However, we may expect further developments in service provision in the future, with 29 institutions confirming that they will be reviewing analytics systems over the next two years. If you would like to find out more about what the Survey tells us about learning analytics developments across the sector, take a look at the following YouTube summary video. (For a summary of the discussion on Day 1 of the 2016 ALT conference on the current state of play with learning analytics across the UK higher sector, take a look at the following blog post.)
(iv) Approaches to TEL service management and supportOutsourcing of institutional services continues to grow, primarily for student email, e-portfolio systems, VLEs and staff email. The type of outsourcing model is dependent on the platform being outsourced, such that institutions are more likely to use a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud-based model for email services, and to use an institutionally managed, externally hosted model for TEL related tools, such as e-portfolios and the VLE for blended and fully online courses.
There has been little change since the last Survey in the optimisation of TEL services for access by mobile devices. The percentage of institutions optimising access to lecture recordings has stayed at the same level as 2014, despite the steady investment in lecture capture systems which has been taking place across the sector. This may be largely due to commercial solutions providing users with their own mobile app, as is the case at York with our own hosted Panopto service, which comes with a dedicated app for iOS and Android devices to support the viewing access and the upload of video recordings. Course announcements, email and course materials are the leading categories of services which have been optimised for mobile devices (iOS, Android and Windows), with Russell Group institutions leading the way in optimising access to library services.
(v) TEL developments making new demands and future challenges for TEL service management and supportFinally, what are the TEL developments making new demands on support services across the sector? Taking the increasing implementation of e-submission services into account, it comes as no surprise to see that the electronic management of assessment (EMA) now tops the list of TEL developments making new support demands. Lecture capture is the second most commonly cited development making support demands, with mobile technologies dropping down to third place. Distance learning and fully online course provision and learning analytics enter the top-five list of developments for the first time, with MOOCs dropping out of the picture.
Staff development is identified as the leading challenge to TEL development over the next two to three years, and no doubt this is related to increasing academic staff engagement with new TEL services such as EMA and lecture capture, which are becoming central to learning and teaching activities across the sector. As we observed after the 2014 Survey (blog post here), teaching staff are now expected to use a wide range of technologies as part of their academic practice, well beyond the uploading of course notes to the institutional VLE platform. This finding underscores the importance of investment in staff development in future years – specifically with the development of digital literacies for teaching staff.
To access the full 2016 UCISA Survey findings, please download the report at: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel