Thursday, 8 October 2009

Ah hoc learning and teaching?

My organisation is in the business of education and we turn out several thousand wonderful graduates every year. In all of this, my job is all about the technology, business processes and project management stuff that we need. We think we have a fairly good understanding of how my bits work, with ITSM, Prince 2 project management and a wonderful bunch of analysts, programmers, technicians et al. In my view, you can run the administrative side of a university like Vodafone or GE - it's all business process, money, planning, scheduling - nothing very magic.

The academic side is different though - very strange and subtle. Our students learning in complex ways. They seem to very much benefit from lots of face to face contact with academics (and each other) but pretty much all of them use technology in ways that are alien to most people over 30.

Life gets interesting when we think about how we're going to use technology in teaching. I'm not talking about digital projectors, IT suites etc - this is all part of the plumbing and should be almost invisible. The challenges come with software that works with the learning process - WebCT, Wimba, Google Apps, Facebook (yes), Second Life, interactive websites of all sorts.

The university has to have a cautious attitude to risk, we set ourselves high standards and we're audited, as is right and proper where there is public money involved and qualification that need to be of unquestionable value and meaning.

At the other end, we have creative academics who are very much digital natives. They twitter, they want to use Google Wave and generally want to put all sorts of resources out there in the cloud and engage their students in imaginative ways that often make then very popular with their classes. The University has a will to look at all of this good stuff, have committees which deliberate on how it all fits into the curriculum. The trouble is that by the time we're done things have moved on again.

Does anyone have a cunning answers to this?