What you need to know
Staff development is a crucial part of making learning and teaching fit for purpose in a digital age.
How you set up your initiative for digital learning is a matter of choice but some aspects will need to be in place before you start:
- Planning for staff development is embedded in the organisation’s strategy for learning and teaching
- There are clear goals and a timeline for their achievement
- All staff understand their role in bringing your organisation’s digital goals to fruition and feel appreciated for taking part
- Support is available in different forms: ‘away days’ for team planning, micro-learning videos for just-in-time support, IT helplines, peer mentoring, learning walks, student ambassador schemes are just some of the ways our research has shown work well in practice.
Remember that if you introduce technology too early without adequate support and planning, it becomes a barrier to staff engagement that can be difficult to overcome.
Many experienced in staff development say it is best to identify first where you want to get to, and then decide how to get there, with the primary focus being on people rather than technology.
Why this matters
Enabling staff to become digital professionals in their own right is essential to achieving your organisation’s vision for teaching and learning. This is so that staff are able to use appropriate digital tools in their role as educators and as professionals in their disciplines.
Arguably the most important reason, however, is that staff who are digitally competent and pedagogically informed will be able to help their students to learn in ways that are appropriate and relevant to today’s digital world.
Case studies in many sections of this guide yield insights into how institutions have achieved these goals through staff development. More are available in this section.
What the experts say
“Teachers need help with making effective design decisions that are pedagogically based and make appropriate use of digital technologies.”
Gráinne Conole, educational consultant
Read more about the seven Cs of learning design in Gráinne's presentation on SlideShare.
Be inspired - case studies
Harlow College – a holistic approach
In 2015, Harlow College supplied iPads on loan to all staff and full-time students. To demonstrate their commitment to this strategy for enhancing learning and teaching, senior managers attend staff development sessions to learn alongside staff how to make best use of the tool for digital learning. If any staff member does not engage further, a bespoke session is delivered to the whole department. This gives support to individuals without allocating blame.
“Support should not be about making someone feel uncomfortable or punishing them if they are anxious about adopting something new. It’s about taking positive steps towards change.”
Kelly Edwards, director of professional development and quality improvement, Harlow College
Edinburgh Napier University – the 3Es approach to digital learning
Edinburgh Napier University’s 3Es framework takes a stepped approach to embedding technology in learning, teaching and assessment that is applicable across all disciplines and levels of study.
The three stages are:
- Enhance: technology is used in simple and effective ways to support students and increase their activity and self-responsibility
- Extend: use of technology facilitates key aspects of students' individual and collaborative learning and assessment by increasing their choice and control
- Empower: use of technology is highly developed and requires higher-order individual and collaborative learning that reflects how knowledge is created and used in a professional environment
“As students transition along the 3E continuum, the tutor is relinquishing more control and responsibility to their learners. While this brings benefits, it can take adjusting to and requires the tutor to be comfortable with assuming a facilitating role or, for some kinds of activities, a co-learning role (eg student-led seminars).”
Edinburgh Napier University
Northern Regional College (NRC), Northern Ireland – micro-learning means flexibility
Northern Regional College's digital strategy has focused on increasing usage of the digital learning environment and preparing the ground for electronic management of assessment. As not all staff had the necessary skills to meet these objectives, Helen Dixon, NRC’s head of digital learning, has pioneered a micro-learning approach to staff development.
This has meant creating a web of short, interconnected resources organised under topics rather than a linear course containing information an individual might not need. Bite-sized and flexible, these small ‘chunks of digital know-how’ can be shared readily via social media.
“Staff can pick and mix what they feel comfortable with. In choosing what topics and activities they do, they feel in control over the pace and pathway of their learning. Face-to-face sessions can then be offered for the less confident.”
Helen Dixon, head of digital learning, Northern Regional College
See Helen Dixon's presentation: making the most of microlearning: ideas and insights, taken from our Connect More event in Northern Ireland in June 2017:
Use our discovery tool to assess your own and your team’s digital capabilities before drawing up an action plan to develop your digital skills further.
Sign up for FutureLearn’s blended learning essentials courses: getting started, embedding practice and developing digital skills. These free, online courses are designed for the vocational education and training sector.
Take a look at EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’s 7 things you need to know about… series. This provides concise information on emerging learning technologies and related practices.