As our guide to sustaining and embedding innovations good practice notes:
'Sustainability in innovation projects can be defined as embedding change as well as maintaining and enhancing project outcomes.'
This is achieved by:
- Changing people and culture
- Working with existing institutional structures to influence organisational change
- Embedding or aligning with strategies, processes, systems, initiatives and services
- Creating usable tools and resources (as part of project outputs) to meet stakeholder needs
- Developing commercial and open approaches to sustaining and embedding innovation
Implementing a mobile learning initiative is, at its most basic level, just another change management procedure. It is important, for example, to project manage the initiative effectively, take account of cultural considerations, and obtain senior level buy-in.
In order to make the change sustainable, however, there must be some kind of momentum to the project, something that keeps it going beyond the initial flurry of excitement and embeds the innovation across the institution.
"It’s worth thinking hard about the implications of what you’re going to do in the longer term, rather than the short term – because this is technology that’s very much here to stay."
Tim Fernando, University of Oxford
Mobile learning is a many-headed hydra. Whilst this can be useful when trying to align funding for mobile learning initiatives with funding opportunities and institutional priorities, it can lead to issues because of the sheer number of stakeholders and interested parties there are likely to want to be involved.
‘Sustainability’ means different things to different groups: to finance and marketing teams the focus is upon cost/benefit issues; to IT personnel it is about keeping systems up-to-date; and to academic staff and students it is about the technical systems remaining relevant to desired pedagogical (and social) outcomes.
"As the individual and organisational use and awareness of the benefits of mobile learning increases there needs to be a parallel change to learning design and pedagogy to make the most of these opportunities. This often starts with an assumption that the same content and activities developed for the VLE and larger screen devices will work just as well on smaller mobile devices. Aside from any technical incompatibilities there’s clearly a big difference in terms of teaching and learning activity between what works on 7-inch+ screens and what’s realistic on smaller mobile phones."
The ways that we approach designing systems, workflows and learning opportunities need to evolve as the metaphors and symbols we use in everyday life change. Take, for example, the symbol used next to a long string of numbers to indicate a telephone number. Often, it is a rotary telephone with the receiver placed on top – something that many university students may never have seen or used in practice.
In a similar way, conceptually-speaking, we use frameworks from one area and apply it to another: VLEs and Learning Platforms become glorified filing cabinets, for example. As Vavoula and Sharples (2008) draw attention to, “these ‘borrowed’ frameworks and tools might no longer be adequate” as mobile learning is not just “learning that is facilitated by mobile technologies” but involves “processes of coming to know through conversations and explorations across multiple contexts” (Vavoula and Sharples, 2008, p1). The Frameworks for mobile learning section may be able to help your institution with this.
Using metaphors and similes when introducing mobile learning initiatives can be a powerful way to leverage adoption. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that these conceptual frameworks are updated along with additional features and possibilities.
It is a fairly straightforward task to design mobile learning initiatives that focus upon administrative functions and pop quizzes. It is a different matter to design mobile learning initiatives that focus on deep learning and rich interaction. Doing the latter requires a commitment on the part of several stakeholders, not least academic staff. As John Fairhall, Mobile Technologist at the University of Bradford (see Snapshot) notes, it can be very difficult to convince a lecturer to spend time on mobile learning content “when the majority of their students don’t have a mobile to use it.”
Leveraging the provision already available through external providers is something identified in the quick wins section and removes a potential barrier: internally-developed systems and software need a business justification, but this can be difficult to obtain without evidence of need. If staff start using something that is provided as a matter of course with, for example, the institutional VLE or e-portfolio system, it is a low-risk and low-cost way to investigate potential uses.
The challenge, as Futurelab (2004, p5) point out, is:
to discover how to use mobile technologies to transform learning into a seamless part of daily life to the point where it is not recognised as learning at all.
The same is true at the administrative end of the spectrum; using a mobile device to access information quickly and efficiently should become second-nature to staff and students alike. Achieving this involves a great deal of awareness-raising and hand-holding as to what is possible and desirable when using mobile devices.
Taking a collaborative approach to implementing change pays dividends, as Dave Pickersgill from Sheffield College discovered (see quotation to right). Once staff and students are aware of the potential benefits of mobile learning and senior management buy-in has been achieved, using the advice in the sustaining and embedding innovations good practice and CAMEL methodology guides is likely to lead to a more sustainable mobile learning initiative.
"The CAMEL (collaborative approaches to the management of e-learning) methodology was adopted for CPD as MoLeNET brought new dimensions for a large number of colleagues within the college. A collaborative non-judgemental approach was required in order to allow colleagues to learn from each other as the use of m-devices increased across a diverse number of curriculum areas."
Dave Pickersgill, Sheffield College