From awareness to maturity: Using "benchmarking" to inform professional development initiatives - a New Zealand experience

McMillan, Adam and Clayton, John (2009) From awareness to maturity: Using "benchmarking" to inform professional development initiatives - a New Zealand experience. In: BERA 2009: British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, 2-5 September, 2009, Manchester, England.

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The increasing use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in educational institutions has created opportunities for the transformation of the learners' educational experience. It can increase flexibility of provision and also advance the personalisation of learning. However, increasing use of ICT creates many challenges for these institutions. For example, how do they manage the change in approaches to learning, how do they make informed ICT investment decisions, and how do they measure their progress (HEFCE, 2005) Benchmarking is based on the concept of comparison and measurement. In the case of ICT-enhanced learning, a clear set of measurable indicators such as tutor's satisfaction with learning technologies and the levels of support that they receive to acquire appropriate skills, are identified to measure a provider's performance against others in the same field (Clayton & Elliott, 2007). While the results obtained by benchmarking can often be misused and may be treated with suspicion, when used appropriately the findings of the benchmarking process can help the provider reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, facilitate organisational understanding and inform organisational implementations (HEAEDST, 2008). The e-Learning Maturity Model (eMM) is a benchmarking tool designed to ensure educational organisation investments in e-learning design, development and deployment are meeting the needs of the learners, trainers and the organisation. The eMM is partially based on the software engineering process maturity models first proposed in the early 1990s. It is focused on the concept that organisations need explicitly to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. By working through the levels of eMM an organisation, through defined and managed processes, better understands what it is doing and where to focus resources to improve and refine successful developments. This detailed understanding of organisational aspects of e-learning will allow institutions incrementally to improve their overall e-learning capability (Marshall, 2006). In March 2008 the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) received the benchmark results from the eMM tool (Left, Neal, & Marshall, 2008) which outlined the strengths and weaknesses of 35 e-learning processes within Wintec. Through an analysis of five dimensions of each process: delivery, planning, definition, management and optimisation a "carpet" was produced summarising the results. In this "carpet" dark shading indicated the institution was mature (strong) in that process and conversely light shading indicated immaturity (weakness). An initial review of all the 35 processes indicated five were focussed on the capability of tutorial staff to use e-learning technology and pedagogies effectively (Clayton, Elliott & Twohey, 2009). A fine grained analysis, using the eMM Process Assessment Workbook (Marshall, 2006a), identified one process in particular, S5: Teaching staff are provided with pedagogical support and professional development in using e-learning (S5), was deemed to be significant to the Capability Development team's activities. After a preliminary review of this process, and the associated indicators, a work-stream was created to firstly, maintain Wintec's current levels of maturity and to secondly, address areas of perceived weakness. This paper presentation will begin with an overview of the S5 process and explore Wintec's maturity and weakness as measured by this process. It will then identify and outline the professional development initiatives undertaken by the Capability Development team to improve the pedagogical support and professional development offered to tutorial staff. These initiatives included: .The design and delivery of a series of short e-learning courses that scaffold into a recognised qualification. .The development and ongoing support for an on-line community of practice enhancing the pedagogical understanding of staff and providing staff access to course templates and best evidence examples relating to on-line assessment and e-course design. .The scheduling of regular face-to-face staff discussion forums to identify and disseminate best practice. .The provision of one-to-one staff support in portfolio development and reflective practice. Currently a variety of mechanisms are being designed and implemented to ascertain and report on the effectiveness of the initiatives. These include: .The development of practical tasks to assess individual staff capability after undertaking formal training courses. .The design of satisfaction surveys to determine levels of engagement with the development initiatives. .The preparation of quarterly reports to inform Heads of School on progress. .The presentation of biannual reports to Executive on institutional capability to provide pedagogical support and professional development to staff. While the initiatives undertaken by the Capability Development team are still in their infancy and have yet to demonstrate increased levels of maturity of the institution and of individual tutorial staff. The team believes actively participating in this benchmarking process has encouraged them reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. This in turn as ensured staff is offered appropriate professional development for ICT rich environments.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Keywords that describe the item:Benchmarking, elearning, eMM, professioanl development
Subjects:L Education > L Education (General)
Divisions:Corporate > Assett Centre
ID Code:663
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Deposited On:05 Dec 2010 22:52
Last Modified:05 Dec 2010 22:52

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