AARNet proudly sponsored the ACODE (Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning) Learning Technologies Leadership Institute 2013, held from 18 to 22 August.
James Sankar, AARNet’s Director, Enterprise Services presented on Leadership for Innovation and reports on the program:
The focus of the Institute is on meeting the leadership and management development needs of the next generation of leaders in tertiary education in relation to the use of technologies to support learning and teaching.
This is a professional development program. As well as attending presentations focusing on various concepts participants are given the opportunity to apply these concepts through a hands-on ‘Making the Case’ exercise. Groups of participants develop and present a case for a more strategic approach to the use of learning technologies under a selected institutional scenario.
Universities are seeking new ways to differentiate themselves and online education can improve the student experience, student retention rates and attract new students and staff.
Much was revealed during the ‘Making the Case’ exercise about how creative learning and teaching technologists need to be to effectively support and sustain the change to new forms of course delivery. And, because learning and teaching technologies rely on ICT connectivity, effective online course delivery also requires a greater engagement with University IT Services, IT Service policy and the use of learning analytics (coupled with business analytics).
Some current real world issues were also discussed:
Meeting expectations from academics and students often with little notice can be challenging.
Timetabling to access rooms can be problematic and can impact choice of course times and location, which can impact the on campus experience.
A limited number of Learning Management Systems (LMS) products and services is a concern at a time when there are lots of other non-LMS collaboration-based solutions that can be utilized but requires navigating through a complex supporting environment. A coherent applications ecosystem or framework for choice that can easily access content repositories and allow for learning analytics would offer flexibility beyond reactive LMS development based on open standards-based application programming interface (APIs).
The push for more revenue by attracting and retaining students needs to be considered from a staff capability, student experience and revenue/margin perspective. More students require more teaching staff, more support staff and services, more engagement in the online and offline experience and, in some cases, more investment in physical and online infrastructure. Being able to tie these elements together for effective synergies and business growth is going to require multidimensional approaches to problem solving and the use of partners. Expect strategic alliances, shared services and partnership to grow to deliver innovative solutions cost effectively in the future.
The expectation that institutions can and will support both offshore education and marketing onshore for overseas students makes the assumption that there is the sufficient Internet infrastructure to connect to Asia and the USA. US capacity is currently able to meet projected demand, however there are limited choices, and capacity into Asia requires financial investment beyond what AARNet can support alone. Any university plans to develop online services into Asian markets would strengthen the case for sector and/or government funding of much-needed investment in infrastructure ahead of or in line with the expected upturn curve in online education export market growth.
Even with AARNet as the core network, local IT networks can vary in terms of capacity, design, support and operation. There's a need for a complete end-to-end network along with access to services equipped to support the Learning and Teaching Community, to propel innovation in the creation of quality online courses for blended learning where the product and service options are many and varied and access is simple, straightforward, agile and responsive. To do this requires bringing together the Learning and Teaching, IT Services and AARNet communities, the approach an increasing number of institutions are taking.