Week 5 – Leadership. Management & Keeping on Track

The success of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) projects – whether championed in the classroom by a lone enthusiast or implemented across an entire school, college or university – is often difficult to predict. Variables such as leadership support and understanding, the suitability and robustness of novel technologies, staff IT literacy and organisational appetite for change can all contribute to the probability of short- and long-term success. Hence even with proper planning and careful consideration of variables that might affect project success, the unexpected can and often does happen.

This week will focus on the importance of planning the implementation of your TEL project, the role of leadership and the consideration of institutional versus externally-sourced solutions. In the context of this module, a project could be the implementation of an online course, or an institution-wide review, or a rollout of a new TEL system.

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This week’s aims

We aim to help you tackle:

  • how to identify issues that might adversely affect your TEL project;
  • what steps to take to ensure your TEL project achieves its full potential.

And here are the learning outcomes we hope you will get out of it:

  • understand the importance of planning through the integration of the elements of learning design, assessment, technology and support;
  • be able to outline a coherent and practical plan including these elements and critique other plans;
  • be able to identify common reasons why TEL projects fail and how to mitigate failure;
  • appreciate how good leadership can enhance TEL experiences and outcomes.

If you only do one thing…

(up to 2 hours)

Planning is an essential part of the project lifecycle to ensure a successful outcome. It is often tempting to just jump in feet first, especially on a small scale project, but starting a project with no firm plan of action is likely to jeopardise the whole process.

Watch one or both of the following videos relating to TEL projects at an institutional and course level. Reflect upon the successes/failures highlighted by the presentations.

Any questions about the presentations can be directed to Julie and Lisa:

  • via Twitter by including @julievoce and the #ocTEL tag in your tweet
  • by email to j.voce@imperial.ac.uk.

Now have a look at Jisc’s Project Management guidance. Thinking about a project you have been involved with, consider the following:

  • Who were your stakeholders?
  • What resources were used?
  • How clear/achievable was the project plan?
  • What fallback position, if any, did you build into your plan in the event of full or partial project failure?
  • What methods did you use to evaluate your project?
  • How did you measure project success?
  • Did you celebrate your success and did this encourage further developments?

On your blog or via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list – reflect on these areas and identify what could have been done better in the planning and implementation stages to improve the project outcomes. Think about what tools and techniques were used to assist with planning and their effectiveness.

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Come and join the live webinar

Learners as leaders – ocTEL webinar week 5

Date/Time: Thursday, June 12, 2014 – 12:30-13:30 BST (timezone conversion | iCal)

Ellie Russell is the Projects Officer for The Student Engagement Partnership, an initiative housed by NUS and funded by HEFCE, Guild HE and AoC. Ellie works on various projects on student engagement and students as partners, including leading on NUS’ work with Changing the Learning Landscape.

Student engagement can feel simultaneously exciting and difficult. In the first half of the session Ellie will explore the politics of student engagement and the emerging focus on students as partners at a national and local level. She will also explore examples of good practice from institutions and students’ unions on engaging students in curriculum design and TEL projects.

Professor Shân Wareing is Pro Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching at Bucks New University, and has worked closely with national organisations including Jisc, ALT, SEDA, the HEA and the Leadership Foundation of which she’s a Fellow. Her academic background is in English Literature and Linguistics, and her previous roles include Dean of Learning and Teaching at University of the Arts London (UAL), where she led teams in Elearning, Teacher Accreditation and Educational Development, and Careers and Employability.

In the second half of the sesion Shân will look at concepts of leadership, and how these can be applied effectively in the context of elearning and higher education, to support students, staff and institutions through times of change. She will draw on examples including the Jisc-funded UAL Digital Literacies Project.

Watch recording using Blackboard Collaborate: http://go.alt.ac.uk/octel2014-week5-recording
Watch recording of live stream of Blackboard Collaborate session on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoRtC_cupvw

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Activities for this week

Activity 5.1: Why projects fail

(up to 1 hour)

Now let’s examine why projects fail and what we can do to mitigate against failure. Please read Tom Cochrane’s 2012conference paper on failures in mobile learning projects. It identifies six critical success factors for the mobile web 2.0 implementation and reviews the effectiveness of three mobile learning projects. The paper also identifies the key successes and failures for each of the projects.

Based upon your evaluation of the project identified in the first activity, what were the “key successes” and “key failures”? Share your thoughts on your blog or via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.

Activity 5.2: Risk assessment

(up to 1 hour)

Please watch this4-minute Dilbert parody video on why projects fail.

Reflect on the “key failures” that you identified for your project in Activity 5.1.

  • What could have been done in advance to mitigate the failures?
  • Were there any other issues that affected the project but were perhaps not “key failures”?

Jisc recommends project managers complete a Risk Log (or Risk Register) to identify issues that might affect the success of the project and to look for early warning signs that indicate an issue is about to occur. The Risk Log  provides a means of recording the identified risks. It should be reviewed at regular points during the project as some risks might disappear and others might manifest.

Look at the headings of a Risk Log below and consider how would you complete one using your previous project example. Make some notes under each heading on your blog, or via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list. (Jisc Infonet provides guidance on how to complete the Risk Log.)

  • Category — e.g. skills, staffing, management, resources
  • Risk — presented in a structured format
    • Condition — ‘There is a risk that…’
    • Cause — ‘Caused by…’
    • Consequence — ‘Resulting in…’
  • Likelihood — What is the likelihood/ probability of the risk occurring?e.g. using a scale of 1-5, where 1 is Very Low and 5 is Very High
  • Impact — What will the impact be if the risk occurs? e.g. using a similar scale as Likelihood
  • RAG Status — RAG (Red, Amber, Green) status, based on the product of the probability and impact
  • Risk Management Approach/Mitigating Actions — What are the agreed response actions?
  • Early Warning Signs — What ‘trigger’ might alert you to the fact that the risk is about to occur?

You might also want to find out whether your institution has a risk register for projects and how you might use that in your work.


  • Post your reflections and contributions using the #ocTEL tag via your blog, Twitter, the online forums or other channels
  • Join the webinar/watch the recording
  • Check out the TEL Explorer activities
  • Tweet about your experience of #ocTEL and find other participants on Twitter

Resources and more to watch, read and research

The Jisc Project Management Infokit has extensive and relevant coverage of how to manage projects, including tips for planning, risk management and communication.

The following case studies may also be useful:

Be a TEL Explorer

Explorer Activity 5.3: What TEL support is available to you?

(up to 1 hour)
Let’s consider your role and the support you need to succeed …

  • What has been your experience in this respect – have you access to a senior manager who has the time, experience and understanding to give you the support you need?
  • How might you be a catalyst for positive change in your organisation? You may find ‘The Book of TaLeNT’ of interest – this hard-to-find legacy from a 15-year-old TLTP project entitled ‘Teaching and Learning with Networked Technologies’ addresses the institutional embedding of TEL: the Profiling Matrix and Stakeholder Tool are still relevant and especially useful
  • What expertise and technological solutions are available within your school, college or university to help you deliver your project?
  • Would you consider approaching a funding body to support you in a proof of concept or limited pilot project?

Share your thoughts and observations to each of the above questions on this forum topic, your blog, or via Twitter using the #ocTEL tag.

Explorer Activity 5.4: ‘in-house’ vs. ‘off the shelf’ solutions

(30 mins)

When considering a new TEL initiative, relevant resources including expertise and technological solutions may already exist outside your organisation. What are the advantages and disadvantages of ‘in-house’ vs externally-sourced solutions?

Share your thoughts on your blog or via Twitter using the #ocTEL tag, on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.

Explorer Activity 5.5: In an ideal world …

(30 mins)

Imagine a situation in which you have all the support from senior leadership that you could realistically hope for when implementing a TEL project. What would this situation look like? What level of leadership participation, support and understanding would you actually want?  List your thoughts and then consider ways in which you might make them more likely to happen. For example, you might consider the value of training to raise the general awareness and understanding of TEL amongst your colleagues.

Share your thoughts on your blog or via Twitter using the #ocTEL tag, on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.

Explorer Activity 5.6: Promoting lasting change …

(up to 1 hour)

Read the following article:

Almpanis, T (2013)  Academic staff development in the area of technology enhanced learning in the UK HEIs. Dialogue, January 2013 (3), pp. 16-31

Reflect on the types of training available to staff in your institutions. What are the main barriers to take-up of TEL in your institution? What forms of staff development activities have you found to be most effective in ensuring that TEL becomes properly embedded in the culture of your organisation?

Share your thoughts on your blog or via Twitter using the #ocTEL tag, on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.

Explorer Activity 5.7: Student involvement in TEL

(up to 1 hour)

The webinar focussed on students as leaders. Listen to the ALT 2013 keynote ‘It’s all about the learner’ (23 minute YouTube video) from Rachel Wenstone at the NUS on how students can work in partnership with institutions.

Now think about how students in your institution engage with and influence TEL developments and share your thoughts on your blog or via Twitter using the #ocTEL tag, on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.

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Notes and Commentary

There is a temptation with smaller projects to ‘go it alone’ and it is not uncommon for teachers and lecturers to be the sole champions of smaller TEL projects. This may simply be a consequence of limited resources or institutional encouragement of individual effort. Sometimes – if we’re honest with ourselves – it is driven by a self-centred personal desire for professional recognition. Sadly, situations remain where TEL enthusiasts are still misunderstood and are perceived as mavericks that refuse to conform to ‘the way it has always been done’. In such situations it is often easier to promote TEL on your own, albeit against the tide. Whatever the reason, going it alone almost always means a greater likelihood of failure, for which you alone will be seen as responsible.

The best way forward is often to seek the support of a senior manager who understands what you are trying to achieve. This way you have the support of an experienced and learned colleague, greater likelihood of success and somebody to share responsibility in the event of project failure.

There was a time, not that many years ago, when educational technologists were widely misunderstood amongst senior management. They were often humoured as an obligatory indicator that an institution was ‘progressive’ and open to change, but they were nonetheless misunderstood. Fortunately TEL is now here to stay – policy makers and students demand it and organisations that have embraced TEL are seeing real benefits in student recruitment, engagement and results. There is no longer room for old-fashioned thinking. Indeed some of the aforementioned educational technologists now find themselves in positions of increasing influence as senior managers themselves – how times have changed!

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