Strategic decisions

I’m not attending ALT-C this year for pretty much the same reasons that I often ‘don’t go’.  It’s also a lot of money to pay out at this time, when the income stream looks bleakish. Luckily, I have a fair bit of residual work (work that is either paid for or wraps up the odd contract) during September so I have enough to occupy me anyway, without having to traipse off to Nottingham.

One of the main reasons I’m not going is that I went last year and last year’s visit reminded me of why I don’t need to attend ALT-C every year. On the plus side, there is a lot of networking which is for me the main benefit of attending and number one reason TO go. But, apart from the odd break-through, the sessions seemed to be pretty much updates to what was said the year before or extracts from someone’s Doctoral Thesis process being delivered to sympathetic audiences. There will often be the outcomes of projects too, but as the submission date is way back in winter, many of these (given the nature of emerging technologies) are out of date by the time ALT-C attendees get to hear them.

This does not mean that any of this is has no value, it definitely has great value and to those attending (in the main) any one session could be the spark that ignites a change in their teaching and learning practice.

However, despite the fact that many of those attending and delivering sessions are THE experts in their field, gurus even; I’m not altogether sure that the ‘talk’ is being translated into ‘action’ in the field. Certainly not universally.

Not in F.E. anyway.

Over the last five years my role has taken me into many colleges of further education (F.E.) and allowed me to meet many more practitioners at a variety of events and workshops. During those years, practice HAS changed as more and more practitioners become aware of the difference well thought out and delivered, pedagogically based e-Learning can make. But as I’ve stated, this is not universal.

Last week I asked the Twittersphere the following question:

“Why do strategic decisions made by college SMT rarely make their way down to the troops to be coordinated? In fact do troops ever get a say?”
It received one reply:
“..coz what the top wants is often very different from what the bottom needs? And Nope.”

Why is that so true? Whatever happened to effective communication?

A number of things prompted my question. For example, the institutional rollout of a new operating system must surely be a strategic decision. Surely it is not one that is made by any one party. Therefore, if strategically dictated, proper information, advice and guidance must have been set in place. One assumes (hopes?) so.  I wonder how often the strategy includes pre-installation information to key stakeholders such as departmental managers and course leaders? And how much effort is made to inform them of the consequences (unusable ‘specialist’ software originally supplied with ‘project’ money or development, similar software needing updates). Where this information is supplied, how much support does the stakeholder get?

And (this is probably the crux of my post), how much thought is given to the strategic development of effective delivery via technology. During these straightened times, when institutions could save money by implementing well thought out, pedagogically based blended learning solutions – how much thought has been given to an appropriate staff development strategy? I suspect that many teaching colleagues will have been told that they must have their year planners and induction materials on the VLE – job done.

But the job isn’t done and every year, this is underlined at conferences like ALT-C. Yet …

Despite everything, I suspect that I will be watching ALT-C events via Twitter and checking out any recommendations from trusted friends. I will not be following via Twitterfall though!