Reflections on the ACODE Leadership Institute

Reflections from attending the ACODE (Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning) Leadership Institute 2013.

This week I had the privilege of being able to both AARNet sponsor and participate in the Leadership Institute where aspiring and experienced leaders together develop a “making the case” by developing an Institutional Strategy and Implementation Plan relating to the ‘Systematic and innovative use of learning technologies for the ongoing and future development of quality education provision to enable the institution to become a national and international leader in tertiary education provision.

Coming from an IT Services background I learned how much more varied and creative learning and teaching technologists need to be for effective and sustained change using new forms of course delivery and support.  I better understood how online education could improve the student experience, student retention rates and attract new students and staff.  Universities are seeking new ways to differentiate themselves through innovation and cost effective services delivery, Lasardo’s Law was a great example of having to find the right balance.

I noted that many groups having read the case study often considered improvement in ICT connectivity that learning and teaching technologies relied upon and that this did require a greater engagement with University IT Services, IT Service policy and the use of learning analytics (coupled with business analytics).

Some real world issues were also discussed, these included

  • 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 on 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.  If a coherent applications ecosystem or framework for choice that can easily access content repositories and allow for learning analytics this would offer greater flexibility and choice 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 staff, more supporting 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 a multi-dimension approaches to problem solving and the use of partners.  Expect strategic alliances, shared services and partnership to grow to deliver innovative solutions cost effectively tomorrow.
  • 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 that 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 inline with the expected upturn curve in online education export market growth.
  • Local IT networks can vary in terms of capacity, design, support and operation, even with the AARNet core network there’s need to be a complete end-to-end network and access to services that are equipped to support the Learning and Teaching Community, so that they can get on with the job of innovating and creating quality online courses for blended learning where the product and service options are many and varied and accessing them is simple, straightforward, agile and responsive.  To do so requires the bringing together of the learning and teaching, University IT Services and AARNet communities which is already starting to happen.