At the end of last year (Oct 15 – Dec 15), City University London staff were invited to participate in LEaD‘s annual Educational Technology and Learning Spaces survey. This was an opportunity for staff to feed back on and ultimately influence how educational technology and learning spaces are supported and implemented at City. Our aim was to find out more about the City staff experience of using educational technology and enhancements that may be required. 145 members of staff started the survey and 70 surveys were completed.
If you would like to see the highlights report from the survey, please contact us in LEaD.
We would also like to congratulate Peter Hungerford-Welch from the City Law School, who is this year’s winner of the £50 Amazon voucher.
Main takeaways from this year’s survey
The survey covered supporting educational practice; staff experience; barriers and challenges; suggestions and improvements; and success stories.
Supporting educational practice
The majority of respondents answered they required greater access to support. This was expressed in a range of ways including requesting educational technology staff to do work on behalf of academics, access to one-to-one support, and access to training and workshops. A lack of time underpinned this demand and more time featured as a fundamental barrier to engagement. Improvements to learning spaces and increased awareness of services and educational technology ideas were also key themes.
When it came to exploring the potential of educational technology in their own practice, the majority of respondents favoured group or one-to-one workshops, showcasing of colleagues’ work or asking a colleague.
The majority of staff who responded were successful in preparing modules for the start of year on Moodle. However, using Moodle for key assessment processes was not always a positive experience for staff, Turnitin continues to cause problems for staff.
Moodle is also the main conduit for staff in their use of multimedia, either through uploading a video, embedding or linking to an online video. However wider usage of multimedia tools and approaches remains low, with staff citing lack of time, low confidence or lack of access to facilities as the main reasons for their lack of engagement.
Staff who responded felt confident in using teaching spaces that are new to them, but some had concerns about the differing technologies in the different spaces. The largest reported problems were around the reliability of the equipment; suitability of room configurations for their teaching practice, such as large group teaching; and access to improved larger PC labs with fold down desks.
Barriers and challenges
Across the responses, a lack of time was often cited as the main factor constraining staff’s engagement with educational technology and learning spaces. This is a constraint shared by many UK Higher Education institutions with a “[l]ack of time remain[ing] the leading barrier” (UCISA, 2016) in the development of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) resources and activities. Access to, timing of and time available for training were also barriers to engagement.
For those who responded, this was further compounded by the time they felt wasted on dealing with reliability issues with technology in rooms; their perception of the time-intensive nature of certain activities, such as creating multimedia; and the alignment of training or support timing to suit their needs.
Staff awareness of educational technology functionality and availability was also cited as a barrier to engagement. This included availability of multimedia equipment and knowledge of how multimedia or Moodle functionality could be used in practice, such as uncertainty around what multimedia tool or Moodle functionality to use to to develop engaging online learning activities.
For learning spaces, staff felt there was difficulty in large group teaching teaching and in class tests due to constraints on room layout and availability. Lecture capture had mixed reactions, with some staff positive, and others critical, about its use.
Suggestions and improvements
When asked about improvements they would like to see to educational technologies, respondents identified the usability of assessment and group management as the main improvements needed to Moodle.. They would also like better awareness of new features in Moodle with easier access to support from educational technology staff, especially in developing activities to engage students with learning online.
When it came to making multimedia, respondents wanted more access to training, time with LEaD staff and greater support in implementing new ideas and creating resources. When asked about the skills it was most important for students to develop, staff identified the availability of training, encouragement to use mobile apps and multimedia in their assessments. They felt interventions should be discipline or programme specific, with not all staff convinced digital skills for students should be a University priority.
Reflecting the current thinking of LEaD, staff agreed that a substantial investment is needed to update equipment within Learning Spaces to ensure academics have reliable rooms in which to teach and dependable access to lecture capture for staff and students.
Room layout should allow a range of teaching tools to be used simultaneously and there should be more fold down PC lab spaces.
Respondents highlighted the benefit of being able to provide students with access to a wide range of resources, including lecture notes, lecture capture recordings, external links and reading lists to help students prepare for lectures, revise and prepare for examinations. A number of respondents highlighted the positive impact that this had on enabling them to explore flipped learning and blended learning models.
Another appreciated using Moodle as a platform for multimedia resources, such as video and audio content. Respondents found that existing flexible rooms offering moveable furniture configurations engendered confidence in students, increasing engagement and group interaction.
(2014 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK, 2016)