The Integration of Information and Communication technologies in Higher and Further Education

Tony Bates in his Review of Sangra: The Integration of Information and Communication Technologies in the University: Models, Problems and Challenges 

Wide variation in strategies and actions between the universities
Sangra makes several important conclusions here:

•    campus-based universities tend to leave the evolution of strategy for ICTs to individual faculties and departments; the virtual university had a unified strategy
•    change needs to be managed: change management strategies include the development of a well disseminated and shared vision and strong and capable leadership.
•    it is easier to manage changes in smaller universities (between 20,000-35,000)
•    all the universities felt the need to establish a centralised, specialist support unit to facilitate the integration of ICTs for teaching and learning

Common problems
Despite the variation between different institutions due to their different contexts, a number of problems were common to them all:
•    problems of organization: lack of clear communication of intentions regarding ICT strategies; lack of commitment to strategy at the executive committee level of the university resulting in too many changes in direction and organization and no commitment to sustaining a particular strategy; a consequent lack of adequate time for faculty to prepare and implement ICTs in their teaching
•    problems related to funding: because of constant change in technology, infrastructure is often underfunded and technical staff underpaid, resulting in a high turnover of technical staff
•    problems related to culture: a high resistance to change from the front-line staff, in particular faculty, due to low levels of knowledge about both technology and pedagogy and lack of reward for innovation and change in teaching.

I think these sort of problems are common not only amongst some Universities, but may be common in many educational institutions such as those in the Vocational Education and Training sectors. The rapid emergent changes in technologies and a paradigm shift from teaching to learning may not have been fully realised in higher and further education. The teaching pedagogy and a fixed curriculum are still thought to be the golden pillars of education. The question may be: What should be the teaching and learning pedagogy related to a technology mediated education? Who are the change agents? And how could we convince or influence those who are resistant to changes to embrace the changes, especially in the use of ICT in teaching and learning? What change management strategies would work? How could we adopt a transformational leadership? Would every educator need to take ownership of their learning and drive the change towards a learner-centred education and learning vision?

I think most questions educators would ask include: for all these changes, what is in it for me? What sort of support will I be given?  What sort of staff development will I be offered? 

If insufficient support is given, how could those educators implement ICT effectively? A few educators (early adopters and innovators) may be comfortable with the use of the latest technologies in their teaching and learning.  However, would the majority of educators be still waiting to see the changes to happen?  Or are they are still grappling to learn the Web 2.0 at work?

I agree with you that “Aren’t the end-users, such as faculty and administrative staff, the people who really know about technology and its usefulness for their work, rather than senior managers and decision-makers, who are far too removed from the front-line? Shouldn’t the front-line workers be making the decisions, and thus driving bottom-up, emerging strategies?”

So, I think it is imperative for the senior management and education leaders to consider the systematic strategic planning and implemenation in the integration of ICT within their institutions. And to develop their workforce to cater for the teaching and facilitation of 21st century skills for their learners.

Renewed thanks to Tony Bates for his inspiring post.
John