Saturday, 23 April 2011

Technology. Should we or shouldn't we ?

There is a trend to place more and more technology in learning spaces in an attempt to assist the lecturers in their role as educators and provide a 'better' experience to students.
I sometimes see equipment being installed without fully thinking through the consequences. This is not to say I don't support the provision of this equipment e.g interactive screens, visualisers, dual projection systems, lecture capture systems, surround sound, HD screens and projectors, control systems etc. etc. In fact I have been instrumental in promoting much of it at my university. After all if HE is not at the cutting edge who should be?
What I am concerned about is whether enough research into the need and benefit of technology installed in new learning spaces is carried out at the stage the design brief is developed?
As I indicated in an earlier post there needs to be a range of stakeholders involved in developing the brief.
The list consists of academics, students, educationalists, e-learning experts, AV\IT specialists, finance staff, estates staff, and probably others I have not thought of here.
Once the research is concluded and a decision has been been made, lets say to install X,Y and Z, is it then good enough to hope that by some miracle the intended users can use the technology with out some form of instruction.
' NO' I hear you say. Why then , is it that this is a very common scenario? It is not always because training is not offered, but sometimes because it is not mandatory, resulting in under utilised, expensive equipment and  users not being aware of the potential uses that can be made of the technology.
So the question is should the training, familiarisation sessions, call them what you will, be included as part of the project of designing a technology rich learning space?
I recently spoke to one colleague who told me that at his university the lack of attendance to sessions explaining how to use the technology in lecture theatres is so bad that the management had considered implementing a system whereby users could not log onto a system unless they had attended a session. This was never implemented and the problem of support resourcing continues.
I would also like to ask another question.
Forgetting the technology, is there ever a need to show users how to get the best from the space itself, especially if it is an adaptable or reconfigurable space?
My discussions with colleagues across the sector leads me to believe that whilst there are some universities addressing these questions many are not and therefore not getting good value for money.
How are these things addressed at you your institution or company?


  1. Amen to that, Nigel. I've been running AV surgeries at my institution (which shall for the time being remain nameless, to protect the guilty). They've been very well support staff.

    La plus ça change, I suppose...

  2. John
    Do you use any sticks or carrots to get people to attend or just advertise them?


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