Higher education institutions are embracing personalized learning models as a way to meet learning and teaching goals. Some institutions have already begun to transform student learning experience – and outcomes – using personalized learning, but there are many more who are interested in the concept without the resources or capacity to implement such change.
Many course developers and administrators are looking for realistic and specific support to get their initiative moving from the early ideas stage and into the classroom. We took part in the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) online course: Personalized Learning: Finding the Model that Fits your Institution, to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities of personalized learning.
In the final session of this course, Michael Feldstein and Phil Hill highlight the importance of communication and collaboration throughout the entire process. Creating networks – on a micro and a macro level – is a way to keep stakeholders actively engaged and to encourage and impact real change institutionally.
Building Trust to create a network
Having already steered stakeholders through some of the process, it’s important to work out how to ensure continued engagement throughout the remaining stages – and beyond. Phil Hill recommends building on trust by collaborating with instructors and other key stakeholders throughout.
- At the beginning find out what the instructors want. What are they looking for? Personalized Learning tools give them a stronger foot hold in class.
- Prepare stakeholders for the mind shift they are likely to go through. The work involved can be a challenge but it can be immensely rewarding – managing their expectations and being realistic will show that you are taking their needs seriously.
- Provide guidance through the whole process – from designing, producing, running the course to continuously evaluating, re-designing and implementing changes. Collaboration of this depth improves the course and the experience.
- Some faculty will be new to these ideas – invest in a process to help instructors identify their needs so they can gain insight into how personalized learning can be a real break-through for them and their teaching experiences. Feldstein calls it their ‘ahaa moment’.
- Remember that as well as personalized learning, there’s also the notion of ‘personalized teaching’. The experiences of the instructor should also be valuable and meaningful, and personalized learning tools add value and benefits to the teaching experience. Acknowledging this can take away any anxieties that faculty have around implementation of personalized learning approaches. The process is not about replacing teaching staff with robots.
“Ask a room of teaching staff ‘suppose you had a good undergraduate tutor that you could send home with every student. Think about what you could get from them. They can’t cover what you cover – they’re not you. All the tutors meet up the next day and write a report for you on what happened the night before. What would you do differently? If you can get a room full of faculty to start talking about that they’ll discover they have different answers, related to what they have to offer as individual teachers. That’s empowering, it’s an important realization for them to arrive at – that there’s something fundamentally human about teaching as well as learning?” Michael Feldstein
Making the Connection
In creating unique, inspiring and resourceful case studies for E-Learning TV, Michael Feldstein and Phil Hill have been careful to make each one as rich as possible for the individual – understanding that different portions will resonate with different stakeholders. They have created a series that can be used by any institution, with elements that will resonate with a group of stakeholders to generate meaningful conversations about digital learning practices on campus.
The case studies work well, but to really encourage a broader adoption of effective digital pedagogies, Feldstein encourages making links across your institution – but also across the whole higher education sector – to create a network of engaged influencers that can bring about effective change.
“We live in a world where our colleagues look carefully at what their peers do” Michael Feldstein
One suggestion is to spread the influence via faculties that are already involved in implementing personalized learning approaches.
“A great group to effect change in the university are faculties who have gone through course re-design projects is the most effective way of introducing change in an institution – they have opened up to the idea of redesigning courses so it’s a powerful way of introducing more change.” Linda Mebus, Online Course Product Manager at TU Delft
Phil Hill agrees with this concept and talks of creating as diverse a group of stakeholders as possible to encourage a chain of peer to peer sharing. He suggests hosting cross faculty workshops which faculty can attend if they want to learn more about the work being done across the institution or at other institutions
Accessing the wider community
As the conversation develops and grows, so too does the wider community. A larger space is required to share resources, good practice, skills, case studies, research and much more. Educause Learning Initiative has a strong network across the US and beyond and a new venture from Edsurge has seen the launch of the Digital Learning Network for Higher Education. There are further plans to extend the ELI course to a larger audience with the idea of creating a new community of peers and resources.
The course has shown that there is a real appetite for developing personalized learning practices within institutions, which can be used to develop conversation and generate ideas. Feldstein and Hill have shown that the process can be both challenging and rewarding, although the process is more straightforward when an emphasis is placed on creating an inclusive development plan from the outset. For those interested in digital pedagogies it is vital to prepare for ways to motivate stakeholders – and alleviate any anxieties they may have, as well as look to ways to maintain engagement throughout.
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Click here for a synopsis of the full course and to access the agenda.