Power, Jess, Ellis, C, Kannara, Vidya, Fisher, B and Marsh, J (2013) An exploration of institutional blockages in relation to the use and development of the VLE. In: 20th annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology., 10-12 September 2013, University of Nottingham, UK.

It is widely accepted that technology offers many opportunities to transform learning. Despite there being significant investment made by most UK universities to support technology enhanced learning, it is still reported to be a significant challenge for the sector (JISC, 2011; Sharpe, 2010). Salmon (2005) identified a number of institutional blockages regarding technology enhanced learning, which included the lack of capacity to adapt for staff and the institution they work for. The focus of this paper is to explore institutional blockages in relation to the use and development of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) at one UK institution. This is part of an 18 month project which aims to explore knowledge gaps in digital literacy within creative arts and humanities and establishes suitable strategies to close them.

A mixed-methodology approach was adopted which incorporated literature reviews, focus groups, surveys and VLE content analysis. The project consisted of five phases; the results of the first phase are presented. Initially a literature review was conducted to explore blockages in relation to the technology enhanced learning. This informed the development of a questionnaire which was distributed to representatives from each of the seven schools at the selected HE institution. Questions were devised under two headings (current practice in monitoring the development, and aspirations for the VLE).

The survey found that it was difficult to monitor progression of technology enhanced learning across the institution due to a variety of factors including, lack of audit standardisation, variations in progress reporting, and different approaches to embedding the VLE within teaching and learning (T&L) strategy. Whilst there was some appetite for VLE audit standardisation, there was a strong view that audits needed to be linked directly into strategic planning and used to inform staff development priorities to make them meaningful. The results of the survey supports literature, clearly identifying that a change of culture is required to fully embrace technology enhanced learning. Data collection is required to inform strategy, policy and monitoring in relation to the development of technology enhanced learning to ensure a clear picture is achieved regarding current and emerging practices. Some responses identified that in certain high practical based subjects minimum use of the VLE may be best practice. This research highlights the need to further the understanding of the technological choices academics make to support student learning particularity in practical based subjects. Literature acknowledges it is not enough for the technology to be provided it is how it is embedded into T&L which transforms student learning.

Reference list
JISC (2011) Emerging Practice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced institutional innovation, HEFCE, UK.
Salmon, G. (2005) ‘Flying not flapping: a strategic framework for e-learning and
pedagogical innovation in higher education institutions’, Research in Learning Technology, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 201-218.
Sharpe, R. (2010) Conceptualizing differences in learners' experiences of e-learning: a review of contextual models, [Report] Higher Education Academy Learner Difference (HEALD) synthesis project.

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