Faculty Development Experience

Last week, I began exploring the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals. I have been looking at it from a faculty development perspective.  The report is based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, and noted ten trends.  I discussed the first three trends last week.

The fourth trend was “The Employee Experience: Culture, Engagement and Beyond.”  The underlying theme for this trend was “How we design the employee experience for engagement, productivity, and growth.”  This theme lies at the heart of most mission statements for centers for teaching and learning (CTLs).  For instance, the mission at the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence where I previously worked (and which has since been disbanded by the university) was:

“…the Center for Teaching Excellence at VCU continues to promote, enhance, and assess teaching effectiveness and student learning through faculty development.”

At Northeastern University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning through Research where I last worked, the mission statement read:

“Our mission is to inspire, equip, and connect educators to create and integrate transformative learning experiences using evidence-based practice.”

I see engagement, productivity and growth in both of those statements.

The Deloitte report noted that in a digital world with increasing transparency, employees expect a productive, engaging, enjoyable work experience.  The report goes on to note gaps that exist in helping employees balance work and life, align personal goals with corporate goals, provide programs that span generations, and use design thinking as part of the employee experience.

One can easily substitute the word “faculty” for the word “employee.”

The report noted that organizations typically have addressed issues such as engagement, culture, rewards, and learning development as separate and siloed approaches.  Yet, employees (faculty) tend to look at what happens to them as an integrated experience.  CTLs in the past have been one place where faculty could turn for engagement…and CTLs are uniquely positioned within universities to cross boundaries and provide more holistic services.  The report noted that models such as the one shown here begin to address the issues of meaningful work, alignment of purposes, growth and development, rewards and wellness, fairness, inclusion, and authenticity among leadership.

CTLs tend to focus on the column on growth opportunity, but CTLs are positioned to also impact the other columns as well.  The report quoted a retail executive as noting:

“We used to prioritize our stakeholders as shareholders first, customers second, and employees third.  We now realize we had it backwards.  If we put employees first, they in turn take care of customers, and they in turn take care of our shareholders.”

Now take that statement and substitute students for customers and faculty for employees.  Strategically, it makes sense to holistically care for faculty, who in turn take care of students, who in turn care for the community (local and global).

At your CTL, how does the faculty experience impact the future of your institution?

{Graphics: Deloitte Press}

EDCMOOC Week 1: Utopias and Dystopias

I am in the first week of the five week-long massive open online course (or MOOC) – E-Learning and Digital Cultures, offered by Coursera through the University of Edinburgh.  The course is being taught by Jeremy Knox, Sian Bayne, Hamish Macleod, Jen Ross, and Christine Sinclair.

EDCMOOC Course Entry

To quote from the course information page:

“E-learning and Digital Cultures is aimed at teachers, learning technologists, and people with a general interest in education who want to deepen their understanding of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age. The course is about how digital cultures intersect with learning cultures online, and how our ideas about online education are shaped through “narratives”, or big stories, about the relationship between people and technology. We’ll explore some of the most engaging perspectives on digital culture in its popular and academic forms, and we’ll consider how our practices as teachers and learners are informed by the difference of the digital.”

During this first week, we are looking back at some classic readings on digital culture.  Digital culture is often described as either utopian (creating highly desired effects) or dystopian (creating extremely negative effects).  Martin Hand and Barry Sandywell’s (2002) article on E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel  laid out three utopian claims and three dystopiam claims:

  • Information Technology (IT) possesses intrinsically democratizing properties (U)
  • IT is intrinsically neutral but lends itself to democratizing global forces of information sharing (U)
  • Cyber-politics role is maximizing public access (U)
  • IT possesses intrinsically de-democratizing properties (D)
  • IT is intrinsically neutral but lends itself to de-democratizing forces through ownership (D)
  • Cyber-politics role is resisting and perverting public access (D)

For the first week, we looked at four short videos.  Two that I liked were Bendito Machine III and Inbox.  The first was definitely dystopian and suggested that as each technology comes along, it is adopted with religious zeal, only to be cast aside as the “new thing” emerges.  Inbox was more utopian, suggesting that humans will find connections in spite of the technological issues that emerge.


We also explored a series of decade-old readings (and I found it both interesting and challenging to read these with 2013 eyes).

The first was Chandler, D. (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth.  This was 47-pages (and I skimmed) that provided a history of technological determinism.  One of the ideas I thought relevant and interesting was the idea of equating technological determinism with technological imperative – that when we can do something, we are obliged to do it, and it inevitably will happen given time.

Second was Dahlberg, L (2004). Internet Research Tracings: Towards Non-Reductionist Methodology. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 9/3.  Dahlberg described three orientations towards the web:

  • Uses Determination – technology is neutral so what matters is how it is used
  • Technological Determination – more aligned with Marshal McLuhan‘s “the medium is the message”
  • Social Determination – the impact of technology on social context

The different perspectives offer nuances to our exploration of digital culture, and as the instructors noted, the same could be said for e-learning.

The remaining readings focused on education in general.   In Daniel, J. (2002). Technology is the Answer: What was the Question? Speech from Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 27-29 May 2002, the speaker posits that evolving technology is the main force changing society worldwide.  He suggests that we need to look at the big picture, avoid bias, detect the bull that exists, take a broad view, and seek balance.  Noteworthy to me was Daniel’s viewpoint that in America, we tend to focus on how technology impacts teaching, while in the rest of the world, they examine how technology impacts learning.  This was stated a decade ago, so is it fair (or still fair?)?

In Noble. D. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. First Monday 3/1, David Noble argues a dystopian view that digitized course material online was commercializing higher education at the expense of learning.  Two quotes were interesting:

“Once faculty and courses go online, administrators gain much greater direct control over faculty performance and course content than ever before and the potential for administrative scrutiny, supervision, regimentation, discipline and even censorship increase dramatically. At the same time, the use of the technology entails an inevitable extension of working time and an intensification of work as faculty struggle at all hours of the day and night to stay on top of the technology and respond, via chat rooms, virtual office hours, and e–mail, to both students and administrators to whom they have now become instantly and continuously accessible. The technology also allows for much more careful administrative monitoring of faculty availability, activities, and responsiveness.”

Fifteen years ago…and yet I would suggest that some faculty today are still citing this fear as a reason not to move into open resources or use digital technology.

Noble also states: “Most important, once the faculty converts its courses to courseware, their services are in the long run no longer required. They become redundant, and when they leave, their work remains behind.”  Again, a theme I have heard in the past year…and not just from faculty.  In our current GRAD-602 class, several students have discussed their fear of the use of blogging as an academic publishing platform, because in the hard sciences, others might steal their intellectual property.

The final reading is Marc Prensky’s (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9/5. Recent research has pretty successfully suggested that the digital native notion is not backed by the facts.  Bullen et al(2009) stated that:

“A prevailing view of today’s post secondary learners is that they are fundamentally different than previous generations in how they learn, what they value in education, how they use technology, and how they interact. The notion of the “Millennial learner” or “digital learner” has become accepted as a fact, even though there is limited empirical support for this.” (p. 2)

In another article, Bullen, Morgan, and Qayyum (2011) noted:

“…Our research found that there is no empirically-sound basis for most of the claims that have been made about the net generation. More specifically, the study suggests that there are no meaningful differences between net generation and non-net generation students at this institution in terms of their use of technology, or in their behavioural characteristics and learning preferences. Our findings are consistent with the conclusions of other researchers (Bennett, Maton, & Kervin, 2008; Guo, Dobson, & Petrina, 2008; Jones & Cross, 2009; Kennedy et al., 2007, 2009; Kvavik, 2005; Margaryan & Littlejohn, 2008; Pedró, 2009; Reeves & Oh, 2007; Selwyn, 2009).”  (p. 2)

Bennett and Maton (2010) noted that some of the original authors had begun to distance themselves from the digital native discourse, including Prensky.  Again, these are 2013 views…one could argue that Prensky’s viewpoint permeated much of the early literature about the impact of digital media on learning.

This week’s “readings” ended with one of my favorite Wesch videos, which I include here for those who may not have seen it.

This look back has been informative for me, and I look forward to next week, where we look ahead and explore Shirky‘s and my friend Gardner Campbell‘s views.

…and now that I am posting this to #edcmooc, time to jump in to Twitter and Facebook and find some fellow classmates’ blogs for their views and commenting!

(…and looking forward to some of the 40,000 taking EDCMOOC to comment here!)


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The Innovation Dilemma

We Think

My buddy Jeff Nugent passed me an interesting YouTube video Thursday night entitled “We Think.” It is an amazing four-minute journey through the possibilities of the semantic web. Shared ideas are the currency of the 21st Century.

I went looking for more information on the creator and discovered Charles Leadbeater’s website. One of Charles Leadbeater’s presentations to industry had to do with the Innovation Dilemma. I felt that many of the concepts were directly applicable to education.

Leadbetter talked about how innovation is vital to industry but also painful and prone to failure…and to being messy. Leadbeater illustrated the myths versus the realities of innovation:


It hit me that this paralleled the principles that Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach articulated so well this week in “9 Principles for Implementation: The Big Shift.” Sheryl said:

“When we focus on the how, it prepares us for a linear, prescriptive learning experience. We determine what’s missing? What do I want my students to learn that they do not know now? Yet, what is more appropriate when preparing students for their future is to realize we do not know what the “end” is.”

That is the dilemma – we do not really know where this Web 2.0 / 3.0 / 4.0 is taking us. As Leadbeater noted, successful companies like to reinforce past success. Education is guilty of this. Senior managers’ identity comes from the past…and likewise, our tenure and promotion system is tied to the past…including past notions of “scholarship” that do not include the Read/Write web.

Managers like being in charge and assuming they have the answers, when the semantic web is all about letting go and asking outsiders to form new questions and create new knowledge. Leadbeater noted that managers hate admitting that someone else might be better, while we are members of folksonomies and twitterverses where the wisdom of the crowd is appealing.

The Big Shift that Sheryl alluded to is in fact a cultural change…and cultural change, as Sheryl noted, starts at the top. As Carter McNamara said:

“Cultural change is a form of organizational transformation, that is, radical and fundamental form of change. Cultural change involves changing the basic values, norms, beliefs, etc., among members of the organization in order to improve organizational performance.”

Paradigm Shift by Askpang

Has the new “we” changed this? I am not sure. Edgar Schein provided a past view of organizational culture and leadership. His work noted that leaders change these basic values, norms, and beliefs through socialization, charisma, and modelling desired behavior. Organizations would react to what leaders pay attention to, what leaders did, and what leaders rewarded. Leaders selected followers based on the same precepts. It appears to me that the semantic web of “we” is flipping the organization upside down, but is the culture actually changing?

We definitely live in interesting times. As Thomas Kuhn and Joel Barker noted, those in one paradigm have difficulty seeing the new paradigm. The Big Shift is a paradigm shift. Kuhn said that when paradigms shift, it is not simply a matter of members accepting a new theory but rather they must accept an entirely new world view, which carries with it massive implications. Sheryl’s principles can help move schools and universities towards this big shift, but – as with many things in the Web 2.0 world – the rules have changed once again, and the “end” is anything but clear.

[Photo Credit: Askpang]