By DAVID MYTON

Preparing for a more data-centered approach to teaching, learning, and advising will require a strategy to upskill key institutional roles and develop a clear understanding of what is being measured across multiple platforms, according to a new report.

The expanse of data now available offers institutions new opportunities to assess, measure, and document learning – a trend that itself will drive technology adoption, says the EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2019 Higher Education Edition.

Digital fluency, it notes, is “the ability to leverage digital tools and platforms to communicate critically, design creatively, make informed decisions, and solve wicked problems while anticipating new ones.”

However, merely maintaining the basic literacies by which students and instructors access and evaluate information “is no longer sufficient to support the complex needs of a digitally mediated society”.

 

Increasingly sophisticated technology

Learning solutions today are designed and deployed using increasingly sophisticated technology, the report says, creating a need for learners to gain new skills to meaningfully engage with
those tools.

“Digital fluency requires a rich understanding of the digital environment, enabling co-creation of content and the ability to adapt to new contexts.

“Institutions must not only support the uses of digital tools and resources by all members of the organisation, but also leverage their strategic technologies in ways that support critical thinking and complex problem solving.”

The authors agree that digital fluency is different from digital literacy “and that this distinction should be emphasised”.

The shift to active learning in highered and the measurement of course quality through rubrics like Quality Matters “have resulted in a major shift in focus away from training faculty in the use of technology and toward a new emphasis on course development with teams of specialised learning designers”.

“Knowledge of learning design includes design-thinking approaches to course content and engaging activities, as well as applying principles of universal design to develop content 
in multiple modalities to ensure access for all students.”

 

Demand for instructional design expertise

The report notes a growing demand for instructional design expertise “to assist faculty and other subject-matter experts in the development and implementation of adaptive learning platforms, competency-based learning pathways,
the gamification of learning experiences, the integration of virtual or augmented reality, and other digital learning innovations”.

Demand for “digitally rich learning environments and pedagogically sound learning experiences” will continue to increase, it says, adding that “those institutions investing in learning designers and instructional designers will be better positioned to create rigorous, high-quality programming that serves the needs of all learners”.

At institutions of any type or size, “involving faculty in the selection and implementation of educational technologies can be difficult”.

“Whether an institution is implementing a new courseware platform for the purpose of personalising learning or building a completely new program by applying a pedagogical approach such as competency-based learning, such efforts face a range of challenges.

“Identifying learning outcomes and engagement strategies before identifying educational technology solutions creates an advantage by establishing faculty buy-in at the earliest stages of a strategic initiative.”

 

Key stakeholders in adoption and scaling of digital solutions

The role of full-time faculty and adjuncts alike “includes being key stakeholders in the adoption and scaling of digital solutions; as such, faculty need to be included in the evaluation, planning, and implementation of any teaching and learning initiative”.

However, it adds, institutions that address the needs of all faculty through flexible strategic planning and multimodal faculty support “are better situated to overcome the barriers to adoption that can impede scale”.

The report adds that “the shifting nature of the instructor” – from transmitter of knowledge to facilitator and curator—“has accelerated the need for strategically planned faculty support and a reevaluation of the role of teaching and instruction”.

“The redesign of courses and programs to take advantage of digital tools enables instructors to evaluate their teaching practices and use student-centred approaches to facilitate learning.”