#H807 Innovations in learning

In a course on “innovations” in e-learning it seems sensible to spend some thoughts on what we understand as innovation in education.  Two (rather old) articles were included to help us frame our ideas on innovation.  I jotted down some thoughts on what I understand as innovation, then read the articles to complement my ideas, reflected on my own context and finally read the comments on the tutor group forum.

Source: miketidd.com

1. My Initial Thoughts

An innovation in learning means doing something differently as before, not necessarily better.  This can be related to technology, like the introduction of mobile phones or tablet computers in the learning process.  It can relate to the content of learning such as updating the curriculum with recent developments in biotechnology or physics, or shifting focus to various literacy skills. Innovation can lie in the pedagogy, such as student-centred approaches or “flipping the classroom” using clickers.  Furthermore, innovation can lie in the organisational structures, like challenges to the traditional classroom, school and university models of education delivery (MOOCs) or changes in copyright models (OERs).

Second, innovation is context-related.  Introducing a blog or wiki would be highly innovative in Cambodian classrooms, but much less so in western countries.  Introducing (sometimes ancient) elements from foreign cultures may be innovations in educational systems, like countries are analysing the education systems of Finland, Singapore and South Korea, high-flyers in the OECD’s PISA tests.  I believe that innovation can be both incremental and disruptive.  

Innovations can be useful or not useful.  Often it’s difficult to know.  It takes some time to measure their effects, the technology might not yet be mature and some effects only come into play when many people adopt the innovation (like social media).

As the 5 most important recent innovations in learning, I would list:

1. Widespread availability of internet (increasing bandwidths, lower costs, handheld devices)
2. OERs
3. Social Media
4. New ways of education delivery (MOOCs, OERs…)
5. Learning Analytics

2. The Articles
The  first article from Rich and Holtham (2005) recounts the introduction of a range of technologies in the course of a decade in a MBA Programme in the UK.

First, they highlight that every innovation meets resistance.  Not everyone is an early-adopter and, recalling the “digital native” literature from H800, we should certainly not assume that all students are early technology adopters.

Second, they focus on the importance of creating a climate of innovation.  Elements of such a climate include the presence of sufficient awareness (I would call it ‘information’, or ‘connections’) of new development or alternatives, the willingness (with the leadership) to make fundamental changes and a decentralised organisation.  I would add allowing innovations to fail.

The second article, from Luck and Laurence in Innovate (2005) looks at the introduction of video-conferencing for delivering guest lectures in a tourism undergraduate course.  They highlight that the innovation was complementary to the course, allowing to do things that were not possible or more expensive before.  Second, they point to the importance of content (the ability to invite higher-quality guest speakers) and pedagogy (the need for interaction during video-lectures).

3. In my own context

Innovation is an important topic in development as we usually try to introduce new practices and often deal with resistance to change current behaviour .  Some important elements that I would list are:

Select carefully your target group. You need preferably people who are open to change, will benefit from change and are in a position to influence others.

Allow for failure.  Include a pilot phase in the programme design where various things can be tried out, rigorously evaluated and adapted, scaled up or discarded.

Focus not only on personal factors but also on the environment.  For example, when we want to change a teacher’s behaviour we tend to focus on activities (workshops, follow-up for teachers).  However, it’s equally important to design activities for school directors, government officials or parents as they affect the environment in which teachers will work.

4. Forum discussion

One element of discussion is whether an innovation should be useful.  I think not as argued before in this post.  Second, there are some thoughts what makes students accept some innovations and reject others.  Some factors I can quickly think of are:
– the innovation should benefit the student.
– the innovation should leave some flexibility to the student.
– the innovation should be introduced with support and information.
– the reason for the innovation should be clear to the student.

This entry was posted in H807.

2 comments on “#H807 Innovations in learning

  1. Sukaina says:

    Hi StefaanYes I agree that innovation is contextual and what might be seen as innovative in one situation may be seen as quite standard in another. It's also good to be reminded that when introducing an innovation, it's important to see the whole picture and see the potential effects on other parts of an organisation.Best wishes, Sukaina

  2. Thanks for your comment,I must say I found the course title "innovations in e-learning" a bit puzzling. As it turns out, people have very different ideas about what innovations comprise and a clarification activity is surely needed.Stefaan

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