Notes: Porter et al. (2016). A qualitative analysis of institutional drivers and barriers to blended learning adoption in higher education.

Porter, W. W., Graham, C. R., Bodily, R. G., & Sandberg, D. S. (2016). A qualitative analysis of institutional drivers and barriers to blended learning adoption in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 28, 17–27. Retrieved from

An article from the future! (it’s not 2016 here yet, but articles from next year are already showing up. Go go, Gibson!)

Interesting paper, tying technology adoption stuff into professional development and support. This leads directly into our Learning Technologies Coaches program. Good timing.

Basically, more courses are going online or blended (LOTS of courses are getting shifted into blended format). Instructors are loosely described in broad categories: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Ugh. I hate the term laggards for those-who-seem-to-resist.

They follow Graham et al’s (2013)1 framework to describe barriers based on institutional strategy, structure, and support.

The researchers did an online survey of instructors at BYU-I, followed up with interviews of a stratified sample of survey respondents.

They found that instructors aren’t very trustful of the motivations and demands from Administration, and that they trust their peers because they are “in the trenches.” Man, I hate when people draw on the rhetoric of war when describing how they view teaching. Anyway.

So, instructors like to learn and design with peer instructors. They like one-on-one F2F support while building their blended and online courses, so they can see body language etc. But that seems a bit tone-deaf, when they are talking about building blended and online courses where their students won’t have body language cues. Hey. Whatever. Instructors are fun.

Instructors in the study want broadly defined policies, which they can interpret as needed. Guidance from above, without meddling or direct oversight.

“Standardization in terms of definition, and also you can leave it open in terms of how faculty would approach it.”

Makes sense – context-specific implementation of high-level guidance.

They note that infrastructure is a big factor – if the tech isn’t reliable, they get stuck. “If a student has a bad experience or difficulty with the technology, it can squelch their interest and excitement for the context of the course.” – We see this all the time. Frustration when network funkiness makes people have to wait or try again or wait and try again or give up and try later. Key bit:

“infrastructure is influential because course work and engagement stop when infrastructure fails during class or when students are completing assigned work.”

The researchers identified a few factors that were described by respondents as things that could help them to be successful in implementing blended learning:

  • course load reductions – give me time!
  • financial stipends – not a big factor. they want time more than anything.
  • tenure and promotion – also not a big deal, if they have the time to do things.

So, give one-on-one mentoring or coaching with peers, give them solid technology platforms, and give them the time to do stuff.

  1. Graham, C.R., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J.B. (2013). A framework for institutional adoption and implementation of blended learning in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 18, 4–14. []

supporting technology integration

In late 2013, our Provost struck a Learning Technologies Task Force, to develop a plan to sustainably implement and support learning technologies across all faculties at the University. The result of that task force was the production of the Strategic Framework for Learning Technologies in the summer of 2014 – a document that lays out some high level priorities and specific strategies to address them. Much of the document directly guides the work of my team (the Technology Integration Group in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, Educational Development Unit) – I keep a copy of it handy, and have a poster version of the priorities and strategies pinned to the wall in my office. One of the interesting aspects of the Framework is the emphasis on combinations of learning technologies and spaces – that we need to consider the physical as well as digital aspects of the learning environment.

One of the major strategies described in the Framework involves providing coaching and mentoring for instructors who are integrating technology in their courses. This is a model that was pioneered by some faculties during our recent Blackboard-D2L migration, and having coaches available in those faculties was an extremely important factor in the success of that migration.

Those D2L coaches were grad students, hired by the faculties as a special form of teaching assistant. They were given professional development (workshops, training, orientations), and community support and facilitation. It worked really well, and this is what the Framework strategies are designed to sustain and scale up across the university.

So, we will be launching a full Learning Technologies Support Program – this will offer Learning Technologies Coaches in all faculties. Funding will be provided to Associate Deans Teaching and Learning, with some recommendations for how they might implement the model in their faculties. The way we’re implementing the program, each faculty will have a high level of flexibility. Some might opt to have a Coach (or Coaches) providing deskside support. Some might need Coaches to be primarily supporting those instructors who are innovating in their course designs. Or, a combination. Or, something different. We will also need to figure out how to incorporate instructors and coaches at various locations – including the 4 campuses in Calgary and sites in Lethbridge, Edmonton and Qatar. With 13 faculties involved, each will need to do something different to meet their unique needs and context, and providing that level of flexibility will be essential to the success of the program – if we just hired a bunch of Coaches centrally and farmed them out, we’d lose the domain-specific context that is extremely important when working with instructors.

These Coaches – and we won’t know exactly how many will be involved in the program until faculties decide how they want to proceed – will be supported through my team in the Educational Development Unit. We’ve created a new position – Technology Integration Specialist – and that person will be primarily working with the distributed network of Coaches, forming a community of practice and providing professional development and communication across all faculties. The hope is that this community of Coaches will learn from each other, and that we’ll be able showcase successes from each faculty and use those to improve and enhance the learning experience for all students.

It’s going to be strongly based on a distributed community model, with a domain-specific focus in each faculty. The new Technology Integration Specialist role will be extremely important in connecting people across faculties and roles. At a high and abstract level, it might work something like this:

Learning Technologies Support Program

I firmly believe that this is the most important program to support the meaningful integration of learning technologies at the University. This goes far beyond licensing shiny tech, or installing new apps. It’s the careful and intentional allocation of significant resources to develop a strong community of people, working to support instructors in their practice. This gets to the core of how instructors can adopt new practices and appropriate technologies to (hopefully dramatically) improve the student learning experience.

This has been my main project for awhile now, and I’m thrilled to see it move from planning stages to actually beginning to implement it. We’ll be documenting the activities of the program, as well as other initiatives that implement the Framework, on a new-but-not-yet-public Learning Technologies website. More on that soon…