The use of the internet in higher education

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Published on April 26, 2014

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The use of the internet in higher education Academics’ experiences of using ICTs for teaching and learning Rebecca Eynon Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK Abstract Purpose – To explore academics’ experiences of using information and communication technologies (ICTs) for teaching and learning. Design/methodology/approach – Analysis of three discipline-specific focus group discussions held with academics based in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that use ICTs for teaching their students. Findings – The most common use of ICTs in all subjects was to provide students with access to a range of online resources. Academics’ motivations for using ICTs included: enhancing the educational experience for their students; to compensate for some of the changes occurring in higher education, such as the rise in student numbers and demand for flexible learning opportunities; and personal interest and enjoyment. The difficulties academics encountered when using these technologies for teaching included: a lack of time; dissatisfaction with the software available; and copyright. Research limitations/implications – This is a small scale, exploratory study. Further research is required that is sampled in such a way as to ensure that the findings can be generalized to all academics in all institutions in the UK. Practical implications – The institutional, middle managerial, staff and student level all need to be considered when encouraging the further adoption of new technologies for teaching and learning in higher education. Institutional level strategies must also account for the diversity of ways ICTs may be used in teaching in different contexts across the institution. Originality/value – Research exploring academics’ experiences of using ICTs for teaching and learning is scarce. Further work is required to ensure the successful development and implementation of future technological and policy developments in this area. Keywords Academic staff, Higher education, Communication technologies, Internet, Teaching, Learning Paper type Case study Introduction There has been a great deal of debate regarding the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for teaching and learning within universities. The potential of ICTs for higher education is well documented and has been much promoted by policy makers and enthusiasts within the sector. The Dearing Report (NCHIE, 1997), The Future of Higher Education (DfES, 2003), and the more recent e-learning strategy proposals developed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE, 2003) are all examples of policy commitment in this area, and this commitment is reflected in the majority of university teaching and learning strategies across the country. Given that investment in this area is likely to increase in the next The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister www.emeraldinsight.com/0001-253X.htm AP 57,2 168 Received 21 October 2004 Revised 6 December 2004 Accepted 13 December 2004 Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives Vol. 57 No. 2, 2005 pp. 168-180 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0001-253X DOI 10.1108/00012530510589137

decade, research is required that explores academics’ experiences of using ICTs for teaching and learning in order to: provide a clearer vision of where it is appropriate to use new technologies in higher education; to develop strategies to support existing initiatives and encourage further adoption (where appropriate); and ensure the successful development and implementation of future technological and policy developments in this area. Surprisingly little is known about lecturers’ opinions on, and experiences of, using educational technology (Steel and Hudson, 2001); though the research base is steadily increasing. From analysis of the available research on this topic it is clear that there are a range of individual, practical and cultural factors that shape academics use (and non use) of new technologies for teaching and learning (e.g. Selwyn, 2003). Two factors that are likely to influence academics’ use of ICTs in teaching and learning are the institutional (Clegg et al., 2003) and disciplinary (Rowley et al., 2002) contexts. Thus, this exploratory study set out to investigate the potential similarities and differences of academics use of new technologies for teaching and learning both within and across three disciplines, namely English, Law and Nursing/midwifery. Academics were invited to one of three discipline specific events to share and discuss their own experiences of using ICTs for teaching their students. This paper will focus on four key themes that emerged from each of these discussions and consider the differences and similarities within and across each of these groups. The four themes to be explored are: (1) How ICTs are being used in teaching and learning. (2) The motivations of academics to adopt ICTs in teaching and learning. (3) The difficulties they have encountered when using these technologies for their students. (4) The factors that may influence the further adoption of new technologies in higher education. These will be discussed in detail in the results, discussion and conclusion sections below. First, the methods utilised for the study are summarised. Method In June 2004 three discipline focus groups were held with academics from English, Law or Nursing/midwifery that used ICTs to teach their students. Each discussion group was part of a one day, discipline specific, event where staff from HEIs across the UK were invited to a workshop where they were presented with the findings from a research project that explored the use of the web for teaching and learning in higher education (Eynon, 2005); and were then asked to participate in a focus group to discuss their own experiences of using ICTs in teaching and learning. The events were designed to provide a greater insight into the use of ICTs for teaching and learning in higher education, explore the similarities and differences of academics use of new technologies for teaching and learning within and across the three disciplines, identify further areas for research, enhance network opportunities, and promote cross institutional discussion about the use of the new technologies for teaching and learning. Potential participants were contacted via several methods. In the first instance the relevant subject centres of the Learning and Teaching Subject Network (LTSN) were contacted, and as a result specific individuals who were likely to be interested in the The use of the internet 169

study were contacted, adverts were placed in the centre’s newsletters, and e-mail messages were sent to their members. E-mail postings were made to relevant subject specific web sites (for example, the CHAIN[1] network in nursing/midwifery) and personal contacts were also utilised. Seven academics participated in each focus group, and each group encompassed academics from higher education colleges, pre- and post-1992 universities. Five participants from each group were “traditional” academics who carried out typical teaching, research and administrative responsibilities. The remaining two members had slightly different roles and responsibilities within their own institutions. In each group a sixth member had greater responsibility for the development and implementation for ICTs in teaching and learning within their own department or school, with reduced teaching time; the seventh participant in English and Nursing/midwifery was an educational technologist; and the final member of the Law group was a librarian who also had teaching responsibilities. Participants in each of the three groups were involved in teaching a range of courses and programmes in their discipline at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The focus group discussions lasted an hour and a half and were semi-structured. The debates were recorded and notes were made at each meeting. The tapes were transcribed and the resulting transcripts were analysed in accordance with the principles from the qualitative tradition (e.g. see Miles and Huberman, 1994) and was aided through the use of NUD*IST (e.g. see Boulton and Hammersley, 1996). Results In this section the four main themes that emerged from each of the focus group discussions are explored: (1) How ICTs are being used in teaching and learning. (2) The motivations of academics to adopt ICTs in teaching and learning. (3) The difficulties they have encountered when using these technologies for their students. (4) The factors that may influence the further adoption of new technologies in higher education. The use of ICTs for teaching and learning In all three subject areas, the most common way participants used ICTs for teaching and learning was to provide students with access to a range of online resources, often including online discussion boards; with some participants using more advanced multimedia to provide web casts of lecturers, simulations, and problem based learning exercises. The majority of participants in each focus group utilised a virtual learning environment (VLE). In the main, these online resources were used to enhance the existing learning experience for students in some way as opposed to transforming the way the students were taught. The use of ICTs in the way described here, that is to enhance existing teaching practices and to maintain the current teaching paradigm, is typical and can be seen in a variety of different subjects, degree programmes and departments (e.g. Dutton et al., 2004). AP 57,2 170

From the discussions in each of the three groups there did not currently appear to be a great deal of difference in the way new technologies were being used for teaching and learning both within and across the disciplines. Yet slight variations in emphasis emerged from the discussions around how ICTs could be most valuable to students. In English, online resources, such as newspapers, journals, graphics and books, were felt to be particularly valuable as was the use of online communication between students and staff via e-mail and discussion boards. Similarly, in Law, online resources and discussions were thought appropriate to enhance understanding and knowledge about the subject; but there was an additional interest in using the technology for students to learn about, and develop, the skills necessary to become a Law professional. In this group there was a great deal of interest (and some use) of ICTs to create simulations to help students learn the more practical skills they would require (e.g., negotiation) in their professional practice; though how, and the extent to which, these were used varied depending on the level of the student and the stage of qualification. In Nursing/midwifery the use of ICTs were thought appropriate throughout the students’ programme in order to help them learn both subject knowledge and practical skills. In this group academics were using ICTs primarily for access to resources and administrative purposes; yet there was a move towards the use of ICTs for simulation and the introduction of more multimedia in problem based learning exercises. These subtle differences in emphasis are perhaps to be expected and related to the general differences in the disciplines: English is a “traditional” academic subject where students are not being prepared for a particular profession, whereas Nursing/midwifery students are required to learn specific, clinical skills in addition to academic knowledge. Law falls between these two disciplines, with the early years being seen as a “traditional” academic subject, moving towards a more vocational emphasis in the later years. Motivations for academics to use ICTs for teaching and learning In all the focus groups, the participants’ main motivation for using ICTs was to enhance the educational experience for their students in some way. It was clear from the discussions that for all subjects the decision to utilise ICTs was based on educational, not technological, decisions. As a member of the Nursing/midwifery group explained: I think it is important just to start with the outcomes that you want to achieve . . . Then you work backwards to see what is the best media to achieve that; and for some it will be face to face in the classroom, but for some of those characteristics, or behaviours, or learning then, you know, a classroom isn’t appropriate. So then you find the appropriate bit of technology that might be able to support that. Rather than thinking, “oh, I have got a good bit of kit here, or I have got [name of VLE], therefore it is going to be the panacea for everything.” Well it isn’t, you know (Participant 2, Educational Technologist, Old University). A lesser theme in each of the three groups was their personal interest and enjoyment in using technology to benefit their students. For example, in English participants discussed the sense of satisfaction they obtained from the creative process of developing web sites and knowing the students were using and benefiting from these online resources. In all three groups, academics were using ICTs to compensate for some of the changes occurring in higher education. For example, in English and Law, participants The use of the internet 171

highlighted some of the difficulties of teaching far greater numbers of students without an associated rise in funding. Particularly in English, ICTs were considered useful to provide students with access to scarce resources, materials not available at their own institution or resources that were in very limited supply in the library. In Law and English the use of ICTs was thought to help assist with providing a social function for students who may feel lost in very large teaching groups through, for example, the use of online discussions. In addition to the increase in the number of students, there had also been changes to the characteristics of the students lecturers were expected to teach. This was a particularly apparent theme in the Nursing/midwifery group, where participants felt that ICTs could perhaps assist with challenges, such as, improving students study skills or developing their background knowledge of the subject. Also, ICTs were thought to be useful to assist the increasing number of part-time, geographically dispersed learners and/or students who spent a great deal of time off campus. This was particularly the case for postgraduate students in each of the three disciplines. However, members of the Law group stressed that more flexible learning and/or a move towards more resource based learning were also sometimes demanded by campus based, supposedly full-time, students as increasing numbers of students were working to fund their studies. As a participant in the Law focus group commented: The make up of our students . . . they don’t live on campus, they travel in, live at home, they constantly say – at the beginning of the year you can guarantee if they have got four days in the university and perhaps only one hour on one day they say, “well for a start we want to move that to that day,” and then say, “well, why can’t we have all our lectures banded together in one day and do six hours?” So to be fair to the university there are also a lot of students who, if you like, with customer pressure coming and saying, “we actually want all our teaching taught in blocks because I have got a part time job . . . .and therefore I won’t be here,” you know. Perhaps 20 years ago when I was at university I was in the university five days a week – my life was around university and very much now they are here when they have lessons, possibly to use the library, and then they are off campus (Participant 4, Law Lecturer, New University). While members of the Law group noted that such block teaching was not educationally beneficial for students, it was, in some cases, preferred by students for the reasons cited above and was also desired by the university to ease timetabling pressures and overcome the difficulties of accommodating all the students on the campus at one time. Institutional factors, such as decisions by the school or senior management to encourage the adoption of ICTs for teaching and learning were not a major motivating factor for academics who participated in this study. Indeed, as is clear from the results in the section under The staff level, academics tend not to be given time in their working day to pursue such e-learning initiatives and are unlikely to be promoted on the basis of good teaching. However, it was evident in each group that the universities decision to support such initiatives had alerted at least some academics to the possibility of using ICTs for teaching and learning and, in the case of the educational technologists, provided them with a job opportunity. AP 57,2 172

Difficulties encountered by the academics when using ICTs for teaching and learning Overall, the discussions in each of the three groups were overwhelmingly positive. Yet it was clear the academics in each of the three groups had encountered some difficulties when using ICTs for teaching and learning. Lack of time was an issue for the majority of the participants in each group. Interestingly, this was not presented as a particular problem as the academics appeared to simply accept that a great deal of their activity in this area took place in their own time. The only concern that arose from this situation was that academics wanted to have more time to develop and improve the online resources they were providing for their students. As a lecturer in Law commented: I am probably like a lot of you, you know, the IT bit, the development, which is terrible, is almost added on to my other duties [general agreement from the group] it is not integral to my duties. I don’t begrudge that, but there is a limit therefore how much time I can spend doing it (Respondent 4, Law Lecturer, New University). A second factor that was raised in each of the three groups was dissatisfaction with the software the academics had access to. Virtual learning environments (VLEs) were raised as problematic both by members of the Law and English groups. In English academics felt VLEs were restrictive as only registered students could use it (thus preventing previous years returning to the material) and was sometimes not straightforward to use (e.g. to upload files). In Law participants pointed out that the standard VLEs on offer were too corporate and not flexible enough. As one participant in the Law group explained: [Name of VLE] is highly constraining and very, very generic and it has to be because they . . . want to sell as much and as many, you know. But it comes back to the point people made earlier that these kind of generic solutions are imposed corporately and institutionally upon us. Whereas we are at the coalface, and it is our discipline, and we want to teach in ways that we want to teach, you know, and it is really annoying to have to teach in the way that [name of VLE] says that we have to teach. I think it is outrageous I really do (Respondent 2, Law Lecturer/Educational Technologist, Old University). In the Nursing/midwifery focus group members felt the software had to improve a great deal, and similar to the other groups there was a feeling that educators should work more with software developers in order for programmes to be developed that were more suitable for their subject. As a member of the group commented: I would like people like yourselves to really think about how you can influence technologists to develop better technologies, you know, this is what we need for our students, build it. This is what, this is the kind of interaction, the kind of multimedia, we want. We do not just want linear discussion boards we want something more real (Participant 6, Midwifery Lecturer, Old University). A third issue that was raised by members of the English and Nursing/midwifery groups was problems with copyright, due to the prohibitive costs or the time it took to gain permission to use materials that delayed, or prevented, the development of online resources for their students. The use of the internet 173

Factors influencing the adoption of ICTs for teaching and learning In each of the three groups there was discussion regarding factors that may enhance, or inhibit, further adoption of ICTs across participant’s institutions. The discussion is split into four areas: (1) The institutional level. (2) The school/department level. (3) The staff level. (4) Other factors. The institutional strategy. Members of the Nursing/midwifery focus group stressed the need for an institutional, strategic vision in order for the use of ICTs for teaching and learning to be adopted successfully across the institution. Without such a vision, work in this area would typically be dispersed in small pockets across the organisation. As a member of the group commented: You have got the people on the bottom that have often got some fantastic ideas and can see where the market is for it, and the use; but unless you have got that strategic vision. If, for example, whether the university is going to go for profit in offering online distance courses or whether they are going to use technology to support their current learning I think that needs to be a very clear strategic decision made by the institution. If they don’t make that kind of decision then people will just go off and do their own thing but then needless to say you have the champions that are going off and developing things fantastically, you don’t bring the followers on behind and you don’t then have the infrastructure to support it (Participant 5, Nursing Lecturer, Old University). However, it was clear that the kind of institutional strategy implemented was central to the successful and appropriate adoption of ICTs for teaching and learning. Indeed, there were concerns from members of the English and Law focus groups that top down strategies could be counter productive and have a negative influence on the standard of teaching and learning at that institution and the likelihood of the development of innovative teaching using ICTs. Such a situation was most likely to occur where university management stipulated that academics had to use the university approved VLE and had to use it in a specified way. For example, in some institutions academics are expected to have, at the very least, a module web site that contains the lecture handouts and the aims and objectives for the module. Such an approach was thought to be very damaging on the appropriate adoption of ICTs for teaching and learning. Members of the Law and English focus groups argued that university managers should not dictate to people about how they teach; as such methods and approaches may not be appropriate for that particular course or discipline. Further, members of all three groups were concerned that this kind of top down approach may reduce the likelihood of academics ever adopting or considering utilising ICTs in a more appropriate way in their future teaching. This was because such a prescriptive, top down strategy often meant that academics first contact with these kinds of new technologies tended to be based on technological or cost saving agendas (such as the availability of the technology, passing the cost of printing course booklets onto students, or saving lecture space) not the educational potential of these new technologies which would interest and motivate academics. As a participant in Law, whose own institution had adopted a top down approach, commented: AP 57,2 174

The university said every module must have a [name of VLE] site and the minimum you must have on there is an outline of the lecture materials. So obviously, I mean if you give that prescription, you know, you go and look at half the Law modules and they have all got a nice [name of VLE] site and they have got their lecture outlines on and that is it because that is, you know, it is just the total wrong way to go to get people to use it. It worries me that at the moment it has all been kind of management based, driven down, you will do this. Rather than us, as you said, who are teaching it, saying well, you know, we actually don’t want that, it doesn’t work; we want to do it this way (Respondent 4, Law Lecturer, New University). The department school level. As many participants came from a devolved institution the more local, middle, level of management was clearly thought to be important for negotiating the institutional level policies to fit with the needs of the students within the department/school, to provide extra resources where/if necessary in terms of technical support or time to develop materials for staff. However, often this “middle level” was not supportive of the development of ICTs for teaching and learning or did not take a particularly strong view. This issue was discussed at most length in Nursing/midwifery, and to a certain extent by participants of the Law focus groups. As a member of the Nursing/midwifery focus group commented: It is the middle managers that are the block; they’re the ones who decide how much time you can have to develop things. Our higher echelons are really keen . . . but they cannot do everything, it has got to be down to the individual faculties or departments. But if your department head is saying, which is what is happening in mine, you have got to do this amount of teaching and that has to be face to face rather than preparing e-material then the e-material is not going to be as good if I bother with it. It is not going to be as good because I haven’t got the time for it. So somehow we’ve got to get, got to join the top and the bottom (Participant 1, Nursing Lecturer, New University). Similarly, members of the Law group noted how important it was that the head of department was supportive of the use of ICTs for teaching and learning. If so, far more was possible. As a member of the focus group commented: All pioneers of IT should become heads of department as soon as possible! (Participant 1, Law Lecturer, Old University). In some cases, where school/faculty and or department level strategies were developed well the “top down” and “bottom up” strategy could come together quite fruitfully. As a member of the Nursing/midwifery group where this had occurred commented: So you begin to mesh the two things – the wider college and what it is doing with the school, and as the team of two got embedded we won money from central teaching development funds so we could gradually employ extra people . . . So we ended up with a team of 4/5, and the flexibility then to do things with people becomes much greater because you have a much greater resource in terms of skills . . . and you get in little bits of people to create a core support team who will then allow people to do whatever they feel they want to do to support their [teaching] . . . It has been terribly important to talk to other people across the college who are doing different things and picking up their ideas and – that has been very valuable (Participant 2, Educational Technologist, Old University). The staff level. From discussions with participants in each of the three groups it was clear that one factor that was inhibiting the adoption of ICTs in teaching and learning was the lack of value the institution placed on the development and implementation of e-learning initiatives. A clear example of this is the lack of time academics had The use of the internet 175

available within their working day to develop the necessary skills and create online resources for their students. A related issue that was raised by members of the Law and English groups was that academics were more likely to be promoted on the basis of good research as opposed to good teaching. A further, connected, issue was the ability of academics to take risks. Members of the Law group raised this issue as younger members of staff were less prepared to take risks compared to senior staff as they had to consider promotion. Younger members of staff were also more likely to be lacking in confidence and lacked the local, cultural knowledge required to negotiate the rules of the institution in order to create e-learning resources. The need to be able to take risks was also raised by members of the Nursing/midwifery group who argued that the culture of the institution needed to allow academics to innovate and managers had to accept that such initiatives may not always succeed. As a participant commented: If you are very much bound into a bureaucratic institution and they don’t want to take risks . . . I think it needs quite a mature leadership to allow people to take risks. It is a learning process. The whole thing is a continuous evolution; you won’t always get it right (Participant 5, Nursing Lecturer, Old University). A further factor that may inhibit adoption that was identified by members of the Nursing/midwifery and English focus groups was the lack of IT skills staff possessed. However, members of the Nursing/midwifery group felt that a change in emphasis by the institution from a focus on the use of ICTs as a technical “solution” towards a stress on the educational potential of new technologies may assist academics to overcome their perceived barriers about using technology for teaching. As a member of the Nursing/midwifery focus group commented: A lot of people have perceived barriers . . . A lot of people in my university persist in thinking they have to have some specialist expertise, they have to have some IT magic or something, to be able to do it and this puts them off and prevents them from seeing what you are saying, you know, it is just a way of enhancing my teaching. That is quite a big change in attitude to get across and even in a new university where the priority is teaching and learning, people are more interested in that, but they can’t quite believe that it is not technology driven and many get put off by that and they think, “oh, no, I would have to go on some big special course and it would take ages and I haven’t got the time” (Participant 7, Midwifery Lecturer, New University). In addition to valuing teaching and learning through various strategies, such as, promotion for good teaching and creating time for staff to engage in e-learning activities, a further factor that may help the development and implementation of the use of ICTs in teaching and learning is the employment of a departmental or school educational technologist. This issue was discussed in the Nursing/midwifery and English groups. In general, such support was considered valuable; though members of the English group stressed the need for the individual to have some subject expertise and/or an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of learning technology as opposed to an individual who just had technological skills. Such an individual could support academics who knew very little about using ICTs for teaching and learning and those with far more expertise. Other factors involved in the adoption of ICTs. In addition to more top down, institutional level policies, participants in each of the three focus groups felt that they AP 57,2 176

had a role to play in encouraging greater diffusion of the use of ICTs for teaching and learning; through evaluating what they were doing, teaching others to use the technology and demonstrating how it could be used to benefit students. However, members of the English and the Nursing/midwifery groups noted that innovators could actually be a negative influence on encouraging adoption of these new technologies as they may appear to be too technologically advanced. As a member of the Nursing/midwifery group commented: It is easy for people who do it to underestimate other people’s barriers. I know myself sometimes by saying things to people like, certain dangerous phrases like, “it is quite straightforward”, you know, don’t say that . . . if you don’t find it quite straightforward it is so easy to be put off (Participant 7, Midwifery Lecturer, New University). A further important factor was the student experience. Members of the three focus groups raised issues around accessibility, both in terms of availability of computers and/or the level of IT skills as an issue for their students. Access to computers was often highlighted as a problem by members of the English focus group, but not to a great extent in Law or Nursing/midwifery groups. Slow download times were considered a problem by members of English and Nursing/midwifery groups and the use of passwords (such as ATHENS) at home was also considered problematic by members of the English and Law groups. IT skills were thought to be improving steadily among Law students – though members of the group felt that support should still be provided for the minority that required it. Basic IT and internet skills were also highlighted as a problem by members of the Nursing/midwifery group, particularly for mature students updating their skills on part-time courses. Members of the English focus group felt that their students needed more support to develop information searching skills and other research skills required to use the online resources effectively. A third problem that was raised by members of the English and Law groups was the costs that were sometimes being passed on to students when they were required to print their course packs as opposed to being given their own paper-based copy. Clearly, these and other factors that are part of the student experience need to be considered in order for the adoption of ICTs to be successful. Discussion and conclusion The discussion above has highlighted some of the main themes that arose from focus group debates with academic staff who have used ICTs for teaching their students. An interesting finding arising from the analysis is the high level of agreement within each of the three groups. Due to the very different institutional and departmental contexts within which the individuals work, their different roles, and the different aspects of the discipline they teach, it was anticipated that there would be a great deal of difference amongst academics – even among those who are using ICTs to teach the same discipline which is not obviously apparent in the analysis here. A potential reason for this is the method utilised; academics have few chances to discuss the use of ICTs in teaching and learning with others from their own discipline, and perhaps, in the spirit of collaboration, academics found common themes to discuss in detail and ignored the nuances of their experiences in this context. While ICTs were being used in similar ways both within and across disciplines there appeared to be some differences in emphasis in the way new technologies were The use of the internet 177

being used, which may, in part, be explained by the vocational emphasis of the course. A clear motivating factor for academics in each of the three groups was to use ICTs to enhance the educational experience for their students in some way and to overcome some of the difficulties associated with teaching far greater numbers of students without an equivalent rise in funding. Academics were also using new technologies to accommodate the needs and demands of the student population. For example, academics were using ICTs to provide more flexible learning opportunities and to support students who, in some cases, had additional educational needs to the “traditional” student entering higher education. Intrinsic rewards were of greater importance to the participants as opposed to institutional rewards such as promotion or greater prestige within their institution; this finding is supported by other research in this area (e.g. Hannan et al., 1999; Eynon, 2005). However, the motivations which propel innovators to adopt new approaches are likely to be different from other academics and more “mainstream” staff are unlikely to adopt the use of ICTs for teaching and learning without such extrinsic benefits. Clearly, academics in each group stressed the need for a greater sensitivity to local contexts. Academics in each of the three groups highlighted the need for greater collaboration with software developers in order that future programmes and technologies would be developed that could accommodate the varied demands of educators. There was also a need for the institutional strategy to support the diverse ways that ICTs could be used for teaching and learning in different contexts across the institution. Certainly, academics felt they should have a greater role in shaping institutional strategies in this area; and a prescriptive “top down” strategy was thought to have a potentially damaging effect on the future adoption of ICTs for teaching and learning. From analysis of the discussions, there is some tension between the needs of the individual member of staff to develop, implement and use ICTs for teaching within their own contexts alongside the call for the institution to provide support for e-learning. A balance must be struck by the institution between providing support and allowing academics the space to innovate in their own particular contexts. Factors identified here that need to be included in institutional strategies have also been raised in other research on this topic. For example, the provision of resources, incentives for staff, training and financial investment are often highlighted in the literature (e.g. Taylor, 1998; Ryan et al., 2000). Further factors identified here include: the need to value research that explores the use of ICTs in higher education in order to develop an evidence based culture; to make decisions to support ICTs in teaching and learning that are based on educational philosophies as opposed to cost saving or technological deterministic agendas to enhance higher education and to convince staff of the value of new technologies in teaching; and to consider the student experience. Students may require improved access and technical support in order to effectively use ICTs as part of their university education (Tweddle et al., 1998; Ryan et al., 2000); yet there are other factors that need to be considered. Individuals will only use new technologies when they see them as valuable, fulfilling a useful function or purpose (Morrison and Svennevig, 2001). Indeed, while academics do need the resources and infrastructure to support their initiatives, the innovative process should be encouraged in as flexible a way as is possible; there needs to be a greater sensitivity to the needs of the individual department and discipline. Academics are best placed to determine where ICTs should AP 57,2 178

be used (if at all) in teaching their students. Indeed, academics do use other technologies where they perceive them to be appropriate, though they remain pressured; thus, it is unwise to conclude that non-use is simply down to practical issues, such as a lack of time or institutional rewards, as there may be other good reasons (Crook, 2002), such as a lack of student demand and inappropriateness of subject matter. What is apparent is how important local context is in the use (or non use) of ICTs for teaching and learning and that academics need to be part of the process when developing future policy and technological developments in e-learning. Clearly, further research is required to explore the issues raised in this exploratory project in more detail. Note 1. CHAIN is an online network for people working in health and social care, based around specific areas of interest, and gives people a simple and informal way of contacting each other to exchange ideas and share knowledge. See www.nhsu.nhs.uk/webportal/chain/ References Boulton, D. and Hammersley, M. (1996), “Analysis of unstructured data”, in Sapsford, R. and Jupp, V. (Eds), Data Collection and Analysis, Sage, London, pp. 282-97. Clegg, S., Hudson, A. and Steel, J. (2003), “The Emperor’s new clothes: globalisation and e-learning in HE”, British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 39-53. Crook, C.K. (2002), “The campus experience of networked learning”, in Steeples, C. and Jones, C. (Eds), Networked Learning: Perspectives and Issues, Springer, London, pp. 293-308. Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2003), The Future of Higher Education, HMSO, London. Dutton, W.H., Cheong, P.H. and Park, N. (2004), “The social shaping of a virtual learning environment: the case of a university-wide course management system”, Electronic Journal of e-Learning, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 69-80, available at: www.ejel.org (accessed 10 June). Eynon, R. (2005), “The use of the web for teaching and learning in higher education: rhetoric and reality”, submitted to Innovations in Education and Teaching International. Hannan, A., English, S. and Silver, H. (1999), “Why innovate? Some preliminary findings from a research project on ‘innovations in teaching and learning in higher education’”, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 279-89. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2003), Consultation on HEFCE e-learning Strategy, available at: www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/circlets/2003/cl21_03.htm (accessed 20 April 2004). Miles, M. and Huberman, M. (1994), Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, 2nd ed., Sage, Thousands Oaks, CA. Morrison, D.E. and Svennevig, M. (2001), “The process of change: an empirical examination of the uptake and impact of technology”, in Lax, S. (Ed.), Access Denied in the Information Age, Palgrave, New York, NY, pp. 125-39. National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (NCIHE) (1997), Higher Education in the Learning Society, National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, Hayes. Rowley, J., Banwell, L., Childs, S., Gannon-Leary, P., Lonsdale, R., Urquhart, C. and Armstrong, C. (2002), “User behaviour in relation to electronic information services within the UK higher education academic community”, Journal of Educational Media, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 107-22. The use of the internet 179

Ryan, S., Scott, B., Freeman, H. and Patel, D. (2000), The Virtual University: the Internet and Resource-Based Learning, Kogan Page, London. Selwyn, N. (2003), “Apart from technology: understanding people’s non-use of information and communication technologies in everyday life”, Technology in Society, Vol. 25, pp. 99-116. Steel, J. and Hudson, A. (2001), “Educational technology in learning and teaching: the perceptions and experiences of teaching staff”, Innovations in Education and Training International, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 103-11. Taylor, P. (1998), “Institutional change in uncertain times: lone ranging is not enough”, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 269-79. Tweddle, S., Avis, P., Wright, J. and Walker, T. (1998), “Towards criteria for evaluating web sites”, British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 267-70. AP 57,2 180

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