Framework for Embedding Effective Technology-Enhanced Working Practices
Information and communication technologies – both emerging and established – are increasingly underpinning the teaching & learning, research, knowledge exchange and professional services activities of HE and FE. The rationale for introduction ranges from cost savings, improved capabilities to addressing student-led demand for on-line tools. A trend that is likely to continue given the current financial pressures on the sector.
While considerable experience of introducing technology-enhanced working has been built up throughout the sector, there are still several problematic areas which can lead to poor service or functionality and disenfranchised staff. These issues can in turn impact on institutional effectiveness, reputation and the resulting student experience. While JISC and other sector bodies have been advocating the importance of good project and change management, often there is a failure: (i) to understand fully the potential effect that the new practices will have on staff and the institution and (ii) to appreciate how best to support these changes . In particular:
Key areas for change
- A more holistic approach needs to be adopted, where institutions ensure that organisational structures support timely revision and linkage to strategies, an understanding of the complexity of issues at the highest level and strategic leadership which empowers and encourages staff to evolve their working practices in line with strategy.
- Human resources (HR) policies, procedures and practices need to be updated to effectively support and develop evolving staff roles. Without this, institutions will be unable to effectively capitalise on the opportunities afforded by emerging technologies or be sufficiently agile to respond to changing PESLE factors in a timely and effective manner.
- While staff development is in general effective when it comes to ‘hard’ aspects such as how to use particular technologies, significant work is required to support development of ‘soft’ skills such as relationship management, boundary management, and understanding the potential and impact of technologies.
- A more holistic approach to change management needs to be adopted which involves key institutional functions such as staff development, HR, IT services and change management from the outset of development projects.
- Horizon scanning needs to be embedded in institutional processes and procedures if institutions are to be successful in the ever evolving environment.
To help addresses these areas, the Framework for Embedding Effective Technology-Enhanced Working Practices, presented in Figure 1 below, was developed. The aim of the framework is to aid critical analysis of approaches to embedding effective technology-enhanced working practices. Further it provides, along with the toolkit, a scaffold to help institutions and professional organisations within the sector to embed effective technology-enhanced working practices.
Figure 1. Framework for embedding technology-enhanced working practices
As Figure 1 above reflects, the effectiveness of technology-enhanced working practices in a particular context is influenced by the technology, the staff involved, the organisation (including organisational and governance structures, policies, processes and services) and the external environment. The five blue components – Change Management, Organisational Development, Staff Development, Human Resource Management and Horizon Scanning – highlight the 5 areas which are often missed, but bring key benefits, when implementing new technology-enhanced working practices. The position of the core components indicates which socio-technical factors the core component addresses. So for example, Staff Development is concerned with developing staff skills and confidence to work effectively with technology, within the context of this framework. The outer Change Management circle emphasises that a holistic approach is required.
The ‘Organisational Development’ component focuses on the need to ensure that institutions are learning organisations with organisational structures that support timely revision of policies, linkage to strategies, an understanding of the complexity of issues at the highest level and strategic leadership which empowers and encourages staff to evolve their working practices in line with strategy.
The ‘Staff Development’ component is concerned with ensuring staff have appropriate cognitive approaches, skills and competencies to work effectively. This includes development of ‘soft’ aspects such as reflective practice, relationship management, boundary management, and technological-enhanced innovation as well as particular technology competencies.
The ‘Human Resources’ component covers policies, procedures and practices designed to support the evolution of staff roles and responsibilities required to leverage technologies to meet institutional objectives within a changing external environment.
The ‘Change Management’ component encourages a holistic approach to changing working practices which involves key institutional functions such as staff development, HR, IT services and change management from the outset of development projects.
The ‘Horizon Scanning’ component encourages a combination of top-down horizon scanning of external environmental drivers and technology capabilities combined with bottom-up practitioner experimentation compatible with institutional strategy. Leadership, funding and clear mechanisms for embedding successful innovations across the institution will be required.
This overarching framework for Embedding Technology-Enhanced Working Practices was then used to explore the key components of effective practice. This led to the self-assessment toolkit, which includes indicators of good practice, reflective questions to aid assessment and supporting resources.