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The Heads of eLearning Forum (HeLF) is a network of senior staff engaged in promoting, supporting and developing technology enhanced learning (TEL). We have 140 nominated Heads from UK higher education institutions and a regular programme of well attended events.

11 Mar 2019

46th HeLF meeting: "TEL Roles and Structures"

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The 46thth meeting of the Heads of eLearning Forum was hosted at City, University of London, on 27th February 2019.


BY SANTANU VASANT, UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON



"Gene Davis finishing Franklin's footpath painting", 1972 - orphan work | CC0

T he event kicked off with HeLF's Steering Group chair, Brian Irwin, sharing a pre-meeting survey of the membership on job titles, reporting lines and location in their organisation's structure, steps away from senior decision makers and key committees, team sizes, etc. Head of Educational Technology at City, Julie Voce, followed by welcoming meeting participants to her institution and giving a brief overview of her Technology-Enhanced Learning department structure (TEL) - one of the biggest central TEL teams in the UK. This was swiftly followed by Dr Peter Bryant, presenting by video link from Sydney, who discussed delivering Connected Learning at scale, missing his large TEL team at London School of Economics (LSE), following a pedagogy-before-technology approach at Sydney's Business School and asking What’s best for the students’ learning? - all aimed supporting the findings of the making education better initiative (#makeEDUbetter). His final piece of advice to Heads of eLearning was to evaluate, do small scale research and share, share, share to develop their understanding and those of others at their institutions.

Farzana Latif, University of Sheffield and Santanu Vasant, University of East London ran the next, largely interactive session entitled ‘Steps on the TEL Ladder’ focusing on TEL roles, the core offer and career progression. It was interesting to get replies from such a wide, diverse and experienced group managing TEL teams and Services. (See the summary of the questions and replies here).

We then had a series of fifteen minutes sessions exploring career development outside an institutional context in Higher Education. Matt Jenner from FutureLearn, (who didn’t use slides!) gave a thoughtful reflective account about changing roles and organisation from UCL to his current position at FutureLearn.
This was followed up by Professor Manuel Frutos-Perez from the Cambridge Education Group, who presented the eLearning roles framework he developed whilst working at University of West of England (UWE). The framework provides a continuum for career progression enabled across academic and technologist practices and role-types. Academic development and technologist families of roles are increasingly working together in TEL teams to support new delivery modes, teaching and digitally enabled practices. A central principle of the framework is that well-designed staff development is central to a well TEL team cohesion. Other findings from implementing the framework at UWE cohesion in TEL teams requiring Heads of eLearning giving a voice to their teams and service areas at strategic level and targeted communication to engage a wide range of staff and services at all levels across institution.

Colin Heron, from Glyndwr University, presented on distributed Academic development and embedding eLearning expertise and staff in key partnering services and communities of practice at departmental levels for leading educational change. This approach led to the creation of informal Academic Development networks existing alongside more formal structures of the institution. He advised not to take the contribution of eLearning teams to policy development for granted despite their expertise and ensuring that successes are celebrated and publicised across the institution.

Next, in a quick 15 minute session, Jane James, Associate Director of the Higher Education Futures Institute (HEFi) at University of Birmingham, presented on HEFi and eLearning team structure and how a centralised approach can deliver consistent digital experiences that students want across their academic programmes.

At lunch, the participants were given a tour of City’s well-known Learning Spaces by members of the Department for Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD). The tour included visit of City's newest active learning spaces and discussion about their operational use and the feedback received from teaching staff and students.
Xavier Briche - "Learning Spaces tour at City", 2019 | CC-BY-SA
After lunch, Brian gave a brief business update including the next HeLF meetings in Birmingham and in June and Glasgow in November and asked representatives if their institutions would like to host future HeLF events - thanks to those who have already got back to the steering group on this. He also mentioned surveys and research and how topics are sought from the mailing list via a poll. This was followed up by Julie Voce returning to lead an interactive session on TEL structures influence and reach with the institution based on her ongoing research. She asked participants to draw out their institution TEL structures and governance from TEL working group or committees through to Academic Board and Senate. She also mentioned that it is key that Heads of eLearning think analytically about their influence and interaction with other services and decision makers. She has developed a quadrant to highlight these interaction and a SWOT-type instrument based on the location of their teams and services in their organisation - i.e. Library, Teaching and Learning Unit, IT Services, Student Services or other like HR. It appears that, given the choice, a majority of heads of eLearning think that their teams should be located in their institution's Teaching and Learning Unit and should have strategic voice, which many delegates present did not have.


The final set of 5 minutes lightning strike were from Ruth Powell, University of the Arts, Santanu Vasant, University of East London, Peter Roberts, Goldsmiths University of London and Catherine Naamani, University of South Wales, on their TEL structures, service remits in their institutions and where they were located.

Thank you to everyone who attended this popular, oversubscribed event at City (46 attendees), thank you to Julie Voce and City, University of London, for hosting and to the HeLF Steering Group for organising. All presentations from the event can be found here.

The next event will take place on 13th June at University of Birmingham