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Cross-Faculty Community Of Practice In Technology That Enhances Learning At UOW

Dr Sue Downie, Dr Moira Stephens, Dr Xiaoping Gao, Mr Kenton Bell, Dr Simon Bedford, Dr Oriana Price

University of Wollongong

Background: This project explored the acceptance and use of technology in learning and teaching among staff and students across 6 faculties at UOW. The WATTLE (Wollongong Academy of Tertiary Teaching and Learning Excellence) community initiated a ‘hot topic group’ (HTG) in Technology that Enhances Learning (TEL), with over 50 members, and its mission is to provide networking and sharing of practices between academic and professional staff and students. The use and perceptions of the wider university towards TEL however is largely unknown, and the aim of this study is to clarify the use and perceptions of TEL. The HTG has been given opportunity to comment on an institutional issues paper on technology related issues for staff across UOW that will be presented to the DVCA. Results from a research study undertaken by our TEL HTG on the staff and student perceptions on the state of TEL at UOW will help inform this issues paper.

Methods: This mixed methods study first surveyed staff and students and then sought a more in depth exploration through focus groups: 48 students and 75 professional and academic staff completed the online surveys, 29 students and 24 professional and academic staff participated in focus groups. Findings: Practical barriers for staff in implementing TEL were: fear, time, institutional culture geared towards research rather than teaching, lack of knowledge and Technical/support issues. Pedagogical barriers were that technology is perceived as a distraction, face to face learning is valued more, the potential for only superficial learning, and lack of context and relevance. Practical promoters were: it is modern and expected, equalising, efficient, and used at other universities. Pedagogical promoters were engagement, authenticity, feedback, collaboration and flexibility. When asked to self-report technology savviness, both staff and students rated their own savviness higher than they rated each other’s savviness and capabilities.  

Discussion: Support of staff and students in the contextually relevant use of TEL requires pedagogically sound professional development opportunities, the potential inclusion of authentic TEL opportunities within the curriculum, one on one support for staff and students, and formal institutional recognition of time and resources spent on developing TEL.