TEL and Institutional Strategy

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Thinking and acting strategically


For the purposes here, an organisation is an educational institution, or at a smaller level of granularity, e.g for a department or school withinin an institution.

A goal is some state that an organisation aspires to. The only reason to choose a goal are that it aids the organisation in some way, makes the organisation operate more efficiently, earns or saves money, helps the organisation better achieve its aims or become more competitive,.

A strategy is a plan for achieving one or more goals. Strategy, in our TEL context, is concerned with a realisation of a goal concerned with teaching and/or learning. because of its concern with (high level) organisational goals, strategic concerns are generally thought of as being distinct from the implementation or operationalisation of the strategy. While the boundary between strategy and operationalisation is often treated differently by different organisations, a distinction between the two can aid clarity in formulating strategy.

Creating organisation goals involves the activities of looking at the institution's current state of development, formulating a set of candidate goals, and selecting goals from the candidate goals. These activities may occur in parallel. In this it is useful to look at the larger system context the organisation exists in, and drivers for change (eg, at different kinds of drivers might be, educational policy, how funds are awarded, what currents the current trends in pedagogy are, what the needs of the industrial sector are).

In the process of goal selection, the strategist has to bear in mind not only desirability, but also practicality - time that the change will take, and institutional capacity for change, including will to change and resource needed for the change. Often this is not a detailed process, but rather involves educated hunches and past experience about what is possible. Those charged with the task of developing a fixed-term (eg five year) strategy will formost be mindful of the time period in choosing organisational goals. The independent strategist who seeks to influence organisational goals and strategy, however, may have more of a free choice as to likely time period to realise the goal.

A goal is justified by its value proposition(s):

A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer of value that will be experienced. A value proposition can apply to an entire organisation, or parts thereof ...
Wikipedia value proposition

Of course value propositions must be believable, and, preferably, demostrable.

A mature organisation will demand three further pieces of information, the cost of change, how the organisation will know when the goal is realised, and how progress towards realising the goal is to measured.

Formulating strategy is simply critically understanding at the organisation's/system's current state, practices, efficiency, outputs, and positioning in a larger system; identifying areas for improvement; formulating, choosing and setting goals, and identifying value propositions, while sprinkling in a large dose of pragmatism in terms of the organisation/system's capacity for change.

To some extent formulating strategy involves strategic planning:

Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people.
Wikipedia strategy implementation

A fine line has to be drawn between strategic planning in strategy formulation and strategic planning in strategy operationalisation. A good rule of thumb is that strategic planning that takes place in the process of strategy formulation should provide, at a reasonable level of proof, the feasibility of the strategy, and may include major elements in a likely operationalisation of the strategy if these are deemed to be necessary in the strategy's operationalisation.


How then can the independent strategist manage to get goals and strategy adopted? Foremost is an ear amidst the decision making elite; whether that elite is in the institutional, faculty or departmental level. And the most effective way of getting strategy adopted is to be able to solve a problem for the decision-maker. The promise of making a problem disappear is in fact a special case of a value proposition:

Generally decision-makers are busy people, so when pitching the idea a half hour ramble round the subject of concern is highly inadvisable. Instead use a simple statement

Adoption of self-directed learning will raise our graduate Student Satisfaction Ratings = <goal> <value proposition>
Training students in self-directed learning will raise our graduate Student Satisfaction Ratings = <activity> <goal>

Of course be prepared to back statements of this kind, and far better to offer support for the value proposition's validity:

Over the last three years we ran a training programme for incoming students in the Department of Psychology, this year saw an increase from an average of 53% to 73%.
At the University of XYZ, ....

In writing conciseness and clarity is similarly desirable. A few well formulated diagrams illustrating central concepts and mechanisms always help.

When presenting it is often a good idea to limit your presentation to three key ideas, which you re-iterate as a summary at the end of the presentation.

No matter what approach you use, the concept of an elevator pitch is useful:

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech or statement) is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.
wikipedia elevator pitch

Write the elevator pitch. If you're dedicated, and presumably you are, refine the pitch thus: With a laptop with the elevator pitch on it, go somewhere people can't hear you, and shout it out - if you can't do this without stumbling, edit the pitch so that you can and, later, learn it by heart.

If you are pitching for resources for a project, including a strategically useful project, a strapline for the project is useful. Adopted from advertising technology, a strapline neatly summarises the benefit of the project:

A strapline is a British term used as a secondary sentence attached to a brand name. Its purpose is to emphasize a phrase that the company wishes to be remembered by, particularly for marketing a specific corporate image or connection to a product or consumer base.
[ Wikipedia advertising slogan / strapline
Self-directed learning, improving learning methods to deliver greater student satisfaction

Operationalisation and change management


Information sources for strategists

Specific sources

UCISA Technology Enhanced Learning surveys provide an insight into the strategies used by HE institutions and the drivers for change, as well as looking at the technologies used by other institutions, support models and future challenges. UICSA also provides an IT Directors Top Concerns survey.

The Leadership Foundation in Higher Education has a subgroup concerned with Organisational Development in Higher Education.

JISC has several resources on strategic change and change management:

Some of ALT's policy consultation responses may be of relevance.

Potential innovators may be interested in experience in the the JISC Capacity Building/Nexus Project.

Also, sources of information in innovation and disruptive innovation may be of interest, eg Clayton Christensen's work.

Other information sources

Government Departments

Department for Education

Department for Business Innovation and Science

Department for Business Innovation and Science

Scottish Government

Northern Ireland Department of Education

Welsh Government - Education and Skills

Educational Reports and Acts

Schools sector at the History of Education in England site

Higher Education Government reports


Organisations representing Universities

Universities UK

Hihger Education Wales

Universities Scotland

Organisations representing Further Education Insitiutions

Scotland's Colleges

Government Funded Bodies

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)

Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW)

Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC)

Higher Education Academy (HEA)

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)

Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills

Joint Information Systems Council (JISC)

JISC Regional Support Centres

Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) funds academies and local authorities to provide training for 16-19 year olds

Skills Funding Agency funds and regulates adult further education and skills training in England

Technology Strategy Board the UK’s national innovation agency

Archival: The Learning and Skills Council is <add date> replaced by YPLA and the Skills Funding Agency

Professional Associations

Association for Learning Technology

British Computer Society

British Educational Research Association



The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE)

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE)

Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS)

Excellence Gateway (delivered by LSIS)

Newspapers and Magazines Online

Times Higher Education

Misplaced?: TES, schools level

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