Recently we began our Program Planning course (LRNT 503) in our Master of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) program at Royal Roads University (RRU). During our unit 1 team discussions, we were asked to discuss various topics surrounding program planning and how it applies to technology-mediated learning (TML). Our group held our discussions through online communication and collaboration tools including Google Hangouts, Google Docs and Blackboard’s Collaborate.
This article reveals my perspectives, thoughts and reflections as they relate to the following topics based on the readings of Bates and Sangra (2011) and Caffarella (2013):
- Leadership and strategic planning as they relate to program planning within technology-mediated learning (TML).
- Activities that support the effective integration of TML and
- Experiences with technology as they may improve learning/teaching quality and or applicable hinderances.
How does Program Planning apply within a TML?
My present view of program planning is defined as a negotiated activity among people that plan programs, which are influenced by traditions, political relationships and needs and interests of organizations (Wilson & Cervero, 1996, p. 6). Examples of program plans can be adult degree programs in colleges and universities, training programs mandated for all employees of an organization, social action initiatives and national and international professional and trade conferences (Caffarella & Daffron, 2013, p. 60). Stakeholders who are involved and influence program planning can be educators, learners and organizations (Beard, 2003; Cervero & Wilson, 1996, 1998, 2006). Program planning appears to have application in a TML environment by assisting the enhancement of learning objectives with integrating technology based learning.
Program planning is defined as a negotiated activity among people that plan programs, which are influenced by traditions, political relationships and needs and interests of organizations”
— Wilson and Cervero (2013).
I am currently responsible for assisting planning a program for secondary school students who are interested in learning game development. The components of program planning outlined in our unit 1 readings are related to my role as I am required to meet the needs of various stakeholders while considering budget constraints, logistics, scheduling, evaluation, instruction, needs assessment and support. The knowledge-based skills developed by the students in my program would be categorized under computer technology and entertainment, which fall under the service industry according to Drucker (1969).
Leadership and strategic planning as they relate to program planning.
According to Bates and Sangrà, (2011) support and acceptance from institutional leadership are crucial parts to the equation when integrating technology. In most cases, integration of technology within institutions come with a cost, which some stakeholders choose not to afford. I recall a time when I made a case for adopting new software within graphic design labs so that students would become better equipped with employable skills upon graduating. Faculty leads and instructors were on board for the new software to be adopted, however directors, administrators and IT pushed against it due to cost of licensing, support costs and maintenance. The applications had to be scalable and accessible in all labs across the institution in order for the technology to be feasible.
Leadership needs to be the catalyst for effective change by guiding, coaching, mentoring, and developing competencies in using technology for success in a knowledge based society.”
According to Bates and Sangrà, accessibility to technology for students, faculty, and staff may include establishing access to desktop machines for every faculty and staff member (2011, p. 80). This meant that support for instructors outside of my program would also need to be trained and skilled in the applications, which made it difficult to implement. They would also need access to the software locally and remotely, which made costs even greater. I think this is where leadership would fit into program planning as it relates to TML. Establishing a vision for change by integrating technology into programs can help transform an organization into adopting new technology within institutions. Leadership needs to be the catalyst for effective change by guiding, coaching, mentoring, and developing competencies in using technology for success in a knowledge based society.
Activities that support the effective integration of technology mediated learning (TML).
Sangra (as cited in Bates, Sangra, Albert, 2011) after surveying 16 universities all over the world, suggests the following activities for integrating technology mediated learning:
- To improve the technology infrastructure ( meaning make sure there is enough bandwidth and wireless access in campus for all the students and staff.
- To increase access to technology for students, and staff in the format of computer labs, online library access.
- To improve internet administrative process such as financial systems, human resource management systems.
- To improve internal and external communication through email, student portal, institutional websites for public relations and contact Alumni.
- To promote and facilitate research through accessing and sharing large databases and high capacity computation.
- To expand and improve teaching and learning through
- Using technology to support classroom teaching
- Development of blended or fully online learning course/ program
- Access to digital resources
- Design and purchase software to support teaching and learning
- Faculty development and training in the use of technology
My experiences with technology mediate learning (TML) in the workplace.
I related to many of my group member’s experiences when faced with online/mobile mediation and learning. In my role as a program coordinator, I am faced with developing technology-mediated learning sessions that offer more interactive components than standard uses of technology. Most of my faculty use technology as a communication tool to connect with students and peers while leaving out the interactive component, which is TML. They simply use technology, such as Blackboard, social media and other LMS platforms to send out announcements, emails and course content. However, they don’t seem to use the technology to teach or add substance to learning via online content and distribution. I often receive feedback from students and teachers whom say that they are forced to use these LMS even though they are not supported with methods to improve teaching and learning via the technologies that they are capable of performing.
Worldwide, more people have mobile phones than personal computers”
— Bates & Sangra
Teaching through technology is a difficult task to coordinate. Especially when some schools and their students don’t have external access to the technology used in the classroom, whether it be physical access, network access or financial access. “Worldwide, more people have mobile phones than personal computers” (Bates & Sangra, 2011), which makes it easy to assume that mobile learning is the way of the future. Open communication platforms, such as Skype, Google+, Facebook etc… make it relatively easy to engage with students and faculty. On the other hand, we assume that every student has a mobile data plan which gives them access at all times and or are on a network that is stable and reliable enough to maintain a similar learning experience as the classroom.
I find deciding on the choice of technology to mediate learning through institutions needs to be considered, especially when it comes to licensed technology such as Moodle, Collaborate and Adobe Connect to name a few. Open source technologies such as social media are great for students because they come into the learning environment having some familiarity with the technology. Thus, making learning and communication more fluid. The cost of learning these technologies are relatively low compared to the time and cost factors of learning a LMS. Bates and Sangra, (2011) discuss social media as being a great source for informal learning and contributes to the knowledge economy, however it seems to have no place in the academic learning. This might be true due to the security, privacy and copyright issues that open source technologies are susceptible.
I am constantly trying to answer a series of questions as they relate to learning and technology in the classroom. How do we manage all these technologies and decide on which is the best solution for a given subject? Can technology improve the quality of learning or does it only enhance the learning experience? Should we invest more in supporting and developing our teachers so that learning is improved? Will our choice of technology reflect our pedagogical approach to teaching? Will we decide on technologies that are cost-effective even though they are inadequate just to suit the needs of the institution? How do we ensure that teachers can facilitate the learning of these technologies and have adequate support? There are so many factors to deal with when it comes to integrating technology mediated learning within an academic institution. I look forward to navigating my way through these obstacles and finding solutions for these questions during the program planning course and hope to put my research into practice.
Bates, A. W. , & Sangrà, A. (2011). Managing technology in higher education: Strategies for transforming teaching and learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Beard, V. A. (2003). Learning radical planning: The power of collective action. Planning Theory, 2 (1), 13–35. doi: 10.1177/1473095203002001004
Caffarella, R.S., & Daffron, S. (2013). Planning programs for adult learners: A practical guide. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cervero, R. M., & Wilson, A. L. (1996). Learning from practice: Learning to see what matters in program planning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education , (69), 91–99. doi: 10.1002/ace.36719966911
Cervero, R. M., & Wilson, A. L. (1998). Working the planning table: The political practice of adult education. Studies in Continuing Education, 20 (1), 5–21.
Cervero, R. M., & Wilson, A. L. (2006). Working the planning table: Negotiating democratically for adult, continuing, and workplace education . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Sangrà, A. (2003). La integració de les TIC a la universitat: Una aproximació estratègica. Unpublished manuscript, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain.