Changing cultures, engaging staff: building capacity and through informal learning approaches

Authors: Holley, D., Roushan, G. and Drake, W.

Conference: Critical perspectives in Learning Technology 25th Association for Learning Technology Conference

Dates: 11-13 September 2018


Taking innovation from concept through to scalable delivery is complex, contested and an under-theorised process (Biggins et al 2017). The EU learning layers Project ( a consortium consisting of 17 institutions from 7 different countries focused on the scaling up of technology and innovation through informal learning in the workplace, and lessons learned from this project challenges how we may seek to exploit technologies and change culture in our own organisations. Framed around the ‘Vision for Learning’ culture change work at Bournemouth University, we map out how the EU learning layers approaches to scalability in the local arena can apply to building capacity, the appetite for institutional change; and leading to the tendering for, and subsequent implementation of a new Virtual Learning Environment ‘Brightspace’. Positioned to frame and support cultural change, this presentation reports on the work thus far on a focused strategy to engage new stakeholders in project activities and mobilising resources.

We argue that successful scaling is not just about the numbers we can reach but about the changes in practice an innovation can bring about and how valuable these changes are to stakeholders, whether such changes can be sustained over time, and the extent to which users and stakeholders are involved in co-creating the innovation. However, in the context of education, Dede (2011) argues inherent conservatism leads to change resistance in school settings; McLaughlin and Mitra, (2003); describe the difficulties of developing a reform culture and aligning it with existing policies; while work by Coburn (2003, p9) outlines the issues in measuring impact in relation to shift of knowledge and authority to adopter organisations .

In a metric driven UK Higher Education environment in England, what theories can address challenges to our efforts to create cultural change/innovation? Three scaling taxonomies underpin our work and map formal/informal changes: the lens of Coburns five dimensions of scaling; the work of Greenhalgh and colleagues of scaling literature underpinning NHS reform (2004;5); and the diffusion of innovation synthesis originally posited by Rogers (1962) but subsequently applied as a framework across in the business sector, political science, public health, communications, history, economics, technology, and education (Sahin, 2006, p. 1). The research illustrates the increasing competitive landscape of higher education institutions and the strategic complexities faced by leadership in the sector (Pucciarelli, and Kaplan 2016; Buller 2015). Culture change and strategic change leadership in higher education, and beyond, relies on agility to adapt quickly to change (Kane et al 2015).

By mapping the formal processes in the tender with our ‘designed in’ co-creation and engagement activities we can start to theorise the critical success and systematic pain points at which stakeholders multiple perspectives are able, or not able to be reconciled; and the ongoing questions raised about genuine culture change and the extent to which staff engagement can be ‘designed in’ will resonate with policy makers; academics; technologists; users and of course our students. This session will be of interest to those working with other VLE platforms, as the broad principles are transferable.

Source: Manual