HOW WE APPROACHED AN ORGANISATION-WIDE IMPLEMENTATION, WRITTEN IN THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF FOOD
Like many other higher education institutions, Griffith University (Queensland, Australia), had been looking for an eportfolio platform for our 55,000 staff and students. Across our four academic groups - Arts, Education & Law, Griffith Business, Griffith Health, and Griffith Sciences – academics were asking for a platform to suit a variety of tastes. The University had an appetite for purchasing an eportfolio solution that it could implement and support for all. In late 2016 we determined that PebblePad was the personal learning environment for us. Fast forward to August 2017, we have a successful enterprise-wide implementation, working collaboratively with departments and academic groups. One might be concerned about having too many cooks in the kitchen, but in our case it added to the success.
BRINGING ALL THE COOKS TO THE TABLE
This is one of the most challenging yet fulfilling aspects of this implementation. How do you get everyone to agree, so that you can implement and support such a large and impactive platform? Well, you don’t. You gather representatives from key administrative and academic entities around the PebblePad table to learn, discuss options and develop solutions. This collaborative working party has been critical in providing insights into the use of PebblePad to create learning resources, identifying key support pain points and developing effective communication strategies for staff and students. In writing the recipe for success (i.e. Implementation Plan), the working party identified four prongs of activity to be undertaken.
PRONG 1: EMBED PEBBLEPAD WITHIN THE CURRICULUM
To empower academics to embed PebblePad into their curriculum, we needed to ensure they were informed, supported and confident. We have formed a cohort of innovators / early adopters, those most hungry to try this new tool, who are supported by learning and teaching professionals both from their academic group and those that are centrally-based. They work collaboratively to co-design and develop resources to best meet the needs of their students, course and/or program. We encourage the innovators to begin by implementing bite-sized learning activities - allowing teaching teams and students to slowly digest what PebblePad can do for them. One might ask, do we only serve the innovators? Do we turn away those hungry to learn? No and no! We run training sessions for all staff interested in getting a taste of PebblePad and provide an ever-increasing menu of self-serve resources.
PRONG 2: ENHANCE UNIVERSITY EMPLOYABILITY STRATEGIES
The implementation of PebblePad has been closely aligned with University employability initiatives. This means that we have invited these champions to the table as well. We have worked with project teams across the academic groups to design resources that collect evidence and enable students to record reflections on experiences. This smorgasbord of work includes integrated learning opportunities, professional identity development, graduate attribute and transferable skills attainment.
PRONG 3: ENGAGE ALL STUDENTS THROUGH EXTRACURRICULAR CONNECTIONS
Would all academics be able to provide their students with a taste of learning with PebblePad in the first teaching periods it was available? While we may have dreamed this would be the case, the practical side of us knew it could not. What to do? We actively encourage the use of PebblePad in students’ extracurricular activities. We support student leadership programs to develop resources so that their students can record their volunteer experiences and make meaning of them through reflections.
We were also inspired by those who had come before us, and tried to take on board their implementation advice and wins. To again help students engage with PebblePad outside the classroom, the About Me Challenge was implemented. This strategy had its genesis in a review of implementation strategies across the sector. Two universities, one in the UK (Plymouth University) and one in the U.S. (Portland State University), identified a similar offering as part of their extracurricular outreach to students. Lessons learned from these institutions informed the design of the About Me Challenge program. At the end of the first year, a menu of three cumulative challenges (one per teaching period) will have been offered - each providing a taste of PebblePad capabilities and their use to develop one’s professional identity.
PRONG 4: EMBED PEBBLEPAD INTO PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES
So does PebblePad just feed the learning of students? While PebblePad was bought expressly for students, it also acts as a space for professional learning. This fourth prong of activity provides a flexible and robust suite of functionality for professional practices. This prong is not yet “fully cooked”. We are currently developing opportunities for PebblePad to reinforce professional learning practices that integrate reflective practice, professional journey planning and evidencing of capability. Perhaps giving academics a taste of learning with PebblePad will have the add-on effect of them experiencing the value and ease with which these types of activities can be implemented, and therefore try similar learning activities with their students.
AFTER DINNER MINTS - AKA WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?
Now that the first complete service (Trimester 1) is done and we are in our second teaching period, we are keen to read the reviews provided through surveys and focus groups. More on this to come when they are done baking.
An implementation of this scope promises to deliver many lessons learned at university, academic group, program and course levels. These come in three flavours: technical, pedagogical and motivational aspects. A few of the key take aways are described below.
Providing a variety of support channels for students is critical, as they look for assistance in different ways.
‘Think programmatically, implement incrementally’ is a phrase to implement by. This means start with small ‘bite-sized’ chunks for the first iteration - get some wins and confidence before going bigger.
Support from learning and teaching professionals in all groups is imperative to success.
Provide ample opportunities for innovators and L&T professionals to share and learn together, and to support and inspire others.
The ‘Remarkable Me’ Challenge has been changed to the “About Me” Challenge due to students expressing they did not feel qualified to participate.
To improve the reach of the About Me program we learned that we must leverage University social media channels, promote the incentives being offered for participation, ask academics who are implementing PebblePad to promote the Challenges, and provide more hands-on information sessions in campus libraries.
FORTUNE COOKIES - WHERE TO FROM HERE?
As the implementation continues, academic groups, academics, the working party, central units, and learning and teaching professionals will continue to gather at the table to collaborate. We continue to build on our experiences by:
- evolving the group of innovators into a Community of Practice for sharing ideas and research approaches;
- nurturing enterprise-wide collaboration;
- broadening the offering of workshops at varying levels of complexity for academics;
- researching the impact of increased professional use by staff on the impact of their use with students;
- broadening the outreach to student programs, clubs, organizations and associations.