Sustaining and Embedding Innovations - wiki JISC Sustaining and Embedding Innovations / Tips for producing tools and resources
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Tips for producing tools and resources

Developing tools and resources

 

Key tips:

 

Take time to understand what stakeholders need

It is essential to put yourself in other stakeholders’ shoes and to understand what exactly they need from you in order that they can adopt your innovations. In addition, it is a good idea to communicate with them to better understand their needs.

 

Members of academic programme teams are likely to need different things from you than, for instance, heads of faculties/schools. In the former case, it will be likely that academics would need clear guidance on the rationale for adopting the innovation, the educational benefits (together with supporting evidence) and “how-to” information (including what support they can expect and case studies). In the latter case, heads of faculties/schools are likely to want supplementary information which would focus on the “business” aspects, such as why they should prioritise specific innovations over others, what are the resourcing/budgetary implications for rolling out and scaling up the innovation, how would risks be managed and quality assured?

 

Appropriate language and terminology

When communicating with different stakeholders, appropriate language and terminology should be adopted. For instance, some academic staff may be put off by the use of “geek-speak”, preferring e-learning innovations to be couched much more in terms of pedagogy and principles of good teaching, learning and assessment.

 

There is even a danger in the academic world of introducing “business/management-speak” e.g. in terms of lean, productive processes, though this has to be balanced with the goal of wanting institutions to become more business-like.

 

Contextualisation

As far as possible, resources should be contextualised as much as possible to different stakeholder groups. Readers will generally find contextualised resources more acceptable, credible and certainly simpler to navigate as they will not have to read material that is not relevant to them. It is also worthwhile considering contextualising resources to different subject disciplines though this will often require working with subject discipline experts to do so.

 

Produced by/owned by the community

Resources are most likely to be adopted if they are produced by and owned by the community – this gives much greater credibility. An example of this is the (sector) toolkit developed by the QA-QE in e-learning SIG – a toolkit “Harnessing Quality Assurance Processes to Enhance Technology Enabled Learning” – which was developed by the SIG (comprising of practitioners from over 70 institutions) with sector consultation using virtual conferences, workshops and a conference.

 

It is not just sector-based communities that can “own” resources – such communities can be at the institution, faculty, school and department levels.

 

Comprehensive descriptions/detailed case studies

Many case studies produced by projects tend to be a bit skimpy on the information produced. Whilst there needs to be a balance between comprehensiveness and simplicity, guidance needs to give a “rich” picture of the project. The basics would include e.g.

  • Why – the rationale for the project including the context, needs, challenges and drivers.
  • What was done.
  • How it was done (the methodology).
  • The outcomes (both planned and unexpected) including benefits to different stakeholders.
  • The impact on different stakeholders.

However, a good case study would go on to produce:

  • Detailed “how-to” guidance
  • Contextualising guidance e.g. where/when the innovation would be most relevant, such as for different subject disciplines.
  • Costs for designing and delivering.
  • Implementation risks and how to manage them.
  • Cost/benefit analysis.
  • Critical success factors for implementation.
  • Skills/roles/responsibilities for implementation.
  • CPD/training requirements.
  • Support requirements.
  • Comparisons with existing practice.

 

Support practitioner learning and educational decision-making

The tools and resources developed should not necessarily be too prescriptive – rather, they should recognise professional learning and allow practitioners to interpret them in their own ways and add value themselves or in groups.

 

Most importantly, tools and resources should always be linked back to key objectives and needs for instance, e-learning techniques should be aligned with educational thinking. An example of this is the University of Hertfordshire using a framework for mapping e-learning techniques to principles of good teaching -  based on Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education

 

 

Easy to find, navigate and comprehend

Resources should be easy to find, navigate and comprehend so that users can quickly assimilate what the resource provides and identify what they are looking for. Generally it is a good idea to:

Include multiple methods to allow users to search and browse the resource.

  • “Promote” the resource to those most likely to find it of interest e.g. through communities of practice and SIGs.
  • Maintain the resource in a single location and request that stakeholders create links to the resource (this can help support updating of the resource).
  • Avoid “information overload”. This can be achieved, for instance, by using the “pyramid” approach to developing resources, where users can drill down in a hierarchal structure to find the level of detail they need.

 

 

Use of technology

 Resources that are developed need not just be textual-based documents but can include multi-media elements e.g.

  • Podcasts or vidcasts (such as for testimonials from students/staff or explaining how a particular innovation works).
  • Screencasts created using technologies such as Techsmith Camtasia – where recordings of LT&A applications can, for instance, be shown with a narration (examples: MMTV: Making XML Site Maps; MMTV: Twitter).
  • Slide-shows e.g. using Slideshare (example: Making resources discoverable presentation (BERLIN Project, University of Nottingham)
  • Diagrams and schematics to e.g. illustrate complex processes.
  • Mindmaps to explain and illustrate complex points (Mindmapping software now typically allows exporting to formats such as interactive PDF or SWF files) and/or using online mindmaps (e.g. MindMeister).

Furthermore, resources can be created using web2 technologies such as wikis and networking sites (e.g. Cloudworks) which allow communities of practice to provide feedback and discuss/develop the resources. For example the JISC Design Studio that is emerging from the JISC Transforming Curriculum Design/Delivery through Technology programme.

 

Evidence/evaluation of impact

Increasingly, impact of innovation projects is becoming crucial to identify and evidence – not just for funding agencies, but for budget and resource holders.

 

Evaluation strategies must therefore place increasing emphasis on evaluating the impact of innovation projects.

 

There are however, some issues to address when evaluating impact. The most important is that projects have a finite duration and the opportunity to only measure impact of a pilot or test-bed. It is, however, just as important to sustain the evaluation of impact, as the innovation is adopted and rolled-out to e.g. other faculties & schools. Sustainability plans, should therefore incorporate the sustainability of impact evaluation/evidencing.

 

Testimonials

Testimonials from different stakeholders can be a powerful way to motivate others to adopt innovations. Traditionally, such testimonials have often been promoted as textual quotes, however, the use of podcasting and vidcasting can add value, in the sense that passion and enthusiasm can be conveyed – which can be quite “infectious”.

 

Useful guidance

  • Tips and tricks, toolkits, checklists, FAQs.

 


 

Maintaining the currency of tools and resources

It is sometimes forgotten by project teams that tools and resources can quickly lose their currency in the light, for example, of new innovations and emerging good practice. A sustainability plan should therefore include mechanisms to maintain the currency of tools and resources. A very effective way of achieving this is through communities of practice or SIGs (special interest groups) where there is emphasis on the community “owning” and further developing its tools and resources.

 


 

IPR and Licensing

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is a generic term that relates to copyright, trademarks, patents and other claims for 'ownership' of a resource - whether registered or unregistered. There are a range of complex issues and risks (e.g. around ownership and trust) that need to be considered and which  can present significant barriers to sharing and publishing of content. The issues are too complex to discuss fully here therefore the following links are given which provide guidance in different areas of IPR and licensing: