EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Thematic Framework

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) is conducting a survey to help determine the “thematic framework” for their activities in the year ahead which has me puzzled. Here is the survey link so you can take it yourself, but you better hurry since it closes this Friday.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Thematic Framework

Here is the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative strawman of the likely important issues offered in the survey to be rated as: A Key Issue – Important But Not Key – Not a Major Issue.

  • Accessibility
  • Digital and Information Literacy
  • e-Portfolios
  • e-Textbooks
  • Emerging Technology, Future Modeling and Academic Transformation
  • Games & Gamification for Supporting Learning
  • Social Media for Teaching & Learning
  • Learning Analytics
  • Learning Ecosystem
  • Learning Space Designs
  • Methods for Evaluating Technology-Based Instructional Innovations
  • Mobile Learning
  • Online & Blended Teaching & Learning
  • Open Content
  • Other (please specify)

Strawman Fallacy

When I referred to the list of likely important issues as the ELI strawman I did so deliberately. Strawman in this case doesn’t mean the list was offered as a starting point for discussion or the development of a more substantial list.

In this case, the ELI thematic framework list represents a strawman fallacy because it is offering a distorted view of what is actually important at the intersection of technology and teaching and learning. To put it more plainly, the ELI thematic framework list misrepresents what is actually important to the learners and to the academic officers.

Errors of Omission

As I read the survey I immediately began asking myself how the choices and the suggested subtopics meshed with the ELI mission of “advancing learning through IT innovation”.

Setting aside the fact that I am not entirely sure what a couple of the items mean. The list is mostly the fun sexy side of the ELI mission but misses on efficacy and mass adoption. If that wasn’t true, then why isn’t Seeking Evidence of Impact (SEI), an ELI anchor initiative, on the list?

For me it simply seems as though the list is a bit dubious and overly populist much like the Horizon Report. It is from their that I believe the opportunity exists for EDUCAUSE and others to take a real leadership stance on the real issues in technology and learning.

The Real Issues

But the most glaring error of omission for me, the elephant in the room, is the absence of any themes related to the effectiveness of information technology investments found in the 2011-12 Inside HE Survey of Chief Academic Officers (CAOs).

That is one of the recent reports I highlighted in Survey Says! which reveals abysmal effectiveness from technology investments. It is also a much more legitimate representation of what are the important issues that ELI should focus on.

Just look at this excerpt from the report.

Effectiveness of Technology Investments Source: Inside HE Survey of CAO

Source: 2011-12 Inside HE Survey of CAO

Greatest Good

Ask yourself if you could only do one thing to improve learning that would offer the greatest good – what would that be? Another way to think of this is to ask yourself if you only had $100,000 to invest in improving learning how would you spend it in order to produce the greatest impact.

Personally, I tend to think improving the data analysis and managerial analytics issue might produce the most impact including long term dividends. Besides, if you can’t do this piece well how do expect to do learning analytics well?

I tend to think the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative important issues list should focus less on the technology and more maximizing the returns on existing investments. Why not expand the list for issues like:

  • Scaling from Pilot to Mass Adoption
  • Increasing Utilization
  • Demonstrating Efficacy
  • Developing the Business Case for ___________
  • Creating the ROI for Innovation

It just seems to me you will never secure the funding to do the fun and sexy things if you can’t demonstrate the business case and build a track record of delivering on them. Similarly, if you don’t know how to scale a pilot project to widespread adoption and high utilization why would anyone invest in the project? Certainly not using their own money.

Final Thoughts

Each of you know what is going to be the most important issues for you in the coming year. I imagine by now your FY13 budgets and project portfolios already reflect that view.

But if you are not sure, and if your plans are not yet solidified, I would simply encourage you to take a more pragmatic and honest look at your real issues and opportunities. You might even use the Inside HE Survey of CAO’s in a discussion to take the temperature on your campus rather than following the lead of ELI on what really are the important issues.

Meanwhile, I do encourage everyone to take the survey and use the Other option to write in what is truly important on your campus.

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