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How can digital technology support the Connected Curriculum?

Eileen Kennedy28 November 2016

Digital education will be at the heart of the Connected Curriculum. UCL’s education strategy 2016-21 commits establish a digital learning infrastructure that connects students with each other, with staff with research and with the wider world. Digital education will be a key support for Dimension 6 “Students connect with each other, across phases and with alumni” as well as providing tools for Dimension 5 “Students learn to produce outputs – assessments directed at an audience”. My research project as a Connected Curriculum Fellow will explore different ways that technology can help staff implement the Connected Curriculum and help us evaluate the impact of the Connected Curriculum.

There are three broad ways that digital technology can support the Connected Curriculum.

  1. Digital technology can enable staff and students to connect with each other, and to create innovative teaching and learning activities and assignments for students, including using videos, blogs or websites aimed at audiences outside of UCL;
  2. Digital technology can be used to guide staff through the Connected Curriculum and adapt to their needs;
  3. Digital technology can be used to collect examples of teaching and learning activities that staff are putting in place and give feedback to them and their departments about their progress, guiding next steps and providing an overview of where we are as an institution.

Using a design based research approach, I will be exploring each of these ways of engaging with technology in the context of the Connected Curriculum. This year I will be involved in procuring an academic social network and a blogging service for UCL. When these are in place, there will be an opportunity to pilot and evaluate the technology with selected groups. I am also prototyping online, interactive approaches to supporting staff to engage with the Connected Curriculum, and considering ways of gathering the impact of the Connected Curriculum in digital form.

Evaluation of the impact of the Connected Curriculum is important, and there are many data sources we can collect. Wenger, Traynor and de Laat (2011) suggest that evaluation can be useful to teaching staff because they can use it for reflection and guidance, but only if they are able to “recognize their own experience of participation in the results and the process of evaluation” (p. 7). To do this, Wenger et al. propose using a particular narrative format that they refer to as collecting “value creation stories”. These value creation stories will also assist those leading initiatives and cultivating a community of practitioners developing the Connected Curriculum at UCL. In order for this to be effective, the approach to evaluation should:

give them the information they need to make decisions about how to support the development of communities and networks and to maximize value creation. The results should be useful and trustworthy for people and organizations that provide “sponsorship” to communities and networks, that is, to those who give them institutional legitimacy, ensure that they have the resources they need, negotiate strategic alignment, and provide an organizational ear when the outcome requires action on the part of an organization. These stakeholders need to make decisions about investment and institutionalization, which need to be based on reliable and informative data (p. 7).

Collecting staff and students’ assessments of where their programmes are with the Connected Curriculum can be part of the evidence of value creation we need. One of my challenges during my CC fellowship is to make sure we gather the data in the format we need it and channel it back in to enhancing UCL’s engagement with the Connected Curriculum.