Not All Are As Excited As I
I am, at this moment, gearing up to start an exciting new project at work: I get to develop an LMS and train* two other instructors who are in the same SLT group as I. I am super excited about this because I know that learners need these skills, and not only that, these are skills that effectively are transferable to the workplace.
There are some details to sort out before we dive into this project for January, but I was interested in feedback from the two other instructors with whom I’d be working. One is similarly excited, and keen to learn about how to use an LMS with her program. In the lunchroom, we talked briefly about how she’d use it, and how my role would be to help her develop and support her in the smooth functioning of her platform. The other, not so much. She believes that her course is fine the way it is, and that she can’t see how an LMS could be worked into her schedule.
That got me thinking. Now, I know that learning a new tool can be daunting. I also know that instructors are wary of the next best thing. This instructor has said it would be a challenge to make the time to learn and to use this tool. Her 5.6 hours per day are solidly booked. She asked “Are they paying me extra to learn this? Are they giving me more hours?”. No. They’re not. And she’s an employee, not a volunteer.
She’s got a point. But it’s disheartening all the same. At this point in time, I believe it would be doing our learners a disservice not to include an element of technology in a workplace SLT program.
An LMS is a REAL WORLD Tool – Why not Introduce it?
If any of our learners are moving onward and upward in their education, there is a good chance that they will encounter a Virtual Learning Environment. In fact, last I checked, 90% of colleges and universities in the US have some kind of LMS. (Jon Mott, 2010 http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/envisioning-post-lms-era-open-learning-network). I’d hazard a guess that Canada is up there too.
I’ve read before that one of the biggest obstacles facing the development of a LMS is instructor resistance. Why? Really, why? I’ve got some thoughts on this:
- An LMS makes you accountable, both to the learners and to your employer. Your program becomes transparent to everyone enrolled. Your program, then, is much more open to feedback for development and improvement. Transparency does not appeal to everyone; in fact, it makes some nervous. I can understand this.
- Time and effort: anything worth doing takes time to sculpt, create and maintain. If you don’t have the time, you don’t have the time.
- People in general can be creatures of habits. If you’ve been doing the same thing for many years, why change? Opting for something new can often mean dropping something that has worked effectively for the instructor.
- Technology can be intimidating.
If You Force it, You Will Fail…
I’m not about to try to force anything on anybody who has already decided against using advanced technology in the classroom (by “advanced”, I mean more than just PowerPoint). If you want to find a surefire way to fail at a project, impose it on someone. Give them no choice. Then watch them dig in their heals and all your efforts go up in smoke.
How to Get Instructor Buy-In
Idea: I’ve got to sell this. I’ve got to use what I have been doing in Moodle & D2L, show examples, and sell it to my colleagues. I can’t just stand at the front of a meeting room, blathering on about engaging learners with technology – I’ve got to take pieces of my platform, throw it up there on a screen or whiteboard, and show them how it can be used. I need them to recognize the benefits, and want to develop this in their CALL times. I need to show them that it’s not rocket science. Well, maybe the grader tool is a little rockety, but most of it isn’t.
You’ve heard the expression “if you build it, they will come.” In my case, I very well could build an LMS, and the instructor will choose not to use it. The thing is, if you want an LMS to fail, you can find a way to do so.
On the flip side, if you want an LMS to be successful, you can make it happen.
* Note: I can’t actually “train” my colleagues. This would be in violation of our Collective Agreement. What I do is part of something called “PD Partner Model” which calls the action “sharing” and claims no expertise on the part of the sharer. Am I training or sharing? That’s the rub. Resistance comes in many forms, and a skilled Resistor employs whatever resources she can. In this case, that’s the Union. Big sigh.