This blog pieces is part of my ongoing course on H817 at the Open University:
Activity 6 asks us to consider innovation in our context. My chosen context is my work at the Open University as an Associate Lecturer on the B629 course. Defining what the course content is and how it is delivered is carried out by the many layers above me:
- Do you sense that your innovations (as supporters of learning) have been valued, encouraged, supported. What evidence do you have to support your view?
In my context there is a certain level of innovation allowed, but we are constrained by the remit of the course, quality standards and finite resources to support change/innovation:
Personal innovation: On a personal level, I have added to the course content for my student groups. Three examples are:
- The creation of FAQs for various elements of the course, which are posted at appropriate moments.
- The conversion of the written, hard copy, bibliography in each course book chapter into an electronic version with permalink to resources. This allows my students direct OU library access to these electronic resources.
- Redesign of some of the Day School and Virtual Tutorial exercises.
The feedback I have had from my line manager and peers who have reviewed my innovations have been positive.
Course innovation: The course team do request every six month feedback on the course and ideas to make it better. Whilst they are significantly constrained in resources, some of the easier to implement ideas to get put into place. These are typically changes to electronic documents such as activity templates rather than more significant ones such as changes to processes or systems that are university wide such as the technology platform. The course team are constrained by the faculty and overall university and so significant revisions to content are not permitted.
- How widespread is innovation in your organisation
Overall I would say that the Open University is very innovative through its research, collaboration with different entities i.e. BBC, content creation such as OpenLearn, platform creation such as FutureLearn and its work on broader national and international programmes. The Open University annual report, puts a particular focus on the role of innovation, both internally and with external partners.
- Are there policies or statements that relate to innovation? If yes, how are they implemented?
I have been unable to find a specific policy or statement around innovation.
There is formal leadership around innovation with Professor Belinda Tynan holding the role of Pro-Vice-Vice_Chancellor (Learning Innovation). Innovation also features heavily in the strategic plan (up to 2017). The OU values are stated as:
We play a unique role in society, making Higher Education open to all
We promote social justice through the development of knowledge and skills
We lead the learning revolution, placing innovation at the heart of our teaching and research
We continuously seek new and better ways to inspire and enable learning
We create world class research and teaching
We respond to the needs of individuals and employers and the communities in which they live and work
We are dedicated to supporting our students’ learning success
Within the strategic plan, in that same document, there are seven priorities, which whilst they do not state innovation is a policy, allude to the role of innovation in the deliver of its mission:
I also decided to take a look on the Yammer platform, the internal social short messaging system and it seems that within the university there is a focus on this area with a strategic development project on it:
- What implications, if any, does this have for your attitude towards innovation?
Personally this is positive. Whilst I do not see innovation trickle down to all of my work, I do have a sense that the OU is innovating on behalf of its students. Big innovation changes take time, but there are small changes happening regularly.
- Select a couple of the issues you consider most relevant to H817 and post a short comment to your tutor group forum. Discuss in your group and reflect on what this tells you about how innovation is encouraged and managed, or otherwise.
Applying innovation into mainstream courses: The OU has a strong background on developing innovation in pedagogy. A great example is the Innovating Pedagogy report. The speed of adaptation though is slow, possibly too slow for our students. Learning is becoming much more multimedia resources driven and students are engaging with social media, but the current OU platform does not support these.
Ideas into innovation: I have not seen in 5 years any formal process for creating innovation from the Associate Lecturer (AL) network. Whilst conference and meetings happen, no time has been dedicated to this area. Recently a system was set up internally, but this tends to be used by internal staff and it has not been communicated to ALs.