Unit 3 | Planning and Decision Making

Overview

In this unit, you will consider how to plan and implement digital learning tools or a learning program/policy change within an organization. We will start this unit considering the role of data in planning and decision making within organizations. We live increasingly in a data-driven society with far-reaching implications for both individuals and organizations, and part of this unit will focus on how leaders can leverage data and learning analytics to meet strategic objectives and to plan for change. We will also examine the risks and the ethics of data use. After an introduction to project management, you will complete an environmental scan of your own organizational context, and using a variety of resources, identify elements of the planning process to consider when implementing a learning technology, tool or program.  You will work with your team to develop a toolkit to help manage this important change process.

Learning Activities and Assignments

  • Review and analyze scholarly literature on data, learning analytics and planning for the creation of digital learning environments in organizations.
  • Engage in interactive discussions on course and student blog sites.
  • Complete Activity 1: Gathering Data (Team Discussion) (Week 5)
  • Begin work on Assignment 2 (Week 5)
  • Complete Activity 2: Leading Planning (Blog post) (Week 6)
  • Complete work and submit Assignment 2 (Week 7)
  • Start planning for Assignment 3

Activity 1 | Gathering Data

From your readings on change, you likely identified that a first step in most of the models is gathering data and evidence to help tell your story and convince others that a change is needed. Modern leaders can analyze, plan and project using accurate data on everything from student demographics to the number of people viewing a webpage. Data has never been easier to collect, but it is never quite as simple as it appears and the readings will urge you to look at data collection with a critical eye.

Readings

The first article to read is the one by Zettelmeyer. This is a Kellogg Insight article aimed at business executives. It explains the importance of data to decision makers and encourages leaders to familiarize themselves with data analytics.
Zettelmeyer, F. (2015). A leader’s guide to data analytics. KelloggInsight.

KelloggInsight. (2015, May 1). A Leader’s Guide to Data Analysis: A working knowledge of data science can help you lead with confidence. [Blog post].

The RAND occasional paper (Marsh, Pane & Hamilton) reports on studies related to data-driven decision making in schools across the USA. If you are not currently in the school system, you can skim this article for some items that resonate across disciplines. The Conceptual Framework of Data-Driven Decision Making in Education is worth a look. The section titled “What Factors Influence the Use of Data for Decision Making” is also applicable in most contexts.

Marsh, J., Pane, J., & Hamilton, L., (2006). Making Sense of Data-Driven Decision Making in Education: Evidence from Recent RAND Research. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

The third reading is the JISC report (Schlater et al) from the UK. The information was gleaned from case studies at post-secondary institutions in the US, Australia and England. The topic is specific to learning analytics and the section called “How learning analytics works” will be especially informative for Activity 2.

Sclater, N., Peasgood, A, & Mullan, J. (2016). Learning analytics in higher education: A review of UK and international practice. Jisc.

The reading by Prinsloo and Slade leans heavily on academic prose but it is a good introduction to the ethics of collecting, interpreting and using learner data.

Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2014). Educational triage in open distance learning: Walking a moral tightrope. The International Review of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 15(4), 306-331.

Supporting this article is the final reading in this section which is a webpage from the Open University containing three policies developed around the collection of learning analytics. Questions to consider: Does your own institution or organization have these policies? Do they need to develop these policies?

Open University. (n.d.). Ethical use of student data for learning analytics policy.

Activity Instructions

Once you have completed the readings head to the Unit 3, Activity 1 teams discussion area. In your teams consider the role of data in planning for change. One of the questions you may need to ask is what data you may need. Think about the change project you identified in Unit 2 – what data might be helpful to collect to not only tell your story about the need for change, but also how you might then evaluate the success of that change (another step in many of the change models). This is where the use of analytics may be particularly relevant. As you consider the data that might be available to you as a leader within an organization what factors are the most relevant?

Your instructor will also share some analytics information with you from the course. As part of your team discussion also consider the following:

  • From a learning technology and teaching perspective what questions could this data answer?
  • From a policy/guideline perspective what do you think might be some ethical or privacy concerns in using that data?
  • From a planning perspective, how might you consider using this data to bring awareness of a technology or policy change within an organization?

Activity 2 | Leading Projects

As part of any change process, there will likely be an associated project or projects. The change management planning would likely focus more on the people involved, and the project itself may focus more on the technical requirements and processes that are needed for implementation. So for example if your data gathering identified that you need a solution for more systematic training within your organization, you may have decided that an LMS implementation would be the solution. You would need a change plan (to ensure successful adoption this would include stakeholder analysis, training development etc.) as well as a project plan. Unlike change management theories and models, project planning often offers detailed guidelines and processes.

Think about a recent project you were involved with where a new technology, program or idea was implemented. Was it successful? What went well? What could have been done to improve the outcome? Before you begin your readings note down the project and the answers to your initial questions.

This week, you will explore literature that outlines different methods that can be used for planning projects within organizations. You will then look at a few examples of projects that highlight the complexities of initiating a change related to a learning technology. The examples mostly come from the Higher Education sector, but will illustrate the planning processes and considerations needed to successfully implement a technological change (or many of them) within an organization.

This week, you will explore literature that outlines different methods that can be used for planning projects within organizations. You will then look at a few examples of projects that highlight the complexities of initiating a change related to a learning technology. The examples mostly come from the Higher Education sector, but will illustrate the planning processes and considerations needed to successfully implement a technological change (or many of them) within an organization.

You are likely familiar with some form of project management. It may be the formal standards outlined by the Project Management Institute (the PMBOK guide) or a more informal process that outlines the various stages and identifies tasks, roles, timelines, risks, resources and costs. In some organizations, there may be a dedicated project management office, staffed by project management professionals, but in smaller organizations or in different departments project management tasks are often tracked by a project lead or member of the project team.

Though project management processes have been and are considered the standard for effectively completing projects, recently researchers and practitioners have looked to more agile approaches, in response to a perceived need to include innovative ideas or respond to what can be termed as ill-structured or ill-defined problems. In your previous course, LRNT 524, you explored a variety of instructional design models for planning the development for a curriculum of study–often project management is an important consideration when completing curriculum design projects and you may be seeing some parallels between these processes. You also examined design thinking as an alternative to traditional design, and explored critiques such as the “Is the ADDIE model appropriate for teaching in a digital age?”, by Tony Bates, which outline some limitations that linear, systems-based approaches have when designing projects within environments where technology and knowledge are changing rapidly and uncertainty is prevalent. Similarly for project management, critics have indicated that design thinking principles might be useful to consider in an environment characterized by uncertainty, increasing complexity and rapid change (Ben Mahmoud-Jouini, S., Midler, C., & Silberzahn, P., 2016). At the same time the authors emphasize that though design thinking works well framing problems that are ill-defined and complex, there is not yet a framework for formulating strategy and project management continues to be the main approach for large, complex projects.

Part 1: Readings

If you are not familiar with project management, begin by watching the brief video which provides a concise overview. In the project management open text, pay particular attention to the first four chapters (fairly short readings) which provides history and overview, the project lifecycle and a framework. You may want to revisit this book as you start to plan for Assignment 2 to read more detail about the different stages of planning.

Knolscape. (2013). Introduction to Project Management.

Watt, A. (2014). Project Management. Victoria, BC: BCcampus.

The following reading provides a framework for combining design thinking within a systems approach to help solve wicked problems. You do not need to read the whole article, but what may be particularly useful for you to consider as you start to think about introducing and planning for change is how innovation can hit “barriers to change” (reading starting on page 11) and how you can overcome those in your planning by taking a systems view. Figure 7: Finding Ways Around the System highlights ways to move through and around problems.

Conway, R., Masters, J., & Thorold, J., (2017). From design thinking to systems change: How to invest in innovation for social impact. Royal Society of Arts, Action and Research Centre.

When the University of Calgary started to focus on teaching and learning as part of their strategic vision, they put together a task force to consider how learning technologies fit within this vision. Through a taskforce and consultations with campus and community stakeholders they developed a strategic framework for learning technologies. You can skim this plan, but as you start to think about your team and final projects, pay particular attention to the data collected to inform the planning, who was consulted, and what priorities they focused on. Considering the priorities and strategies that they identified, which would be relevant to your own context? How would you start to plan for a change within that area (learning spaces, governance, providing supports, policies/procedures, leadership). What resources might you need that you may not have considered?

University of Calgary, Learning Technologies Task Force. (2014). Strategic framework for Learning Technologies.

Part 2: Real World Examples

The following are some examples of learning technology projects that various project leads have blogged about over the last few years. Choose one of the examples provided or find another post or example from your own professional context to consider. From the descriptions identify what you think are the successful elements of project planning, what barriers were (or anticipated) encountered and ways that they suggest moving forward. As part of your Assignment 2 planning you may want to share these with your teammates so that you can start to put together common elements you can use in your toolkits.

D’arcy Norman is a learning technologist at U of C and has been involved in a variety of learning technology implementations. This blog post from 2017 provides great insight to one of the projects that was implemented as part of the overall plan for the university.

Norman, D. (2017, March 11). Lessons learned: AV systems design in the Taylor Institute. [blog post].

Dave Cormier’s reflection on the recent discourse from the technology sector and their claims to be able to “fix” education. He discusses a recent project developing a digital strategy at UPEI and touches on privacy, student needs and project management.

Cormier, D. (2017, December 8). Our schools aren’t broken, they’re hard. [Blog post].

Clint Lalonde is a project manager at BCcampus and one of the instructors in this program. Here are two posts related to the Open Homework Systems project he is currently leading: Ed-tech meta-analysis and Some strategies for the open homework systems project

Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Provost of Academic Operations at Athabasca University (most recently at Edinburgh University) wrote the following post “Why we need learning technology developers” about the challenges of creating a learning technology landscape.

Part 3: Blog Post

Now that you have explored some different approaches to project management, including how design thinking may be similar or different to traditional methods, go back to the project you identified at the beginning of the readings. Consider the following questions and create a blog post summarizing your answers. Just a note that you should make sure that you do not share any information related to your current organization if that information should be private.

  1. What was the problem/issue to be solved? Were the overall goals communicated? Who benefited? Who were the stakeholders? Was there a project plan put in place? What did this look like? What changes in planning do you think would have helped with any of the barriers or challenges that were encountered?
  2. What do you think were the barriers? Considering some of your readings, how would you suggest overcoming those?
  3. What methods do you see yourself using in your practice?

Reference

Ben Mahmoud-Jouini, S., Midler, C. & Silberzhan, P.(2016). Contributions of Design Thinking to Project Management in an Innovation Context. Project Management Journal, 47(2), 144-156. [note this article is available in the RRU library, it is also linked from the Readings in Moodle]


Assignment 2 | Toolkit for Leading the Implementation of Digital Technologies (Team)

Your Assignment 2 team project that will be due at the end of this unit (Week 7 in the course) and you will the third week in this unit to focus on it. However, you should begin planning for this early in this Unit.

One last optional reading you may want to browse is the following from the University of Central Florida, one of the pioneers in implementing blended learning. The authors report on the implementation of blended learning at the University of Florida and the considerations they think helped it become successful. They developed a “Toolkit for Blended Learning” which may be helpful as you start to think about building your own toolkit or guide for Assignment 2.

Moskal, P., Dziuban, C., & Hartman, J. (2013). Blended learning: A dangerous idea? The Internet and Higher Education, 18, 15–23.

University of Central Florida (n.d.). Institutional capacity and readiness.