The Lakes College Digital Community Project is the individual TLA project as part of the Department for Education’s College Collaboration Fund (CCF).
In recent times there has been, and continues to be significant change to the way learning takes place. This has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions to face to face/on-campus delivery and interaction. It became very clear during Lakes College planning for the 2020/21 academic year that new approaches were needed to digital delivery and online learning needed to reflect the context in which teachers are operating. Despite the challenges faced there was also a realisation that the current circumstances presented an ideal opportunity to reimagine support for delivery teams, continually improve quality, and importantly, fully engage staff in new ways of working. Creating a model that is built on collaboration, trust and shared responsibility is key to removing barriers to improving practice and stimulate ownership of professional development, which lies at the heart of the project work.
Through a variety of opportunities including online TLA sessions, virtual recruitment events and internal meetings it became obvious that there were mixed levels of confidence displayed by staff in the use of technology. Many openly shared their anxiety about using online platforms for both communicating and formal learning. Also how this was contributing to their perception of their own practice, and that of others. Addressing the development themes that were emerging through a series of ‘digital surgeries’ was having a positive impact, however, was it really getting to the root cause of staff anxieties and perceived barriers, in what we termed as ‘digital vulnerabilities’ that staff were demonstrating. We wanted to show all our staff that they were not alone in this challenge and that their colleagues were experiencing the same type of issues. This is where the concept of encouraging staff to share their experiences of technology in an honest and open manner had the potential to overcome the anxieties of others.
We invited a number of practitioners with differing experiences, confidence, attitudes and abilities relating to technology. During this session, we asked them to complete a Technology Acceptance Survey (TAM). The results of the survey were used as discussion themes in structured focus groups allowing us to explore the rationale behind the survey findings. This in turn encouraged the participants to reflect on their experiences and start to form a more detailed understanding of their attitudes toward technology and its use in TLA. This approach fostered a strong sense of community from the outset and broke through previously perceived barriers to realising the true potential of digital learning strategies and activity.
The themes that emerged from the focus group work provided a structured template to allow participants to develop ‘their story’ relating to technology. The framework was agile enough to capture the true experiences but still gave a focus to ensure the content was relevant to the topic. We originally planned to develop a series of podcasts however, following discussions and development work with JISC we decided to trial Vodcasts as an option. This model provides a more visually engaging method to the observer.
We developed a series of vodcasts that include a range of stories shared by practitioners about their digital journey and experiences, good and bad. They have been actively promoted and are widely accessible through our internal CPD platforms and have been shared externally via our Lakes College website in a specific area we use to celebrate collaboration and innovation work.
Impact and benefits
Staff directly engaged in the project have benefitted in many ways and following a model that has provoked reflection and dissemination, has impacted their practice. Broader impact across the organisation includes,
- Development of editing and recording skills for technical support staff
- Sharing of personal thoughts and thinking on digital learning resulting in a safe community of practice being established for practitioners to engage in
- Openness to share and discuss perceived barriers and vulnerabilities connected to technology and digital learning practice
- Topics being included in Personal Development Reviews (PDR) and subsequent development planning for individuals, departments and whole college themes emerging