This is a bit belated, as I’ve been using a different blog  for some time now, but I suppose I should finish this blog off by reporting that I was awarded my doctorate last year. So that’s that.



Ref Grab it test

This is just a test to see how ref grab it copes where a page only has an ISBN to identify a resource


I’ve moved

I’ve incorporated this blog into my work blog – keep up to date at http://learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk/blogs/julian.

So please update your bookmarks. There’s lot’s more interesting stuff in the learning lab web too. Check out http://learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk

Early findings?

Possibly. I’m in the second phase of data analysis at the moment, by which I’ve mean I’ve coded the data into large themes and I’m now trying to break those down into smaller themes. By far the biggest of the “big” themes was to do with technology, and attempts to promote “technologically enhanced learning” (A much more accurate phrase than e-learning, I think, and while we’re on the subject of accuracy I think I’m going to start using the phrase “digital technologies” rather than “new technology, or ICT”)

Anyhow. I’ll be frank here and admit that I do find this a very tedious process. I much prefer to be writing, but I can see that it is necessary to sift through all the data, even though I’ll only end up using a small fraction of it.  I suppose it’s bit like prospecting for gold, because ideas do pop up during the process. One of the things I think I might want to pursue is the idea that the different models of the University, for example, functional models (the research university, the teaching university) and structural models (the bureaucratic organisation, the collegial model) do not so much guide the work of Educational Development Units, as they frame resistance to the sort of innovation that EDUs are trying to build in. I’ve gone through the data several times now, and I really haven’t found much evidence of a committment to one model or another, but I have found quite strong evidence of pragmatism. There is awareness of resistance to innovation, but virtually everyone I have spoken to so far seems very optimistic that they have ways around it, and that their chosen approaches are working.  There again, in an interview with someone from another university, they’re not necessarily going to talk about failures.  I think the thing to do is to try and identify what is going on when they do talk about resistance.

Of course, I haven’t really started on the documentary evidence I collected yet – That I think might well show a leaning to some model of what the university is because of course that’s the public face of the unit.

Starting to write.

Well, not actually starting. I’ve been doing it for some time, but I am finding it very difficult to come up with a conceptual framework which I can hang the analysis on. I’ve done four of my interviews, and I think I only need another two. (I must chase up access to the pre-1992 universities I’ve already contacted. And perhaps find some others if I can’t get participation)  And the fact that my book chapter is now officially “In press” might help with getting further participants. But I’ve got quite a lot to be going on with so I can at least start writing.

The trouble is of course, ordering my writing. My first idea was to use Nvivo to code all my notes that I’d taken from the literature, which did generate a set of concepts, and in that sense that has been quite valuable. But I think I may have fallen into the trap of stopping generating codes and tried to force things into nodes where they don’t belong.  I will probably have to unpack each of the 35 nodes I’ve already created and re code them. Actually, I doubt I’ll have to unpack all 35 of them – one or two of them only have a few references so I’ll have to think hard about whether I want to continue with them.  I’ve also melded the interview data in with the literature review, which might also have been a mistake, because I am going to want to highlight the differences between that data and the literature review. Still, they do appear separately in each node, so they shouldn’t be too hard to unpack.  I’ll be a bit more careful when I start on the documentary and photographic data which is next.

The other thing I’ve begun to do is a much cruder analysis technique, but I think it may have some potential. Essentially I’ve just created a document for each interview question, and am importing the respondent’s answers into those. Because the questions themselves were generated from the literature review they should reflect large themes which might contribute to a conceptual framework. On the bright side I have some holidays from work coming up, so I plan to use the first week or so of it to really crack on with it. And I shouldn’t get too frustrated. I just attended one of our regular study schools and in one of the sessions on “How to write the perfect thesis” I was relieved to be told that very few doctoral students know what they are doing when they start out.  – The trick is to make the thesis look like you did!

I’ve been quiet for a few weeks because I’ve been wandering around the UK collecting data and transcribing interviews. I’ve still got a few more to do, but there are some themes beginning to emerge. Perhaps the most surprising one is that educational developers are a lot more optimistic than I’d expected.  (Maybe, it’s just that I’m a natural pessimist!) The EDU is, it seems becoming a well established feature of the HE scene and is interacting with quite a lot of staff. It’s perhaps debateable whether this is because it’s often the gatekeeper for additional funding.  One slight ootential worry is that there’s relatively little direct interaction with students, although that isn’t universal. Some EDUs do far more than others here. 

I think I’m finding evidence that developers in general tend to incline towards a “teaching” model of the University, but are also very aware of the research agenda. There’s also a degree of scepticism about technology, or at least about over enthusiasm for it which is a little surprising. (But I haven’t yet done a comprehensive and rigourous analysis of the data, so that can’t be anything more than a subjective impression at this stage.) Other themes are that the unit is often a locus for responding to national initiatives like PDP and the Professional Standards Framework. So that raises questions about whether this is something that universities should think about “beefing up”. Of course, that depends on the number and relevance of such initiatives.

What else. Well, there is the question of putting in funding bids, which seems quite common, and then managing projects. There’s also quite a lot of involvement in teaching award type schemes. But I suppose, if you’re going to do that you have to have a separate unit to avoid questions of fairness. Anyway, I have a few days before my next interview, so I’ll finish transcribing the most recent one and then get my Nvivo hat on to start a more rigorous analysis.

Changing methodology?

After a good start, I am running into a little difficulty persuading potential respondents to participate in the interviews. I don’t of course expect everyone I ask to welcome the prospect of being interviewed with open arms, and it’s too early yet to give up on plan A. But I do need to think about a Plan B. This, will I think, involve having less of a focus on two institutions, and simply interviewing a wider selection of developers based in different institutions. After all, if I make sure that I get a good cross section of institutions, I can still draw legitimate conclusions about the influence of the institutional context. But I think my next task is to revisit some of the methodology texts on interviewing!