The barriers to implementing technology Q & A

But do you know what Questions to ask in the first place and who do you rely on to provide the Answers?

I was recently asked if I would share my views on what was described as ‘questions that learning providers ask themselves about common obstacles to implementing technology’. In that we could discuss the questions we both try to address daily and hopefully we would be able to offer learning providers some answers.

As this is a subject near, but becoming less dear to my heart, my all too swift response began with a statement along the lines of: ‘most learning providers that have not already embedded practical everyday technology in their provision, probably don’t know what questions to ask anyone, let alone ask themselves.’ Even though they may be more than aware that technology is being used by others across the sector to great advantage, I have found that it is usually an individual or individuals that stop an initiative in its tracks. Is that a public sector thing or is it just in FE & Skills?

question-mark-49958_1280It’s perfectly understandable for Principals and CEOs to rely on management that have been appointed to know or look into appropriate use of technology and have the outcome raised during innumerable team meetings. It’s my experience that in those circumstances, proposals rarely get beyond objections raised by colleagues or staff. Objections, which are more often than not based on personal but historic experience, here-say, lack of knowledge, or worse and go unchallenged, deferring to supposedly better knowledge than that researched.

Typical of the ‘common barriers’ that are referred to throughout this website and gathered not from here-say but from a decade of experience include:

  • Too expensive (regardless of proven ROI),
  • Makes more work (actually halves it),
  • Doesn’t work for this or that sector (very unlikely),
  • The staff are a bit old for IT (ruddy cheek),
  • We want one system that ‘does everything’ (let me know when you find one),

Or my favourite:

  • we tried it once, they didn’t like it” (who are ‘they?’).

So, for one ambiguous reason or another, implementation of everyday technology fails to get off the ground for yet another academic year. In the real world, planning to meet the customer interest in a product or service and keep up with if not ahead of the competition is essential, to do otherwise would have catastrophic effects such as going out of business. Ah, but that can’t happen in the FE & Skills sector can it. Can it?

Further more, I don’t believe it’s through lack of awareness that the technology used by learners, employers and even senior management in daily life should not be used to deliver training. Heaven knows there has been millions of pounds of taxpayers money thrown at ‘raising awareness’ over the past decade, I would not be impressed if that waste continued and I think that it’s more simple than that. It would be unusual if there were a single source within an organisation with the experience and knowledge needed to feed into an organisation wide ILT strategy and if that’s the case, the information must come from elsewhere.

Perhaps other learning providers, perhaps a specialist consultant, but please not one that’s employed by a supplier of a single technology, claiming to be the panacea of all technological ills. Representation of a single solution is invaluable when researching options to compare like for like, but hardly unbiased.

I have always believed there is a place for an impartial ‘outside specialist’ on any ILT steering group that can cut through the rhetoric and challenge the doubters by providing accurate up to date information, demonstrating why appropriate technology should be used and to others how it can be used. And yes of course I am talking about myself and my associates, but there are many others too.

Someone recently wrote of consultants and advisers saying:

You need to be able to give people advice, with the real option that they might not take it and go a different route, and you have to be fine with it.”

Well I am no more fine with it today as an independent technology adviser, than I was in my previous role with the RSC as an eLearning Adviser to WBL, when all too often, the ‘different route’ is actually to ‘do nothing’.

In the current economic climate, doing nothing will invariably be to the detriment of quality, efficiency and improvement, not just to the learner, who supposedly ‘comes first.’ But to the expectation of Ofsted, the recommendations of FELTAG, and quite possibly the survival of the organisation itself.

I have never understood the politicians expression “difficult choices will have to be made….” it invariably means watch out, there is a train coming and someone other than the politician is going to get hurt.

To those organisations that have yet to embed appropriate technology in its provision and still uncertain “what questions to ask and who to believe”, you might consider this as an option. A root and branch Technology Review of a Learning Provider.

It will provide a snapshot about your own organisations use of technology and also propose actions to consider implementing sooner than later, just like any business planning to stay afloat.

Colin Gallacher
Educational Technology Adviser

See also: If not now – when?
When is an IT Strategy not an IT Strategy?
Is Work Based Learning Fit for the 21st Century?
FELTAG a directive, an aspiration or just common sense?



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