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Staff Development for eLearning: Innovation, cultural and organisational change - Part Four

Effective Staff Development

Kirkpatrick (2001)  lists the factors which categorise effective staff development in the delivery of flexible learning as follows:-

  • It is supported by central policy and planning
  • Appropriate resources are allocated
  • Technical and pedagogical skills are the focus
  • Attitudes and beliefs are considered
  • It builds on the work of enthusiasts and early adopters
  • Working models and examples of good practice are explored
  • It is set within local contexts
  • There is effective communication between stakeholders
  • Opportunities for practice and reflection are important
  • It is realistic and manageable

Northumbria ’s academic staff development provided a range of staff activities. These have included:-

~ workshops for academic, administrative and support staff;

~ in-class support;

~ one-to-one support;

~ support for programme teams;

~ a Blackboard site for a staff “Blackboard User Forum” which contains a collection of support materials, web links, discussion boards, examples of good practice, etc.;

~ regular “e-Learning Forum” meetings to share good practice, and discuss issues relating to our use of Blackboard;

~ staff newsletter items.

BUT…effective staff development is not just staff development

Northumbria has set up a whole support structure incorporating:

  • Multidisciplinary support team – academic, administrative, technical;
  • Proactive approaches – questionnaires, cold calling, help lines, e-mail help address, focus groups, discussion forums;
  • Expertise in a range of areas – elearning, distance learning, IPR, data quality, copyright, technology, pedagogy, structures and systems, QA;
  • Integration with other support structures and staff deliverers;
  • The innovation is measured against business objectives and is offering an enterprise-wide solution.

Issues and Outcomes

  • Staff development for Blackboard is most effective when driven by the real needs of preparing a coherent, web based learning environment. However, the “just-in-time approach outlined by Collis and Moonen is insufficient on its own.
  • To engage fully with the pedagogical issues as well as the technical, the collaborative involvement of whole programme teams, both academic and administrative, in workshops is greatly beneficial.
  • Breaking down the ICT interference factor allows the focus to shift from technical to pedagogical issues.
  • Staff development for Blackboard must not be viewed in isolation from other aspects of ICT and non-ICT staff development.
  • A range of approaches essential. Look at staffs’ preferred learning styles and cater for these in staff development.
  • The emergence of the student body as crucial in the driving forward of the innovation and cannot be dismissed. Combined with peer pressure, genuine commitment and, crucially, support from management, the innovation can be moved on to later stages of Somekh’s model.

Northumbria viewed the innovation as a commercial product, marketed the innovation as such in order to get “customers” to buy in – a business model in an educational setting.


Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (1999) Four Steps to Keeping Change Efforts Headed in the Right Direction. The Journal of quality and Participation, May-June

Collis, B. & Moonen, J. (2001) Flexible Learning in a digital world – experiences and expectations. London, Kogan Page

Fulkerth, B.(1998) A Bridge for Distance Education: Planning for the Information-Age Student. Syllabus Magazine, November/December, Vol 12, No. 4, Syllabus Press Inc;

Kirkpatrick, D. (2001). Staff development for flexible learning. The International Journal for Academic Development, 6(2), 168-176.

Rogers , E. D. (1999) Diffusion of Innovations, 5th edn, The Free Press, New York

Somekh, B. (1998) Supporting Information and Communication Technology Innovations in Higher Education. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education 7 (1), 11-32

Tuckman, B.W. Developmental Sequence in Small Groups Psychological Bulletin, vol. 63, 1965, pp. 384-399.

Author: Malcolm Bell, Wendy Bell

07 October 2004

VLE: Blackboard



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