Academic staff have a huge demands on their time, with full teaching loads, research requirements
and administrative work filling their calendar. There is little free time available to attend professional
development activities, and meetings and face to face teaching make it difficult to attend events. When
staff are able to attend events, often overall numbers are low which provides limited opportunities to
collaborate with peers.
Workshop-style professional development is usually a single scheduled block of time (anywhere from
one hour to full day workshops). The nature of these workshops mean that a large volume of content is
presented in one sitting, usually with only the handwritten notes of the participant as lasting artifacts.
Information retention in this situation is a challenge for even the sharpest memory, and subsequent
requests for assistance or development due to forgotten content is common. Crumley (2011) notes that
“retention of content...a few months after the course ended was shown to be only slightly higher than
that of a control group that had never taken the course”.
The University of New England has a relatively unique cohort demographic, with roughly 80% of
students studying purely online. Additionally, teaching staff are bombarded daily with a need for “21st
century technology-enhanced” learning models, lest MOOCs and other trends render them irrelevant
(Palmer, 2012; Johnson et al, 2014). Experiencing professional development in a face-to-face low-technology
environment creates a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ situation in which the method of delivery
they are experiencing is completely disconnected from the methods of delivery they are expected to
use in their own teaching.
Low workshop attendance is endemic across the sector, and it is not unusual for some workshops to
have low (or even no) registrations or high numbers of no-shows. Taking into consideration the fact that
development staff have generally spent several hours preparing for each workshop, the ROI for both
cost and effort is often extremely limited.
It is common practice for professional development to be developed and delivered only within one
institution, offered only to staff of that university. This results in a silo effect where many central teaching
units across the sector are offering similar programs within a narrow context, none of which can be
openly accessed. McGill (2013) lists a host of benefits to the provision of open educational resources
(OERs), including collaboration, enhanced reputation and enhanced sustainability, that cannot be
leveraged when professional development is offered only within an institution.
should probably change
uh, the thing, you know
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