Exploring the benefits of open CPD for staff development in HE
An exploration in to how ‘open’ intersects with my practice, pedagogy and work
At the end of 2015, I was sitting having a coffee with a fellow Learning Technologist (LT), lamenting yet another poor turnout for a technology enhanced learning (TEL) staff development session. This was an issue I had encountered time and again in my professional practice as a LT. It had even prompted me to conduct my own academic research into the problem. The literature confirmed what I already knew. The main barrier to academic engagement with TEL staff development was time — time to attend a staff development session and the perceived time it takes to learn how to use new technology (Singh and Hardaker, 2014; Kopcha, 2012).
Mid-sip we had our ‘Eureka!’ moment. What if we could turn TEL staff development on its head? What if we removed time and location barriers often faced by academic staff through creating 1-minute videos delivered daily online? This would result in engagement with over 6 hours of TEL staff development throughout the course of the year. And if this was in fact a universal problem as identified in the literature and within my own professional practice then why not share the resource and make it open?
The result was 1minuteCPD, an open blog of TEL staff development aimed at improving staff ‘digital skills one day at a time, one minute at a time’. In 2016, we published a total of 366 posts (it was a leap year) that would take a minute to watch, read or do to improve digital literacies in a HE context. In 2018 we picked up the gauntlet again and the aim is to publish a total of 500 posts, still a minute in length but not quite daily.
It seemed an obvious decision at the time to make the blog open. Indeed, the decision to make the blog open has been critical to the success to the project:
However, since being an OKHE student, I have started to explore in greater detail what it actually means to be open and how it intersects with my practice pedagogy and work. Does making an open educational resource (OER) like 1minuteCPD naturally make me an open practitioner (OP)? Was I always an OP but I didn’t know it? Was there a point where I transitioned into the open?
Into the open
To answer this question, where better to start than with the largest open educational resource in the world, Wikipedia. Although there is no single definition of what open educational practices are, it is clear that being open is a philosophy, a disruptive pedagogy, a new way of teaching and learning in the 21st century. Open practice has guided the creation of 1minuteCPD from the decision of which technologies to use to create the resource (WordPress, YouTube, Creative Commons images), how to manage the resource (Gmail, Google Drive) and to determine the contents of the resource (free and open technologies available to all). The pedagogy of micro-learning (short, daily posts) has guided the philosophy of the resource through turning staff development on its head through the power of technology.
If being ‘open’ is a philosophy, it seems to me that digital literacies (a hot topic at the moment, especially in HE) is a vehicle in which we can truly achieve openness in education. In order to be an open practitioner you need to have the digital skills to be able to operate successfully in that open sphere. Jisc have put together a Digital Capabilities framework to help institutions develop the digital capabilities of their staff. 1minuteCPD links to this framework, which is an example of how open educational resources can be adapted and reused in different contexts and across organisational boundaries.
For HE institutions, open CPD can bring many benefits such as cost efficiencies, building staff capacities and sharing good practice. In 2011, an article in the Guardian stated:
In this age of online sharing and learning, plus increasing time restraints on us all to use our time most effectively, professional development through open access materials will only increase in popularity. Its quick and easy to access, and can be tailored to your own needs and learning outcomes.
Although this was written nearly 7 years ago, the full benefits of open CPD is still yet to be fully realised.
Future of open CPD
It seems strange that open CPD has not been fully embraced by the HE community. There are has definitely been some in-roads into openness since this article was written. For example, Twitter has been a massive driver towards openness in the context of staff development in HE. In fact, Twitter plays a key role in the development of my own practice. The LT community on Twitter is very active. As well as sharing news and resources, activities such as the LTHE Tweetchat make Twitter an open conduit of CPD. Despite the obvious benefits of open CPD such as open access to learning opportunities, opening up cross-institutional connections and access to open educational resources, not everyone seems convinced. So how do we change that?
This is not an overnight fix however, there are things that we can do to make CPD more open. Firstly, institutions need to promote an environment that is conducive to open practice. That is, staff should be encouraged to critically engage in their own CPD through various open channels such as Twitter, blogging and digital resources in a safe and open environment. Staff should also be encouraged to be open in their practices in giving back to the wider educational community, which in turn raises the profile of the institution. Secondly, academic staff need to have the digital literacies and capabilities to fully engage in openness. Open CPD can encourage innovation and new pedagogies for the 21st century by learning from others and engaging in a wider community of practice. Lastly, as individuals, we need to all be aware of the potential of open and promote it wherever we can through our own practices.