JISC Digital Literacies Bid

The Organisational Development in Higher Education Group (ODHE)

The ODHE brings together HE practitioners with responsibilities for supporting organisational-level development within their institutions. Senior members are involved with strategic-level decision making on organisational initiatives such as restructuring  the institution or introducing new policies. Other OD staff are then involved with planning and supporting implementation of  these changes

Members of the ODHE are well placed to understand and support change processes within institutions. They engage at all levels, act on Senior Management’s instructions, and can promote useful information flows up, down and across the organisation. These dialogues help deal with the complex and multi-layered nature of change.

Relevance of the Digital Literacies (DL) Programme

DLs are becoming increasingly embedded within organisational processes. Few, if any, organisational changes do not have DL aspects. HE Staff cannot escape engagement. As the Times Higher Education comments, current hierarchical modes of working are outmoded.[1] For many this is a positive, democratic change, for others, an unwelcome shift. Change management is a core aspect of Organisational Development (OD) and practitioners are therefore central to embedding a more digitally literate culture.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many OD practitioners are not comfortable with DLs. Opportunities for the effective use of DLs can easily be missed or not enthusiastically promoted. This bid is about helping organisational developers to gain confidence with DLs through building better understanding of best practice. ODs would then be able to contribute much more effectively to organisational take-up of DL initiatives.

OD, DL’s and the University of Winchester

The University of Winchester has worked with the ODHE as part of the JISC funded Embed-IT project, on a project ‘Bringing Organisational Development Guidance into IT’ (BODGIT). Findings demonstrated the need to share experiences to reduce ‘silo’ cultures (although most academics have strong affinity to their disciplines) and to demonstrate clear benefits to staff: the arguments that count are likely to relate to saving time and improving the student experience. The project framework was especially useful in highlighting the importance of change management and encouraging us to apply general change concepts to IT, recognising the huge pressures colleagues are experiencing; and their differing levels of interest.

A number of OD changes have resulted at the University of Winchester, opening up increasing opportunities for dialogues with IT staff, and within disciplinary settings. A programme of problem-solving (rather than tech-tools) workshops, run at short interventions, combined with case studies,[2] has led to an increasing number of colleagues embedding digital formats at a programme level. The partnership worked well, and Winchester is keen to run as a test-bed for the project, exchanging knowledge and practices.

Affecting Change in Stakeholders’ Practice

The ODHE can affect the practice of its own members: by engaging with a reference group of interested colleagues; by sharing the lessons from this and earlier projects; by keeping the topic on the agenda of meetings; by gathering examples of effective practice to cascade through institutions; by running DL sessions to build capacity, and by making more regular use of online methods such as web-conferencing.

ODHE members will then be able to influence the embedding of DLs within their own institutions. A particular impact that we can envisage is on those leading IT and information change. Just as OD staff are often unfamiliar with DL, so DL staff are unfamiliar with OD. ODHE will be able to feed its understanding of change processes into its exchanges with other sector bodies and

[1] Davidson, C. ‘So last century’, Times Higher Education, 28/04/11 (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=415941&c=2)

[2] Case studies are being collated on an external blog: http://www.winchester.ac.uk/blog/archive/tags/Blended%20Learning/default.aspx, with more sensitive information shared within the VLE.

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