Partnerships between learning, teaching, library, and IT #theta2015

Forging productive partnerships between learning, teaching, library, and IT (abstract)
Caroline Steel and Elizabeth Coulter

Current university context – slow response to rapid tech change, constrained budgets, etc – how can we afford not to collaborate.

CAUDIT top issues survey found “Supporting and enabling teaching and learning” at top of list. So sent out own survey (15 L&T respondents, 7 IT, 2 library)

Asked about

  • perceptions of role of IT in supporting T&L – plurality thought valued business partner (many still thought: IT expert; gatekeeper; administrator).
  • Perception that IT and T&L working collaboratively – “to a moderate extent”
  • Perception that library and T&L working collaboratively – largely “to a moderate extent” but some “to a large extent”

Enablers: need to trust each other; have clear roles; leaders that get along

Barriers: territories; role ambiguities; funding models; lack of shared goals; different perspectives on institutional goals

Strategies: need to “speak more than one language” and translate between different cultures.

Ideal partnership: enabling leadership; shared goals; cross-functional working groups; valued/rewarded partnerships; encourage risk/innovation/experimentation

Panel discussion:
Q: Does a collaboration between these groups really matter?
A: (Mark Gregory) Services we’ve long offered are now being offered in different ways. Need to move on, work together so don’t overlap / get in each other’s ways.
A: (Wendy Abbott) Teaching has IT underpinning, library input; library has IT underpinning. Need to collaborate to avoid wasting effort/time
A: (Caroline Steel) Often not aware of what each is doing. Often doing same things as each other.

Q: What’s gone well?
A: (Wendy) Revamping curriculum – team involving academic lead, IT staff, library staff, T&L staff. Everyone brought expertise in, worked as a team from beginning instead of pulling in people halfway through. Required broad experience so librarian had to know pedagogy/IT skills etc: demonstrated much expertise that impressed the academic on the team. Builds trust and understanding of benefits.
A: (Caroline) A community of practice put together – recognised incredible schools at other universities. Started with teleconference then a get-together. Has grown to all Australasia and across sectors.

Q: (audience) Many library spaces are more collaborative now – where does IT have most impact here?
A: (Wendy) Mostly behind scenes, working with library staff to meet requirements. Also customer service assisting students with basic enquiries. Core skills for all staff whether IT or library to support users.

Q: What are most important aspects of change?
A: (Caroline) Leadership: acknowledge we have different cultures across institution(s). Needs to come from top that we value these all so can set combined goals. Students don’t know who’s behind a service, need fantastic experience regardless.

Q: (audience) Do partnerships help academics create content or confuse them?
A: (Caroline) Very confusing. Get phone calls about how to install TurnItIn and don’t know who to put them onto. Want to make it easy for teachers.
Q: (audience) So need to set role definitions?
A: (Caroline) Work in progress
A: (Mark) If started with blank sheet of paper today wouldn’t create three separate organisations – instead a “blurry sort of service organisation”.

Q: (audience) As leaders how do you motivate a reluctant collaborator?
A: (Wendy) Organisations create silos. Once people see benefits, that’s what encourages them.

Q: What do we need to do next?
A: (Caroline) Encourage risk – need culture and reward system to break free of current system.
A: (Mark) Anything innovative looks like play therefore not serious. Need to push past this. Treat risk as appropriate cost and appropriate action.
A: (Wendy) Need to get senior management to understand that sometimes things will fail.

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