The AduLeT (Advanced Use of Learning Technologies in Higher Education) project sought to support higher education (HE) lecturers in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) via the community of practice approach to equip and to empower HE lecturers with TEL methods, TEL tools and best practices. Hence, one of the first initial research action plans was to investigate the current status of TEL in HE and barriers to adoption for HE in Europe.
This document first provides an overview of the findings of the barriers identified in the GCM study across higher education institutions in the European context. Next, it provides recommendations and strategies for each cluster of barriers identified. Finally, the top cluster solutions for each participating country will be presented and discussed with authentic examples.
Strategies and Support for TEL
The case studies presented represent only an application example of some of the most currently used TEL tools. In all of them, the same guidelines have been followed to homogenize the content. In this way, although it is not immediately obvious, the format of each example includes first the name of the TEL Tool and the context in which it is applied; then there is a brief reference to where the example comes from (authors); thirdly, the target groups to which the example is addressed appear; a small justification follows on the use of that tool; fifth, a general description of the context and how to apply the tool is included; towards the end, a section is included displaying practical results of the use of that tool; and finally there is a comment on the weaknesses or problems that can be found in the use of that tool.
The objective of developing the content of these examples, as described above, is to offer the reader a practical guide to the use of several current tools developed by working groups of the AduLeT project, according to what has been agreed. This guide aims to offer the users all the possible precision when adapting the tool to their needs.
We have included very practical examples of application which can be found in the everyday higher education teaching context. That is, we have placed ourselves on the position of a user who usually has little time to experiment new tools. We have done it emphatically to try to provide real solutions to the barriers found by higher education teaching staff when using the TEL Tools, which we have described in one of the input boxes on the platform of our Community of Practice (CoP). From there, it also allows the search for solutions based on the selection of the barriers that are known and applicable to our case.
The application of a particular tool to a practical case always entails a personal touch of the teacher who uses it. Therefore, in the descriptions that we present as examples of application, the subjectivity of the lecturer who applies it should be interpreted as one of the multiple options presented by the tool. Obviously, each user must adapt it minimally to his teaching environment and to his students’ learning styles.
Among the examples presented, there are those that describe global tools that may not seem to fit in this section, or that we did not properly imagine them as tools. However, what needs to be highlighted is that their use in the context presented does solve some of the problems or barriers that are mentioned in the platform’s start list (CoP). The concrete use of any of these global tools makes them powerful tools to enhance the learning of our students. It is the way in which the tool is applied that distinguishes it and makes it especially suitable for the function that the teacher envisages.
The adequate use of the TEL Tools provides the lecturer with an instrument of great motivation for students. At the same time, it involves them in an active way and with much more concentration than what it would mean to attend a class as passive elements to listen to the explanations given by the teacher, or to see how and what he writes on the blackboard: repeated endless formulas or theoretical information. These might be difficult to understand by the teacher's own handwriting or by possible mistakes that we, as teachers, can make when writing.
It is also worth noting that the use of TEL Tools provides the student with extra data information that, in a different context, would otherwise be much harder to obtain. Think, for example, of simulation programmes, which is one of the tools that can be found in the repository of the initial table of TOOLS. A simulator program of electrical and electronic circuits such as YENKA (formerly known as "Crocodile Clips") shows in graphic mode the electrical circuit that the student is building, whether working individually or in groups. Once the circuit is built, the student places a series of meters, such as voltmeters, ammeters, wattmeters, etc., which will provide the actual measurements that the circuit would be generating if it were actually set, but with the tremendous ease of varying a parameter in one of the elements of the circuit and, automatically, the consequent variations that are recorded in the measuring devices appear.
If we imagine the implementation of this practice in a conventional way – assembling the circuit, soldering the components, connecting the measuring devices,… - we would have serious space problems, because each student would need a large table for himself and the circuit he is designing. To this we must add that if each student acted individually, he would need all the components and measuring devices for his circuit. How many measuring devices can a classroom have available to students?
It is unthinkable today that the practices are performed physically because of economic cost, facilities and waste of material. However, until the appearance of the TEL Tools this was how it was taught in a practical way in vocational schools and engineering schools.
The TEL Tools have given autonomy to each teacher to design their teaching strategy with their students, because they allow all the flexibility and economy that we did not enjoy before their appearance. They are, therefore, inexcusable elements of use by any teacher, and essential for student learning. Nonetheless, it is necessary, as demonstrated by our project AduLeT, that the higher education teaching staff have a number of facilities that enable them to find the most appropriate tools to facilitate their day-to-day teaching, without having to select and use the most appropriate tools for their teaching practice almost on their own or in a particular way.
What AduLeT offers to its users are strategies and support so that they enhance their teaching practice to levels of maximum efficiency, providing solutions to their day-to-day needs.