2016, for me and a handful of colleagues, has been a year of micro-learning. At the end of 2015, myself and Cath Wasiuk were considering how we could engage academic colleagues with technology enhanced learning. At the time, we were both employed as Technology Enhanced Learning Advisors at Manchester Met (Cath has since moved up the road to take on a post at The University of Manchester). We were both undertaking a masters in Academic Practice, and as part of this had been researching barriers to staff engagement with CPD. I had also had a strong interest in “just in time” learning for a number of years and was interested in exploring how this approach could be utilised with our academics.
Time and time again
In the research papers we read, “time” was frequently cited as one of the major barriers to staff engagement with training (Singh and Hardaker, 2014; Kopcha, 2012). Time is needed to learn new software, it is needed to attend training sessions and it is needed to experiment with new approaches to teaching. This, coupled with the fact that teaching is often seen as the poor relation to research, means that TEL training rarely gets top billing with academic staff….there are other demands on academic time that are shouting much more loudly. Both Cath and I were not newbies to staff development, so this boded with our own conceptions of why staff were reluctant to engage with us…and also why we had spent the year running lunch-time workshops, recorded lunchtime webinars and trying to schedule longer sessions for the summer months where time seemed to be more flexible. However, these approaches still were not attracting staff in the numbers we had hoped for.
During a conversation over coffee we explored the rise in short and snappy approaches to self-improvement becoming crazes on the internet – for example, lean in 15 made famous by Joe Wicks or Go Highbrow, daily emails that follow short courses looking at bite sized tip-bits of knowledge.
What if we did something similar with our academics? How far could we take it? Without conducting one jot of research we decided that 5 minutes would be too long and that we should try a minute. A minute seemed like a ideal length of time to fight back against the “no time” excuse, everyone can spare a minute right?
1 minute a day. Every day. For one whole year.
Timing is everything. This conversation happened on a cold and wet afternoon in mid-December. We were both readying ourselves for our Christmas break, however, we also recognised that January 1st would be the ideal time to launch our new initiative and encourage academic colleagues to engage in a one year journey with us; 366 minutes (it’s a leap year) of technology enhanced learning training.
We had to get a wiggle on. We quickly agreed that this project would be open access, we knew that academics worldwide were time-poor, and as we were going to be investing the time into this project, why not share it?
We decided that we would try to focus the post on technology that was freely available or already on licence at Manchester Met. Each video would be kept to a minute long and accompanied by a short and snappy intro presenting the problem to which this video was the solution, and an open-source image to try and capture the essence of the post (a lack of budget has encouraged some creative interpretations of the posts into images).
We aimed to utilise freely available software to help us to host, organise and promote our project. The blog is hosted on WordPress, which is super easy to use and has a very handy scheduling feature for projects like this one. We linked the blog up to twitter so that each time a post was released it would be tweeted automatically, and we set up a google drive to store spreadsheets and surveys to help us be more organised.
Our first ever post was published on 1st January 2016:
We used twitter to help promote the blog and when we returned to work we included the week’s posts into our weekly faculty newsletters. The initial interest in the project surprised us, and as it has grown, it has been a really remarkable journey for us all (see Meet the authors, to view the whole team)
As of Decemeber 2016, our 1minuteCPD blog has over:
- 45,250 views
- 12,507 visitors
- 2066 followers through Twitter, WordPress and by email
The posts have been viewed from across the world (111 different countries), with our major views coming from the UK, the US and Australia:
Reflecting on the year
We started to gather feedback on 1minute CPD fairly early on in the journey. We started off with a Google survey, which we followed up with some semi-structured interviews with staff. Finally, we recently took part in a Teaching and Learning Conversation webinar, where we received a huge amount of useful feedback (a recording of the session can be accessed here: 1MinuteCPD TLC ).
In a very brief (executive!) summary, this is what we have learnt from our 1minuteCPD journey:
- 1minuteCPD is not the answer to everything, but it is the answer to something: There is something in a minute. the length of the posts is certainly the most popular feedback we received, people like that they are short, snappy and can be quickly digested. However, the majority will still need additional support and guidance to feel confident introducing a new tech to a class, but it does provide a good overview of what is available.
- Creating 1 minute of content everyday is possible, but does require a management, admin and organisation: Spreadsheets are your friend, agree a commitment and schedule with the team and consider a house style.
- The title of the blog post is an important hook to get people reading the posts: position technology as solutions to a problem, what are you trying to fix.
- 1 minute is not enough for some people and still too much for others…we had feedback that people still did not have time to engage, and feedback that people wanted more of the pedagogy behind the technology (difficult in a minute). A possible solution to this is providing links to other resources showing the pedagogical value in the solution, however, this would significantly increase the amount of time it took to produce a post.
Cath and I are currently writing a research paper where we will cover our findings in much more depth…so watch this space.
And what next for 1minuteCPD….?
As we approach the end of the 2016 and the end of our experiment, we have been considering where we go from here for 1minuteCPD. The team is immensely proud of the project and feel it is a real achievement to have met our commitment to one post a day. As for 2017, we’re not entirely sure yet and would be happy to hear any suggestions that you may have! Please feel free to comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime I hope you have enjoyed our 1minuteCPD journey, thank you for coming along with us and watch this space for the future!
Kopcha, T. J. (2012) ‘Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development.’ Computers & Education, 59(4) pp. 1109-1121.
Singh, G. and Hardaker, G. (2014) ‘Barriers and enablers to adoption and diffusion of eLearning: A systematic review of the literature–a need for an integrative approach.’ Education + Training, 56(2/3) pp. 105-121.