The adopted approach consisted in creating “pivot” faculty members in each sub-unit of UTAD,assisted by a small team of educational consultants, in the form of Educational Sciences trainees with abackground in e-learning as part of their formal education. The goal is for these faculty members tobecome aware of educational possibilities and the actual practices involved, not just in terms of traditionale-learning/b-learning, but also of novel practices using Web 2.0 platforms and virtual worlds: theplanning requirements, the management process, assessment, etc. In doing so, it is UTAD’s expectationthat these pivots both can act as supporting peers of other faculty members in their sub-units, and asadvocates for adoption of e-learning and b-learning technologies and practices. This, in turn, is intendedto serve as a base for establishing clear needs and requirements, so that a university-wide approach canlater be developed.
Institutional practices for adoption of e-learning/b-learning
Adoption of e-learning by higher education institutions has been widespread throughout Europe,with varying degrees of success (Barajas & Gannaway, 2007; PLS Ramboll, 2004).That is not an easy and simple process for the traditional European universities. The complexityand difficulty associated, normally requires a greater effort from involved actors than initially expected. Itis reflected in the alliance between resources, time, energy and skills. For every arisen problem, isnecessary a fully context and strategic vision adopted analyze. Only these way universities can effectivelyadapt and respond to their own situations, because each problem is unique and exclusive to the reality of each institution. (Barajas & Gannaway, 2007).In the specific case of Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 respectively, inclusion and equity, advanceddigital competence, safety and privacy concerns, special needs, pedagogical skills, uncertainty andrequirements on institutional changes are the largest challenges, barriers, and bottlenecks identified ineducational European institutions. In this way, institutions must provide students with access to media, aswell as ways to promote their responsible and critical use. On the other hand, should also provide anadequate infrastructure, supporting and equipping teachers with the required skills for the development of e-learning with their students (Redecker & Punie, 2010).Therefore, organizational changes, particularly in university contexts, can not only focus onwhether the approaches are top-down or bottom-up. The middle-out approach, in this context, must beconsidered. It is based on management staff work, to promote the change process. That is, the middle-outapproach juggles a mid-terrain between the individual focus of faculty members and the strategic focus of higher management (Rankine & Malfroy, 2009).Cautions are needed. Since process beginning, starting at individual purposes to organizationalpurposes, good dynamic understandings’ crucial, facilitating implementation and unwind of institutionalprocess. This is the present challenge, especially for universities (Casanovas, 2010).These institutions have followed different paths towards innovation,
with diverse allocation of resources/features, and varying costs associated with them. The changes in institutional policies must befollowed by changes in leadership perspective (Giardina, 2010).Peer instruction education has been increasing in the past few years. Its potential is big in manysituations, innovation being one of them. Several researchers defend that a good strategy to obtain goodresults is creating pioneers (or pivots) in the use of e-learning on pedagogic practices, so they caninfluence actively and help their peers to do the same. In several projects for innovation technology,specifically in e-learning, this concept of pivot (typically, a pivot teacher) is consensual and used, becauseresults often exceed expectations. We consider that the key element is a culture of mutual support andsharing, to increase the possibility of success. On example of adoption of this model is theFutureSchool@Singapore Programme (Lim & Cheah, 2010; Giardina, 2010).Another element to bear in mind is the possibility of supporting pivots with consulting services.Such an approach is found in the Flexible Learning Initiatives Project, implemented in the Faculty of Lawof the Queensland University of Technology: a team of consultants provides pedagogical support toteaching staff introducing e-learning in their practices. The consultants work in a case-by-case basis,helping design appropriated pedagogical strategies for each teacher’s educational content. The consultantsare also available for consultation and assistance at any time (Giardina, 2010).
Institutional context – UTAD
UTAD is located in Vila Real, North-eastern Portugal. Originally the Polytechnic Institute of Vila Real, founded in 1973, with a focus on agricultural and biological sciences, it became a university in1986. Currently, the educational offer at UTAD is diverse, organized in five schools: School of Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences (ECAV, Portuguese-language acronym), School of Humanities and
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