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TEL the bigger picture

ACODE’s Benchmarking Summit 2022

Having been involved with the Australasian Council on Open, Distance and e-Learning  (ACODE) Benchmarking since 2014 I have come to appreciate it as much more than a tick-box activity. On one level, it can be justified as a continuous improvement process that through self-assessment establishes the context for a forward-looking narrative. Seen from another level (that being my recent perspective) the process is also rich with social occasion and momentum, and a dynamic addition to an institution’s reflective practices.

Fundamental to benchmarking is ‘context building’ which is derived from the robust representation of diverse local realities (as experienced across the ANU campus) then compared and validated using a national canvas. If universities were all alike then the national benchmarking of TEL ecosystems might lead to uniform interventions and all boats would lift on a rising tide. But as we know, and celebrate, universities thrive on a multitude of distinguished identities. For this reason, we look to other universities not for templates but for indicative models of good practice we can adapt to realise future intentions.

The recent ACODE Benchmarking Summit provided many examples of national trends being variously adapted. We are all riding the wave of a post-COVID enthusiasm for remote infrastructures (services and resources) that offer hybrid solutions addressing the risk of educational disruption. Likewise, there’s a common trend that recognises the need to better induct, and thereafter develop, our staff and students as they seek to adopt new ways of learning and teaching with technology. The ‘learning space’ is no longer seen as a passive bystander in the educational partnership, and thus is being universally transformed to deliberately interact with educational designs.

Having identified just a few national trends, as discussed at the ACODE Benchmarking Summit 2022, the focus can now return to similar transformations planned for our local benefit. Across the educational and digital portfolio, the ANU (relative to other similar national universities) is making some very impressive headway towards a better future for all students and staff. A raft of significant strategies are about to make their mark on the TEL landscape. Seen as an ecosystem, local learning environments thrive on connected consistencies that enhance, enable and enrich the experiences of those who interact as engaged partners.

Speaking of ‘engaged partners’ there are many who have over the past two-years regularly (some would say doggedly) attended the local ACODE benchmarking sessions and consequently have contributed to a foundational understanding of our “current state” narrative from which “future state” visions are being imagined. In writing of their contributions, I can do more than just thank them for their generosity. As ‘fresh’ ideas have been brought to our attention it’s been this ACODE/TEL community that has helped to frame the future journey as our own collective mission.

The widespread adoption of ‘roadmap’ metaphors has (excuse the pun) been fundamental in paving the way from here to there. I’m still grappling with the unfulfilled promise of a TEL Framework but I’m coming to realise it may have represented a misguided craving better satisfied through the auspices of a more navigational compass.

September 2022

Tim Grace is the Manager of the Education Communities and Environments team at the Centre for Learning and Teaching.