A post this morning on the WebPA discussion list raised an issue that I’ve long felt has a negative impact on the uptake of JISC project outputs: how to support the use of tools produced by JISC projects in an institutional environment that is not interested in supporting them.
WebPA is a great project success story, being adopted by a number of institutions and winning a Bronze Award at the 2008 IMS Learning Impact awards. It provides an innovative approach to peer assessment evaluation, allowing individual marks for each participant in a piece of group work. The system generated a lot of interest when they presented at a CETIS event last year.
The poster has identified WebPA as a possible tool to support his teaching, but says:
Unfortunately there is little if any chance of the application ever being hosted on my University servers, I won’t even waste my time trying to get this on their radar [...] I should say that while I am not completely IT illiterate I am not going to install the application myself since this is well beyond my personal skill level.
This highlights what I feel is a gap in the project lifecycle: bridging the support gap between the production of useable tools and enabling those outputs to be used in real educational contexts. Although some lecturers have a high level of technical confidence and competence, this absolutely cannot be expected for the vast majority, and there seems to be a lack of support for those who are keen to use these innovative tools but lack the confidence or expertise to do so. How do we encourage institutions to be willing to broaden their horizons and support those lecturers who wish to use what they feel are the best tools for their teaching practice? The poster references commercial companies which host open source systems such as Moodle, but what about newer systems that lack the wide uptake that make providing support and hosting services commercially attractive?
So who should be responsible for supporting projects after the end of their formal funding period, and supporting lecturers and institutions in using these tools? We’ve addressed this issue before in relation to supporting emerging developer communities in an open source model, but what about tools that are ready for use in actual teaching practice?