I am often asked by senior budget holders to provide an evidence base for investment in learning technology.
The evidence they want is not the same as the evidence lecturers ask for. Budget holders are more persuaded by market research than academic research. They want evidence that has been gathered at scale. Across whole institutions, across the sector, or across the globe.
Academic colleagues want to be persuaded to spend their own time. Budget holders want to be persuaded to invest the institution’s money and many, many people’s time.
A business case is not the same as an evidence base.
Different kind of evidence entirely.
Senior managers want to know what competitors are doing- they are working to find a value proposition, they are looking at what other universities are doing and looking for differentiation in the market. They want to know what to buy now for the university in 5 years not what a lecturer did somewhere three years ago.
From the learning technology out there, who’s offering the best price, service resilience, future proofing and information security? What’s the full cost of ownership over 5-10 years? We look at what integrates with the systems we have on campus – offering a streamlined approach. What efficiencies, what re-use, what standardisation, what new business?
We look to other industries and demographics trends of technology use. What devices students bring, what devices people use, how people use technology. We suspect that staff and student are people. We consider their use of personal devices at home and for work and their expectation that they will find this at university too.
We know they expect choice and a high quality of service. Does it shift time and space? Does it give flexibility? Does it work on my mobile?
Student demand for digitisation is about being able to watch a thing rather than not, being able to find a thing rather than not. Being able to do a thing in the middle of the night.
So budget holders are persuaded by the kind of evidence you find in business and IT disciplines: hype cycles and horizon scanning, evidence of use video traffic across the network, evidence of what students use and what students voted for when they elected their reps.
The kind of evidence being gathered by student experience surveys, and digital student experience surveys are driving institutional investment from the centre faster and harder than you might think.
Senior managers are looking for solutions at scale.