time for an evidence base for technology enhanced learning?

Red herring
Red Herring By misocrazy from New York, NY (Cropped from Kipper) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I spoke at JISC Digifest 2017. It was lovely to see so many colleagues old and new there.

Jisc had gathered a community of learning technologists and IT specialists and asked us to think about how we might find an evidence base for TEL.

But I do wonder: Should we even try?

There is a real risk to the universities in having the people who are best placed to build and develop excellent new services  spending too much of their time of fruitless tasks.   I think knowing what kinds of evidence is relevant for which decisions is a leadership skill, and leadership in learning technology is what its all about.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t make evidence-based decisions, or decisions based on data. We need to know the difference between evidence and data. But I think ‘technology enhanced learning‘ might be a red herring. Or possibly a hens tooth.  Or may be both.

Even before the Trump era of post-fact and post-truth there were already many people, with strong convictions will not be persuaded by evidence, however well it is presented.

Some times I suspect that people ask for evidence not because they want to make a decision, but because they already have.

Sometimes I suspect that the request for more evidence, and more detail is a stalling or blocking tactic. It is just one approach to resistance.  No amount of detail will ever be enough and you’ll spend a long time looking for it.

What I am sure is true is that different kinds of evidence persuades different kinds of people in different kinds of decision-making and we need to be smart with that. The  kinds of evidence that persuades users to use the tools, is very different from evidence budget-holders need to make decisions on spend and buy the tools in the first place.

The evidence-base is not the same as the business-case.

So, In summary: Should we spend more time assembling an evidence base for technology enhanced learning?

I vote No. The opportunity cost is too great.   It would have to be so broad, yet so detailed to convince university lecturers it would be quickly unstainable. It would be backward looking and the data unreproducable. It would have little useful link to the real, real-time decisions being made for investment for the future. We should not waste that time, we have more urgent things to do.

 

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