What impact will TEF have on TEL?

This is a cut & paste from my LinkedIn account where I tend to publish my posts. However, given the topic I’d be interested in gathering views and thoughts.

Question: What impact will UK’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) have on Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in UK HEIs?

A colleague of mine asked if I could provide some input on this question, and I said, “I’ve a three hour train ride home, so I’ll put the thinking hat on”. The following is the outcome of that long, lonely train ride home. As many in this area will know, there is no simple answer to this, and there no evidence to draw upon. Therefore, I’d love to read / hear what other people think will be the likely impact. Don’t hold back, get those comments flying ….

Key take away: It will have a positive impact on the adoption of TEL, however, the determinants of effective adoption of TEL within an institution are varied. In the initial period, TEF will highlight the need for more effective embedding of TEL. I would strongly expect a number of institutions to use TEF as the driver to embed more effective TEL.

The three core elements of TEF (NSS, Retention & Employability) are strongly influenced by the use TEL when combined with improved monitoring and intervention strategies. The impact of TEF on TEL is going to be very mixed, and we’d expect many institutions to undergo little change. However, there we will be a number where TEF will drive a re-think of the role of TEL, and TEL will become an enabler for improved TEF ratings.

TEF provides a rationale and urgency for an institution to re-visit the effective use of TEL within its wider innovative teaching and learning agenda. The effective embedding of TEL within learning models has the potential to become a differentiator between institutions, and a provide the mechanism by which an institution can improve its TEF rating. For instance, the simple scenario of delivery of blended (flipped) learning to enhance large group, face to face teaching should improve NSS Assessment & Feedback ratings, and provide more real-time data to inform personal tutor and intervention strategies (positive impact on retention and attainment). Both of which will improve the core TEF components. In addition, a TEL focussed learning and teaching model will provide an easier mechanism for institutions to surface excellent practice to include within their Institutional statements.

As stated there is likely to be a positive correlation between changing TEF performance and TEL adoption. However, institutional wide academic adoption of TEL is strongly influenced by a number of factors, including institutional culture, commitment, robust infrastructure, as well as academic and student support, development and engagement models. Therefore, for some institutions the likely impact on broad adoption of TEL will be low due to wider institutional barriers and challenges. The likelihood is institution’s will start to set clearer academic adoption KPIs (both in terms of level and type of adoption) to align with its emerging “teaching USP”, and be much more strategic in aligning its limited curriculum support and development resources (teams) to ensure maximum impact. Therefore, it is likely TEF will drive a re-think in how TEL is supported and developed within an institution.

The institutional requirements for TEL are also likely to change over time in response to TEF. For instance, an emerging institutional requirement is the need to improve reporting and monitoring. This will enable institutions to identify opportunities to improve TEF performance through more proactive interventions. This is likely to follow a similar institutional response to the introduction of the National Student Survey. Where a consequence of introducing the NSS question set for final year students, has been most institutions now include the same questions within their internal surveys for pre-final year students, and depending on the outcomes, Departments may introduce action planning to improve the experience of the student cohort as they progress through the final year. The expected outcome is, improved NSS scores. This required institutions to implement more robust and standardized reporting and monitoring.

The size of the impact will depend strongly on Senior Managers ability to drive institutional change towards decision making processes being more data informed in response to a need to align enhancement programmes, ie., curriculum redesign or better TEL support. The need for data decision making around TEF is likely to drive two related changes in TEL, firstly a consolidation on a core set of e-learning tools which will provide better quality data sets through more sophisticated data integrations and secondly improved reporting tools which can surface reports from the core e-learning tools.

Will the impact of TEF on TEL be large and quick? I would expect not initially due the resistance to change being relatively high in the sector given the nature of its current implementation and relative immaturity (only on phase 2). I am not sensing a significant level of dissatisfaction by staff with the current situation and a strong business case and vision from the sector. The expectation is this will change as TEF becomes more established, and the rewards for a strong TEF rating start to emerge.


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