Aligning with strategy

In the previous section we suggest that you should 'dare to dream' and develop a broad vision for what you want learning and teaching to be like in the future. The possibilities are limitless but, assuming your budget and timescales are not, you will need to decide what is strategically important to your institution.

The kinds of things you should be thinking about are:
  • strategic priorities where you have set particular targets e.g. recruitment, retention, achievement, widening participation, internationalisation, employer engagement;
  • target markets, growth areas and what differentiates you from your competitors;
  • graduate outcomes and the relationship with digital capabilities, employability etc;
  • desired characteristics of your learning and teaching practice e.g. active learning, collaboration, problem-based learning, work-related learning, interdisciplinary learning.

You need to ask how your current learning technology suite is helping you achieve these goals. If you conclude that you need to undertake a procurement process then your invitation to tender (ITT) and evaluation process needs to identify your strategic goals and ask the right questions to help you understand which supplier can best support you.

We can have a lot of executive level engagement around major strategic issues but then find that people relapse to browsing the web for criteria after this.

Anonymous supplier representative

Top tip

Articulating your learning and teaching principles is a good way to achieve clarity for your internal stakeholders before you begin conversations with suppliers.

A principled approach

The University of Lincoln began a review in 2018 and wanted to take a high level view based on a clear vision for the future.

A steering group used the references to learning and teaching in the University strategy to identify a set of key principles to inform the project and to be used in conversations with suppliers.

The principles are:

  1. Collaborative Learning: We believe in collaborating across disciplines to support the co-creation of new knowledge and the exploration of new ideas between staff and students. "We will deliver a digital environment that encourages collaboration, fosters respectful debate, nurtures creativity and enables active learning within and outside the University."
  2. The Learning Journey: We believe all students should have equal opportunities to succeed at every point of their academic career. "We will create an environment that supports each student's entire learning journey and enables them to fulfil their potential."
  3. Global Outlook (International): We believe learning should not be limited and "we will guide our students to navigate all relevant knowledge gateways both internally and externally."
  4. Flexible Learning Journeys: We believe learning is most effective when it is flexible and responds to the individual needs of the student. "We will offer targeted and personalised learning opportunities to encourage our students to develop and grow."
  5. Anytime and Anywhere Access: We believe learning is the most effective without boundaries and borders. "We will use the latest technological advances to deliver accessible learning for all wherever and whenever, anytime, anywhere."
  6. Professional-Practice Informed Education: We believe in professional practice informing education and "we will collaborate closely with employers to understand employment needs of today and critically the future to ensure our students have the (digital) skills needed to pursue their careers successfully."

Our investigations were not driven by dissatisfaction as we have staff satisfaction levels of 90% plus saying the existing VLE is a useful tool. However, the use they are making of it is largely administrative and the University's vision for collaborative, interdisciplinary learning is not being delivered through the VLE."

Andy Beggan, Dean of Digital Education, University of Lincoln