We deliberately talk about both engagement and communication in this section of the Toolkit because they are not necessarily the same thing. Transmitting a message is different from engaging in consultation and collaboration.
There are many approaches and tools available to help in this aspect of the project. Below is an example of how various approaches might look in practice during a VLE review and there are some examples from different universities in our case study vignettes.
|Level of engagement||Characteristics of approach||Means of engagement|
|6. Empower||Stakeholders set the agenda for change and self organise/manage.||Not applicable for procurement but may be elements of this in implementation.|
|5. Collaborate||Decisions taken in partnership with stakeholders.||Stakeholder-led consultation. Stakeholders on Steering Group.|
|4. Involve||Joint working to ensure views are heard and understood. Decision-making still largely in hands of project team.||Jointly led workshops/focus groups/voting.|
|3. Consult||Agenda largely framed by project team. Stakeholder views actively solicited.||Workshops/focus groups/interviews/surveys led by project team.|
|2. Inform||Stakeholders are regularly provided with contextualised information and made aware of means of participating in the project. Dialogue is implicitly welcomed.||Blog with comment facility/mailing list/use of Twitter.|
|1. Notify||Stakeholders are passive recipients of (largely un-contextualised) information.||Static web pages/minutes made available/untargeted publicity.|
If you are to come to the best decision you need to ask the right questions of the right people.
In some cases you will need an assessment of staff and student capabilities in order to understand their perceptions and know what will be needed to move you beyond the status quo.Here are just a few examples:
In project management it is common to come across people who fulfil a 'gatekeeper' role.
Gatekeepers control access to something. This might be access to people e.g. a secretary who decides how important it is that you get time in a key decision maker's diary. It can equally be access to information e.g. somebody who controls a mailing list or newsletter.
We heard a cautionary tale about gatekeepers during one review:
The project team/institution did not want the choice of VLE to be seen as an IT decision and, partly because of this, the project team was 'stuck with' going through existing communications channels rather than circulating the same central communications to all.
The existence of faculty learning technologists was both a 'blessing and a curse' to the project. These individuals served as communications gatekeepers who tended to put their own spin (and possibly bias) on the messages.
The potential strength of this is messages being very tailored and targeted to specific groups but the benefits of this were possibly outweighed by the lack of a coherent message.
Anonymous VLE review project manager