So I realised that I was trying to marry two projects that just shouldn’t and can’t be merged. There’s a common thread that runs through both of them, namely “resistance”. The first project is in the field of Educational Technologies (specifically Blackboard e-Learning – something I’m very passionate about) and the second project is in the field of Quality Culture (Also passionate about).
Look the truth is I’m using this CHEC proposal course to get me started on the PhD in Quality, but the focus of CHEC is on Higher Education. At the moment, being a higher educator is my primary job. In this job I stumbled upon a wonderful tool called Blackboard. Blackboard is an e-Learning platform CPUT uses or CPUT staff “can” use if they want to. And that is at the heart of my one problem. Blackboard is an amazing bit of educational technology. It has opened a world of opportunities for me and my students in terms of their learning. I engage with them in a way that firmly supports them and it feels personal. I’m not the type of lecturer who stands in front of the class in isolation from them. Besides some obvious benefits on my side, namely the less marking for me, Blackboard allows me to give each of my students personal attention, while at the same time the group as a whole benefits from that personal attention e.g. in Discussion groups. This is an opportunity that time just would never allow in the traditional teaching and learning system that I came through. My students are thriving and so am I. Yet I have found in my department I am the only lecturer of about 30 odd others who bother with Blackboard. The rest of the lecturers pretty much ignore it, or just use it as a one direction communication tool with students. This is indeed puzzling. I have a suspicion that this is representative of the whole institution. There are only small pockets of lecturers that make use of Blackboard. It is highly functional, yet the resistance seems to be significant.
I tried to merge that idea with Quality Improvement so that I could use the same work for the PhD. Unsuccessfully. It just wasn’t making sense no matter what angle I approached it from. I had the Ah Ha moment yesterday when I realised I need to distinguish between the two projects because they just don’t fit together neatly. If I try to force them, the wheels will come off and I’ll come across as an idiot.
The second idea that I had is resistance to quality improvement – ultimately Resistance to Quality Culture. A very real concept. I worked in two laboratories in my life and both of these labs had “quality systems” – but the implementation and the way quality was perceived in them was not what I was taught about quality as a quality student. Makes one question if the concept of a quality culture really exists, and if it is not just the carrot and the stick that exists. But I still truly I believe it’s truly out there. Deming, Crosby and the other guys….they were real weren’t they. I believe you need to change people’s hearts and minds first. I suspect organisations are forgetting this. Organisations introduce a quality system, either because it regulatory or because it’s like a brand name apparel that will make them look good – but they forgetting something. That something has to do with the staff that must adopt quality (like the lecturers that must adopt Blackboard.) This is also a topic that’s close to my heart and interests me. I was a staff member who resisted quality as it was applied in those labs, and even I do not understand why. So the common thread is “Resistance” or “Non-adoption” (better academic term for resistance).
And if they are similar, why did I adopt Blackboard, but I did not adopt quality. The answer to that question is I only adopted Blackboard when I was forced to mark exam scripts of 260 stats students. It was an impossible task. I had no choice but to look for a smarter way to do things because I just couldn’t work harder than what I already was. Once I started using Blackboard, the system itself impressed me. I started seeing how it made life easier not more difficult. Therein lies the key to my research.
So I was initially thinking the CHEC course proposal would be the first draft of the PhD proposal, but I know accept that it wont be. And that is fine. I’ve decided I want to now do both research projects. But let’s start with this Blackboard research first. The comforting fact is hopefully my research design will be similar if not the same, because the nature of research will be the same. Design based research…….., here I come.