Policy is great. I love knowing the parameters of my praxis and I love having other people put the work in to set those parameters. I have been at UWE for 7 years and there has been a dirth of policy and strategy at the University. I refer to this as a policy lite environment. This is a great amount of freedom to be given but I don’t feel like it’s an explicit choice that has been made. It feels more like the absence of policy. Obviously we have academic policies and procedures however they never to seem to permeate across to digital learning products. This is felt more keenly in the programmes with different delivery modes.
At the University we have a lecture capture system, Panopto, and we refer to it as an ‘Event Capture’ system so as to leave a little bit of wiggle room for the kind of events it supports. We have a policy to support that use of this system. It is called an Audio / Visual Recording for Educational Activities Policy . This again is purposefully vague. Covers enough to be useful but leaves some wiggle room.
The project itself covers educational activities of all kind capture either by a system of automatic scheduling or ad-hoc recording. So the policy is loose around the how but insinuates you should be recording as much as possible. Each way of recording has its own working group. I sit on the ‘Event Capture’ working group with has a particular scope to carry on with elements other than ‘Auto scheduling’. As you can imagine the process of auto scheduling is heavily managed and involves a slower and more high powered roll out,
Now I have come to hate the word scope. Scope is a word that limits conversations and actions. I have seen a few different TEL departments reshuffled or ignored into irrelevance due to their idea of their scope and its misalignment to business need. In a policy context it can be the opposite.
The scope of the policy covers the recording of educational events. This tends to be a didactic event in a classroom. However we deliver some teaching in a virtual classroom / webinar environment. It has been explicitly said that the scope of the policy encompasses webinars. These environments have their own recording tools. These tools have the same risks to be managed as the other workflows we are integrating.
Yet the scope of the working group I am part of covers specific things. The summer of 2019 saw us fast track the workflow of staff initiated recording of assessments. This workflow looked to use Panopto to replace a product called Kaltura for assessments such as presentations or roleplays.
The scope of the working group would not enlarge to cover webinar hosted assessments. These assessments obviously fell inside the policy but outside of the scope of the working group. Therefore there is no centrally supported workflow for this activity. There was no appetite outside of my Faculty to change this and even when the solution was brought to the table there was no appetite for adoption.
This is a reflection on policy. They are never perfect. They can never catch all use cases. However, the looser we word things the more useful they are. I have always believed culture eats strategy for breakfast and has policy for elevenses. Without a culture that is someway future facing policies can solidify existing practices by accident. Culture can use good policy to meet business need. It can also relegated outcomes to irrelevance and focus on process.
In my context I welcome policy and I am in a position to influence the content of policy the more senior I get. What is more important to as I move up is that I build a resilient and future facing culture in the structures I create. So you will never hear anyone in my team say ‘Nothing to do with me’ or ‘You aren’t allowed to do that’. We practice openly and within the confines or the limited policies we have but we focus our scope on outcomes rather than our place in the process. We can do this as I empower people to do this in my leadership behaviours.