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Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
October 2006

Volume 12 Number 10

ISSN 1082-9873

Report on the 1st International Critical Success Factors for Institutional Change Workshop (CSFIC)

22 September, Alicante, Spain


Karen Fill
University of Southampton, UK

Red Line


This first CSFIC one-day workshop was held at the University of Alicante, Spain in conjunction with the European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (ECDL '06). It was chaired by Dr. Hugh Davis, University Director of Education with responsibility for eLearning at the University of Southampton, UK, and Susan Eales of the UK's Open University.

The purpose of CSFIC '06 was to provide a forum for participants in mature eLearning projects to exchange information about the lessons learned from their projects in trying to bring about technological and cultural change within their institutions. The workshop included opening and closing keynotes, presentation of refereed and position papers, and ended with a round table discussion of the critical success factors for embedding eLearning in further and higher education.

'Embedding eLearning – A Mixed Economy'

In the opening keynote Professor Mark Stiles, University of Staffordshire, posed questions about the driving forces behind eLearning Strategy. Do institutions have a strategy to satisfy funding bodies or to underpin real change? After outlining some of the strategic approaches evident today, he described how, at Staffordshire, academic staff are no longer offered standalone eLearning training courses. Rather they take an integrative approach that makes "development part of production." Teachers have to indicate, at the course planning stage, that they want to do eLearning, and then they are allocated a support team. The support includes attention to quality enhancement and allows the university to build the evidence base for the 'e' contribution to improved learning and teaching.

Caroline Breslin, University of Strathclyde, presented findings from the Distributed, Innovative Design, Education and Teamwork (DIDET) project, and she reflected on key issues for scaling up and embedding approaches to integrating learning environments, digital repositories and supporting tools.

Helen Durham, University of Leeds, Dr. Hugh Davis and Professor David Martin, University of Southampton, presented three different papers based on the experiences of the Digital Libraries in Support of Innovative Approaches to Learning and Teaching in Geography (DialogPLUS) project. Helen described the Collaborative Learning Activity Design (CLAD) methodology developed during the project, highlighting how it can overcome cultural differences. David spoke about the impact of a collaborative online Masters programme on the culture and curriculum in the School of Geography. Both he and Hugh offered thoughtful reflections on embedding blended learning in the institutional culture.

Presenting a paper intriguingly entitled Geronimo's Cadillac: Lessons for Learning Object Repositories, John Casey, of the UHI Millennium Institute, Scotland, made telling points about the need to avoid promoting technology in an area that is not yet ready for it. However, concentration on technical issues that are really minor can be a form of "displacement activity". The main obstacles to embedding eLearning are philosophical, pedagogical, political and organisational.

John Cook from the Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Reusable Learning Objects, London Metropolitan University, presented an institutional change model to help identify critical interactions, processes and interdependencies between technology, practice and strategy.

Iain Wallace, Glasgow Caledonian University, presented the outcomes of the Spoken Word project and their implications for institutional change. A key point here was the need to build for constant change (pedagogical pluralism).

Su White, University of Southampton, presented findings from longitudinal research on the take-up of ICT in UK Higher Education. This prompted an interesting discussion on whether we are seeing a repetitive cycle of early adoption of technologies followed by institutional reluctance to cross Moore's chasm [1].

Sarah McNicol, Evidence Base, University of Central England, presented findings from the Support and Evaluation Study for the Digital Libraries in the Classroom (DLiC) Programme.

Gill Ferrell, JISC infoNet, showed us a simulation tool, adapted from an INSEAD approach to change management, which allows you to look at organisations (people in them) and the networks (formal and informal) and the extent to which key individuals are involved in the change processes (aware, interested, trying and adopter).

Gilly Salmon, Professor of eLearning and Learning Technologies at the University of Leicester, gave an invited keynote in which she offered reflections and advice based on the first year of implementing the University of Leicester's eLearning strategy and urged us to visit their Media Zoo, which encourages the take up of appropriate eLearning approaches in the four possible matrix intersections delineated by combinations of new/existing students and new/existing technologies.

The workshop finished with a round table discussion and summing up facilitated by Susan Eales, previously at JISC, now at the UK's Open University. Key points included:

  • The term eLearning causes many difficulties – perhaps it needs to be differentiated from eSupport (e.g., putting notes on Blackboard).
  • The technology works; the problems are philosophical, pedagogical, political and organisational.
  • Academic career paths and curriculum development processes can militate against embedding eLearning.
  • There can be multiple levels of staff engagement; it does not have to be all or nothing.
  • Funding models that have worked well buy out staff teaching time so that they can concentrate on developing and embedding eLearning, include incentives for student involvement in development, and keep the money coming (continuity).
  • Agile technical support processes are needed (a 'just-in time' approach).
  • Embedding needs to be at technological, pedagogical and cultural level.
  • Active involvement and commitment of senior management is critical.
  • Harness organisational objectives to make the changes and use organisational structures to nurture them.

The CSFIC workshop proceedings and papers are available online at <>


[1] Moore, G.: Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Products to Mainstream Customers. Harper Business, New York (1991).

Copyright © 2006 Karen Fill

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