As UK tuition fees continue to rise, students in higher education are increasingly demanding enhanced learning experiences and outstanding teaching quality. New regulations are also coming into play, which require lecturers and academic staff to keep learning and there is a continued shift away from seat-time to competency-based learning. Furthermore, as technology moves on apace, modern learners are demanding access to media-rich learning materials on their smartphones and tablets. With these shifting paradigms, lecturers, tutors and other members of teaching staff must continually refresh their knowledge and skills to stay up-to-date on the systems, platforms and applications in use.
In a recent survey, we found that the majority (77 percent) of employees believe that workplace learning is important to their continued professional development (CPD), with 37 percent claiming that a lack of training had negatively impacted their career. A common problem is that CPD is often spoken about widely in the corporate environment but can be overlooked when considering more practical industries such as teaching. The fact is, however, that whilst lecturers and academic staff are generally interested in reading papers, research and learning about new developments in their own discipline, there’s also a responsibility on the shoulders of today’s institutions to deliver a continued, lifelong programme that helps staff build on their knowledge and skills. Academic staff are often very keen to offer new and impactful experiences to their students, but lack the resources to get started effectively.
Staying ahead of the curve in a shifting educational landscape
CPD is of paramount importance for individuals keen to develop their existing skills, learn new ones and expand their capabilities. This holds particular significance in the academic field where adaption is needed continually for academic staff to stay abreast of the evolving demands of students, not least those brought about by continually evolving technology.
With so much of what encompasses education and teaching now taking place online, academic staff need to be able to address learning assessments and engagement, and share ideas and resources with other educators. They need to be able to take advantage of environments that allow them to engage with each individual at a personal level and make decisions based on the wealth of learning data available to them. One solution to the need for CPD is blended learning – combining online edification with more traditional classroom methods. This platform and structure can help lecturers experiment with resources and their own learning and development before they go on to teach their students with new methods and techniques. Importantly, this community of professional learners will remain intact and offer continuous support to each other, adding further value once the course is complete.
Seven ways to an improved, effective development programme
When it comes to implementing a system for CPD for their teaching staff, there are seven ways that higher education institutions can deliver an efficient and effective structure that academic staff will be enthusiastic to use:
1. Learnings and key takeaways can be put to use straight away
Having educators do their CPD courses online, within the same environments that they teach in, means that they can step into the student experience and put into practice what they themselves learn from the process. Knowing that they can directly improve the student experience is a significant motivator for many academic professionals
2. Organise and track academic and administrative staff development
By maintaining clear and simple metrics on their CPD courses and basing these on flexible attributes such as date hired, department, reporting structure, campus or location, leaders can easily manage the enrolment and completion of professional development courses for academic, research, and support staff.
3. Use favoured tools
Implement learning resources seamlessly from numerous sources. Sharing files via cloud systems and utilising video-hosting websites can maintain familiarity and be easily shared via content feeds between the academic staff.
4. Go mobile
Use a standardised design template for content to ensure that it is all mobile-friendly, especially video. Simplify capturing and distributing knowledge, ideas, and the results of group sessions to make access and sharing easier.
5. Develop new ways of supporting assessment
Allowing participants to practise, demonstrate, and receive feedback on what they’ve learned using video-based recordings (e.g. interviews or presentation skills). Use a system that supports giving and receiving feedback easy, accessible evaluation rubrics, exercises, traditional assignments and quizzes.
6. Continually inspire and reward your staff
By providing milestone activities and course completion, the staff member’s progress in professional development can be recognised and rewarded automatically with badges that show up on their profile card. Participants can then track and share their success with personalised certificates.
7. Showcase and share
Make it easy for participants to discover and learn from their peers by sharing successes and debating new ideas. Allowing participants to connect with course facilitators and each other through online discussions, virtual video-based breakout sessions and activity feeds can be a great way to keep employees engaged in the latest developments.
8. Recognise informal learning
Try to capture and reflect on real-world examples of the academic staff’s work. Sharing and entering into dialogue with peers as well as connecting formal learning goals to authentic examples can be a great way to boost enthusiasm from staff for continual professional development.
When we reflect on education, we don’t tend to consider the learning that education providers – tutors, teachers, and administrators – also need to undergo. Ongoing learning is an important part of a career in education and institutions that support staff through simple, effective development programmes stand to increase staff engagement and improve standards overall. CPD for academic staff is not only beneficial for the lecturers and their students, but also fosters continuous improvement of the whole institution.