Full SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report (Final Public Draft) available here.
This report is primarily the result of a series of workshops with, and a survey of the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network. My thanks for their honesty and enthusiastic participation.
Introduction to SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report
The SHEEN Sharing Project aims to support the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network as a community of practice, with a particular focus on utilizing online tools to communicate about, share and recommend resources of relevance to their employability work. The project will also support discovery and dissemination of relevant employability resources for stakeholders outwith the ECN, e.g. academics, staff developers, student support departments, funding bodies, national services, etc. Outputs and findings will benefit the wider education community, and the FE and HE funding bodies across the UK, by contributing to sector knowledge and understanding of resource sharing and community support using current Web technologies.
In preparing for the major work of the project Workpackage 4: Trials of Web 2.0 Tools, I gathered ECN requirements and ascertained co-ordinators’ level of awareness and experience with Web 2.0 tools in their work. This exercise, Workpackage 3: Requirements Gathering, was carried out in the first three months of the project from January to March 2009, in parallel with Workpackage 2: Web 2.0 Review; both fed into each other during this period. See also the SHEEN Sharing Review report here.
- Who are the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network?
Etienne Wenger, one of the key educators on communities of practice, notes on his website that:
“Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.”
Looked at as a community of practice, the ECN is:
- National (across Scotland), and geographically distributed, with some members, particularly in the north of Scotland, less able to attend centrally based meetings;
- Mostly female (76% female / 24% male);
- A mix of part-time and full-time (59% full-time / 41% part-time);
- A mix of professional backgrounds;
- A mix of institutional situations, in terms of:
- the type of department they are based in (59% educational/staff development / 41% careers service), some being co-located in different departments;
- the emphasis required by their institution on employability work (including working at a policy level; working on curriculum and course development; and working directly with academics and students);
- university type, from red brick to the ancients, including the Open University and the federated UHI Millennium Institute.
- Temporary: funding for their work will not continue beyond the next couple of years.
- There is significant time pressure on many ECN members;
- There are a range of professional and institutional cultures, priorities and communication styles coming to bear on their ability to participate;
- There are institutional cultures with different approaches to and support for use of technology (for instance, one institution blocks use of certain Web 2.0 tools on campus; another doesn’t allow use of Flash);
- There is a sense that the work accomplished must somehow not be lost after the end of the ECN’s funded tenure in this role.
So, although this is a small group of professionals, it cannot be assumed that they have access to the same resources, have the same work priorities and pressures, or have similar jobs.
However, despite their differences, it is clear that the ECN has worked from the beginning as a community of practice, engaging in a process of collective learning about their tasks as university employees whose remit is to promote employability for the benefit of students in higher education and their potential employers. Given the affordances Web 2.0 can offer to a distributed community like this, the SHEEN Sharing project could have much to offer in their continued work, learning and professional development.
- What are the requirements of the ECN?The basic requirements that have emerged are as follows:
- Mutual support;
- Sharing experience, practice and learning.
- Resource sharing, comprising:
- Resource discovery, sharing, recommending and rating;
- Sharing experiences of use of resources;
- Targeted resource dissemination to all stakeholders.
During the initial meetings, however, it also became clear that learning new skills in utilising Web 2.0 technologies would be helpful in their roles supporting teachers and students with employability issues, an impression supported strongly by the SHEEN Sharing Review. As noted in the recent report of an independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies (entitled ‘Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World’ ):
“[...] the dispositions developed through engagement with Web 2.0 technologies – to communicate, participate, network, share etc – overlap with what are viewed both as significant 21st century learning skills and 21st century employability skills.”
Benchmarking the ECN
ECN members communicate less frequently than they would like, largely due to time constraints and issues of information overload, with all forms of communication tending to occur monthly or less. The ability to communicate privately and in a targeted way is valued, as are opportunities to meet in person, or to utilise tools which simulate the informality and support of face-to-face meetings.ECN members use bookmarking as the primary method of saving resources they have found, which points to social bookmarking as a possible way forward for SHEEN Sharing. They tend to rely on Web searching to find resources again, and email to share resources with colleagues. However, a considerable number of ECN members have low confidence in their own efficiency and effectiveness with finding, sharing, disseminating and re-discovering resources; un-surprising given their desire for the SHEEN Sharing project to help with this.
To date, ECN members have some experience in their personal lives with social networking tools, but not much enthusiasm for them, and less experience with the main resource sharing and dissemination tools required for SHEEN Sharing. However, they strongly support the major aims of the project: sharing opinions, practice tips and ideas around resources with ECN colleagues and other stakeholders, and improving their own efficiency and effectiveness in sharing resources.
Finally, we now have a Final Public Draft available of both the SHEEN Sharing Review and the SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report.
The above links take you to each document’s page on Scribd, where you can view, print, download (in various formats) and share them. You’ll also see them listed under the Project Documents from Scribd heading in the far-right-hand column.