6 Changing practice
The following guidance may help you as you plan to make changes that can make full use of the advantages of online learning.
- Start small and start now. Over time you may start to overthink your planned change; your objectives may be forgotten as you deal with intervening issues or you may start to vacillate between various potential changes. Pick something small that you can pilot and see results for quickly – plan it and do it!
- Plan. Set out all the details. What new approach will you try? With whom and covering which topic? By which date must you be ready? What will your fallback plan be if your first attempt does not achieve your stated objectives? How will you evaluate the successes and failures of your attempt? As time goes by and you gain confidence in trying new ideas online, you can be more flexible and formulate less-rigid plans, but at the start of your journey detailed planning will make you feel more secure in your actions.
- Get permission. If you are considering a large change, make sure you have all the relevant approvals in place. Take time to prepare; give those involved all the information they may need; explain the benefits as well as the risks and show that you have thought long and hard about the change and its potential benefits for learners. If permission is not granted, ask for feedback and adjust your proposal before seeking approval again.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Any changes to your practice will require adjustments along the way. Observe what works and what doesn’t. Modify and then try again.
- Reflect honestly. Reflect on what you have learned; reflect after further reading; reflect again after discussing the change with students or colleagues, then again after giving it a try.
- Collaborate. Share your initial attempt and your reflections upon it with colleagues or networks. They may spot additional adjustments that you can make and will be better placed to comment objectively on what went well and what did not.
- Listen to students. Ask your students for their impressions of what was tried and their ideas for change. Often they will see the positives of ‘trying something different’, even if things didn’t go exactly as you had hoped.
- Learn from failures. Some changes work, some don’t. Sometimes the technology fails, sometimes the pedagogy is not a good fit; sometimes external factors have an influence. When something goes wrong, don’t lose your enthusiasm and curiosity about online practice. Instead, think about what you have learned and how that will make your next steps better.
- Celebrate success. It may be a small change, but if it works, allow yourself to enjoy the success! Share your story with colleagues and your networks. Build upon your success to try something else or to repeat the first change in a different context.