In its fourth year, Innovative Learning Week presents a range of challenges, but also – opportunities.
For the majority of staff and students who engage in the festival, they are positive about the programme and their experiences. It has provided a leadership opportunity for students to design and deliver activities relevant to their learning, often for the first time in their academic careers. Staff have indicated how refreshing it was to be able to work closely with students on their ILW ideas. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence of the impact on individuals within their teaching and learning and how they are using ILW to experiment with a particular tool, idea, or practice. There is also evidence that a number of successful ILW projects have applied for further funding to scale up their activity through such schemes as the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme or the Innovative Initiative Grants.
Despite a focus on fewer events, there were over 360 events in the programme run by staff, students, and in collaboration between the two communities. On average, there were over 70 events a day. For the majority of those that took part, they recommended ILW highly – especially students. The ILW team received positive feedback for focusing more on student-led events this year.
But there were challenges.
Buy-in from staff and students has been patchy from school to school. School Coordinators put a great deal of time and energy into supporting events in their schools, but often – support from their colleagues is mixed and there isn’t reliable engagement.
Perception also plays a powerful role as many students indicated that they heard about ILW by ‘word of mouth’ which seems to negatively impact their engagement.
While the new festival branding was received positively, staff often perceived the festival as an assumption that innovation doesn’t exist elsewhere. This also puts a great deal of pressure on the week to deliver ‘innovative events’ and with over 70 a day, the programme can feel inaccessible and overwhelming. While the demand to run events is high, there is a perception that ILW is ‘top down’, centrally-pushed and tacked on to teaching & learning, despite being incorporated into the academic calendar.
While ILW presents challenges, there is opportunity if delivered properly.
Central to any success story of ILW is collaboration – vertically, horizontally, between schools, disciplines, with community partners, and between staff & students. ILW presented a cross-University opportunity to work between schools but also, within schools on particular areas of work. As the University is so devolved, there doesn’t seem to be a university-wide platform to invite people together in both formal and informal ways across these divides.
We know that the University has a number of resources, tools, knowledge, and support for those who want to try something new but they are difficult to navigate – especially for students who often do not know where to begin. If delivered properly, a programme around creative learning offers a platform to not only support collaboration, but raise awareness of these resources and a build of community around innovation both in and outside the week.
There is also an opportunity to tie activity into the greater University context by aligning with school priorities and strategic themes, such as internationalisation, sustainability and social responsibility, community engagement, public engagement, digital skills, staff experience, and employability. We could also make stronger and more relevant links into the curriculum.
By looking more holistically at the experience around innovation, we can develop a framework to support and celebrate collaboration all year round – not just in a week.
We have offered recommendations for the future.
We know that ILW will be taking place 15-19 February, 2016. In the longer report, we offer a list of recommendations for the upcoming year and beyond including creating and curating a programme around a theme and tightening up the funding mechanism.
But first and foremost, we need to revisit the goals and objectives and develop a manifesto with more ownership from stakeholders – schools, student groups, School Coordinators, EUSA, support services, and other relevant partners.
We are really excited to say that we are collaborating with Snook to use the summer to go back to the drawing board and rethink our goals and objectives around a programme of creative learning. They will be working closely with us conducting various activities throughout July including an organisational ethnography, interviews from multiple perspectives, and a creative workshop. We will share more as we confirm the details.
We will continue to use this space temporarily to offer updates on the process.
If you would like to be part of our summer work around reshaping ILW, please email us at ilw (at) ed.ac.uk.
Input was collected from stakeholders (School Coordinators, event organisers, students, and staff) through event feedback reports, data from University Events Booking System, all student and staff surveys, debrief sessions, and feedback throughout the week.
These findings were presented to the Learning and Teaching Committee in May 2015. This report was compiled by Johanna Holtan with support from the central ILW team, School Coordinators, and other IAD contributors. If you would like the full report, please email johanna.holtan (at) ed.ac.uk.