Ismael Peña-López, lecturer and researcher, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)
e-Supervision: framing the debate
We can define four stages in technology adoption:
- During appropriation people get to know what new technologies are out there, they learn how to use them, they master them… but not necessarily use them or use them in a specific environment and for a specific purpose. E.g. learn that text editors exist, learn how to use them, but still use typewritters.
- In the adaptation phase, old technologies are replaced by the new ones, but just to perform exactly the same tasks, routines, processes. E.g. typewritters are trown away, but text editors are used to type the very same letters. The cost of using a new technology is clearly here an expenditure, as no major benefits appear.
- Improvement happens when benefits begin to overrun the cost of using new technologies. Here, costs are investments that pay back in the medium and long term. E.g. text editors are used intensively allowing for thorough edition (copying, pasting, formatting, etc.), tracking changes and versions, passing documents along (by e-mail, that is, another concurring technology) so that they can be commented, reedited, etc.
- Last, and most important, transformation implies that the whole process is though (almost) from scratch, deploying the full potential of new technologies to redesign processes and tasks. E.g. documents begin not with an original from a single person, but collaborative tools come in place (like wikis, pads or the like) where everyone can contribute at the same time, with no need for centralization, no need for preset structures, etc.
e-Supervision can be described in this framework. Thus, there is not a single definition of what e-Supervision is, but a continuum of definitions as e-Supervision itself evolves from adaptation to improvement, and from improvement to transformation (and including a phase 0 of adoption, which is by the way most needed).
- During appropriation e-supervision is, actually, supervision. Period. Everyone is using technology, but not for supervision purposes.
- In the adaptation e-supervision can be defined as electronic supervision as traditional tasks (meetings, reviews) are done with the help of technology: videoconferences, support of digital documents. This phase is needed because it bridges both worlds (supervision with e-supervision) but has to be quickly overcome, as the cost of the change of technology does not come with any evident benefit.
- Improvement happens when these benefits of e-Supervision imply an evolution, an evolved supervision. Tracking changes, control version, creation of communities of practice and communities of learning within (or with-out) learning management systems… even xMOOCs can imply several opportunities for improvement of old practices.
- Last, and most important, transformation is rethinking e-supervision (almost) from scratch. It’s about enhanced supervision, deploying all the potential of research 2.0, connectivist MOOCs, peer-to-peer assessment, e-portfolios, personal learning environments. That is, rethinking the whole research and supervision practice, now taking into account not only tools, but the concurrence of other actors, of new roles (and responsibilities
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Peña-López, I. (2013). e-Supervision: Framing the Debate. Workshop within the LEADHER PLEDS Project at the Open Univeristy of Catalonia, 31 October 2013.