The ‘perfect’ workflow should provide a seamless pathway between student and teacher that enables feedback and progress to be meaningful, effective and rapid. Information, content and assignments should be easily accessed anywhere, anytime. Feedback should be easy and efficient to give, and should lead to ongoing, meaningful engagement with the next steps in learning. There shouldn’t be any delay and the workflow should sit alongside the information a student requires to learn effectively.
To place this in context, consider a workflow where a teacher has two contact periods a week, Monday and Thursday. The ‘normal’ workflow would see the assignment set on the Monday, submitted on the Thursday, feedback received on the following Monday and responded to by the second Thursday. Compare this to a system which allows the submission and feedback to happen aside from contact time and that doesn’t involve complicated learning platforms.
It would be folly to suggest that this workflow example could happen for every piece of work but the point is that, if it enhances the learning process and it is appropriate, then it is now possible with minimal organisational effort. The technology provides the platform for the student and teacher to make progress with as many workflow barriers as possible removed.
Of course this isn’t always possible even with the best technology and there are a number of barriers that may need to inform your workflow strategy. There could be limitations due to infrastructure. Are there delays with login? Difficulty with access outside school walls? Is it a workflow that is based on IT considerations rather than learning? Similarly, consider the limitations of stakeholders. Is the skillset of teachers suitable for a new workflow? Do students/ teachers resist change for fear of the system failing? Do they perceive that it’s all too difficult?
Everyone can agree that these problems are only worth overcoming if the learning process is enhanced. Too often the quest for workflow involves workarounds and ‘making do because that’s what the teachers are used to’. Unless a workflow is adopted based on sound learning outcomes, it will only serve to undermine through poor time management or duplication of effort.
Consider a simple tool such as email, which is a very effective way of communicating due to its immediate delivery. It is tempting to adopt it as your workflow. After all, everyone understands it already. However, email was not designed to be a school learning workflow solution. Suggesting students should submit work via email is a classic example of creating unnecessary work for a teacher or student. Where will the work be stored? How will it be returned efficiently? How will the teacher manage every student’s submissions? “Just email it to me” is not an efficient workflow solution and can be more trouble than benefit. Pretty quickly you’ll discover that an email-based workflow is not an enhancement to a paper-based one, and in some respects is a backwards step.
It can also be tempting to use a tablet’s full functionality within your workflow, when something simpler would be just as effective and simpler for everyone. Is video feedback worth considering? Yes. Is video feedback worth considering if the student can only access it in school? Probably not. When making decisions about workflow it should be based on the outcomes desired to support learning. If it doesn’t provide timely feedback and suit the needs of the learner, what’s the point?
The important thing to bear in mind is that failure to identify a suitable workflow solution(s) for students will undermine any 1-to-1 device environment. Fortunately, fairly recent developments in education technology have provided a host of options with which to tackle the workflow problem and allow time to be used more appropriately. The common thread to all of the best workflow solutions is ease of submission and provision of feedback, in as few clicks as possible.