The Dramedy

TELedvisors acting out the scenario

At the ASCILITE 2019 conference we banded together to write a dramedy. We felt that this form of writing would allow us to show ‘uncomfortable truths’ (David Jones, Tweet) for real dramas.

The abstract (AKA ‘The plan’):

The processes that universities use to implement new technologies for learning and teaching, research and administration have been refined by decades of experience and in symbiosis with the corporatisation of the sector. This history might lead to expectations that innovation in higher education proceeds smoothly along a rational path, but its progress can be uneven and surprising. Institutional strategies, the tools available for planning and communication, the people involved at each stage of the implementation, and the choices that they make, all contribute to the drama of innovation. In this session, these decision points and the perspectives of the decision-makers will be acted out in rapid scenarios, highlighting the choices available at each stage. With the help of the session audience, we will chart the characteristics of a robust innovation project and map selected institutional case studies against this benchmark, to foster greater understanding about the complexity of change.

Story 1: Stuck in post-pilot limbo

Wendy wrote the story of a technology that had reached the pilot or phase 1 stage and then got stuck. It starts with identifying the dilemma:

NARRATOR:    The eBook implementation started last year. The Teaching Academic Early Adopter now needs to update an eBook in ENG101 and hopefully get the product into full implementation. We land here: in the post pilot zone. In a limbo between further development and being removed from the LMS. Let’s follow the dialogue and see if we can help.

The audience was asked to use an app to add their voice to the drama. After an initial pilot of the eBook platform. Then…:

Teaching Academic (turning to the Innovation team): “Can I make changes to eBook that I created last year?”

eLearning Innovation Team: “Oh we don’t look after that anymore. We only developed it prior to going to pilot. I think we have handed that over to the TELedvisor team. You will need to talk to them about that. They have all the details. We are busy developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the next MOOC, so no time to help further, sorry.”

What ensued after this was a bounce-around from one internal team to another until the audience was asked to vote.

Multiple Choice Poll

What should the Teaching Academic Early Adopter DO?

  1. Battle the internal teams of the university (IT, Innovation, LMS Support, Library)
  2. Write up a business case for the Dean to approve assistance with changes and new eBooks
  3. Plan to remove the use of eBooks

When I first revealed the responses from the poll we went with option C but there was a groan from the crowd. When I returned to the poll later (forgetting to freeze the results) I see that it has changed to equal B and C results. It was interesting to see the participants willing to change their option to hopefully influence the direction of the play. This has made me think carefully about how flux was deployed. Next time I would hide the answers and only show the incoming responses. Then reveal the answers and freeze the poll. We could still have a discussion before agreeing on the direction to go.

Poll results to question: What should the Teaching Academic - Early Adopter do? Pull the plug on eBooks and Write a Business Case for the Dean are tied on 40% (8 votes each) and Battle with the internal teams is on 20% (4 votes)

Story 2: “Teaming” with excitement

Henk wrote a story that gave the audience two options on how the plot should proceed. The story involved an early adopter (and high-profile professor) whose pilot adoption of MS Teams for teaching ran into trouble with the IT department and would no longer be supported (for IT reasons rather than pedagogical reasons).

The acting team performing
NARRATOR:  The IT Support Manager and IT Administrator decide that MS Teams should no longer be supported for learning and teaching where it involves students. The TELedvisor manager conveys this news to the TELedvisor team and suggest that the use of MS Teams should henceforth be discouraged, as IT will no longer support it, and there are therefore issues with sustainability into the future.

Then…after some to-ing and fro-ing…


  1. Should the professor be ‘allowed’ to continue to use the innovation if it does what he intended it to do and there are sound pedagogical reasons?
  2. Should the professor be ‘gently persuaded’ to use the institutional LMS instead and be supported to achieve within the LMS what he intended to achieve?


  1. 12 votes – winner!
  2. 8 votes

And so the story continued with version a):

TELedvisor Manager: “How do we go about doing this?”

IT Support Manager: “Leave it with me in the first instance, as I will need to take this to Senior Management to try to get approval for changing the way we configure email addresses for students. Do you think this will be widely adopted? In other words, is it worth the hassle at this stage? Is there nothing in Blackboard that does the same thing?”

TELedvisor Manager: “Not really, and yes, the expectation is that it will be adopted widely. Thank you.”


13 different words on page

Story 3: Shiny New Tool

The dilemma for the third story was ‘Shiny New Tool versus Very Big Platform’.

In preparing for the experimental session, we had done a literature search for articles on failures and struggles when trying to implement tech change and we shared extracts from these articles on a ‘disaster wall’ Padlet).

These articles inspired some of the positions expressed by the characters in the “Shiny New Tool” script. This story also tried to show different ideas about learning and what it is, and how that might affect how people decide what to do in tech implementation. The poll question to the audience was to complete the sentence: Technology makes learning _____ ? Here are the audience’s responses:

World cloud with Accessible and Fun as the largest items

Full scripts are available by contacting the authors. This workshop was valuable on many levels, through the asynchronous playwriting to the performance skills and a better understanding of the issues raised. Here is what the audience provided through Twitter feedback.

Tweets of positive feedback


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