Uys, P.M. (2007). Enterprise-Wide Technological Transformation in Higher Education: The LASO Model. International Journal of Educational Management (ISSN: 0951-354X), Emerald, UK
http://www.globe-online.com/philip.uys/2006 08 uysLASOmodel.htm
Enterprise-Wide Technological Transformation in Higher Education: The LASO Model
Dr Philip Uys
Charles Sturt University, Panorama Avenue, Bathurst, NSW,
Manager, Educational Design and Educational Technology
Tel: +64 2 63384538 Fax: +64 63384342 E-mail: email@example.com
The pervasive use of eLearning in higher education has made it imperative to understand what the critical issues are when implementing enterprise wide learning strategies to support a digitally enhanced learning environment. The LASO model attempts to address the wider context in which the infusion of eLearning takes place in higher education and acknowledges that the process of enterprise-wide technological transformation is complex with many dislocations, dilemmas and uncertainties, given that people are central to this transformation process.
This paper discusses the Leadership, Academic & Student Ownership and Readiness (LASO) Model for enterprise-wide technological transformation in higher education developed by the writer as part of his PhD research. It further uses a comparative analysis of three case studies of the implementation of the LASO model over nine years. These case studies are the eLearning implementation on the Wellington campus of Massey University, New Zealand from September 1995 to December 2000, a five-month consultancy in 2000 at the Cape Technikon, South Africa to lead the enterprise-wide wide implementation of eLearning, and four years of implementing eLearning at the University of Botswana to January 2005.The LASO Model emphasises the necessity for integrated and orchestrated top-down, bottom-up and inside-out strategies. The LASO model is grounded in literature on change management and educational reform both in higher education and private enterprise. Technological transformation at present is closely linked to electronic learning (eLearning) and includes mobile learning.
The LASO Model is an approach to ensure enterprise-wide technological transformation in higher education through a strategically developed framework based on a clear and unified vision and a central educational rationale.
Originality/value of paper:
It questions the strong bottom-up approach of Rogers’ (1995) innovation of diffusion theory and the smooth contours of the innovation curve when applied to the enterprise-wide infusion of eLearning in higher education. This paper discusses the Leadership, Academic & Student Ownership and Readiness (LASO) Model for enterprise-wide technological transformation in higher education developed by the writer as part of his PhD research.
The pursuit of technological transformation in higher education has become widespread internationally with the extensive pervasiveness of the Internet and the perceived advantages to higher education. The resultant wide use of eLearning in higher education has made it imperative to understand what the critical issues are when implementing enterprise wide learning strategies to support a digitally enhanced learning environment. There is furthermore a growing awareness and commitment to prepare students for effective participation in the emerging global knowledge economy. Technologically based education is further seen by some as a way to address the increase in the world demand for Higher education. Daniel (1998:12) states that "one new university per week is required to keep pace with world population growth but the resources necessary are not available. Higher education must develop more cost-effective methods so that public resources can be focussed on schools and youth training". Bates (1999) concurs that by using technology for teaching, universities can serve the public more cost-effectively and in particular can prepare students better for a technologically based society. In view of growing globalisation and transnational exchanges in many fields (Marquardt, 1996:3), scholars like Evans and Nation (1993:7) indicate that in "… these circumstances politicians, policy-makers and citizens are making demands upon education systems to reform. Open learning and distance education are at the forefront of educational responses to the changes that are taking place locally, regionally, nationally and internationally".
Enterprise-wide technological transformation has major systemic implications and needs to be carefully managed as Drucker (1998, p. 100) points out: "… as soon as a company takes the first tentative steps from data to information, its decision processes, management structure, and even the way it gets its work done begin to be transformed." Attempts to introduce any significant reform in institutions will impact on most, if not all, of its sub-systems. Bates (2000:196) contends, "…using technology to extend the campus on a global basis will affect all aspects of a university or college, but particularly administrative systems". Fullan (1991:349) refers to the necessity of looking at innovations within the framework of institutional development.
Thomas, Carswell, Price and Petre (1998) argue for a transformation of practices (both teaching and administrative) in order to take advantage of technology so as to provide needed functions, rather than superficial translation of existing practices. Bates (1999) argues that the introduction of eLearning will prompt "…a thorough re-examination of the core practices of an organization, whether advertising, or registration, or design and delivery of materials, or student support or assessment of students, in order to arrive at the most effective way of providing these services in a networked, multimedia environment."
Managing change for enterprise-wide transformation in general and in higher education in particular is however problematic since people are central to the process, and it is therefore necessary, as Fullan (1991:350) suggests, "… that we explicitly think and worry about the change process" in educational reform. The LASO (Leadership, Academic & Student Ownership and Readiness) Model (see figure 1) (Uys, 2001a) was developed in response to this imperative.
The LASO model (Uys, 2001a) was developed over five years from 1995 during the doctorate research of Uys (2000) and is grounded in literature on change management and educational reform. It further uses a comparative analysis of three case studies of the implementation of the LASO model over nine years. These case studies are the eLearning implementation on the Wellington campus of Massey University, New Zealand from September 1995 to December 2000, a five-month consultancy in 2000 at the Cape Technikon, South Africa to lead the enterprise-wide wide implementation of eLearning, and four years of implementing eLearning at the University of Botswana to January 2005.
The LASO Model is situated within the dynamics of educational reform and the implementation of innovation in educational settings.
Figure 1: The LASO
Educational Reform and Transformation
There is no neatly formulated theory of generic and enterprise-wide change (Goodman and Kurke, 1982). Cannon (1986) further points to the absence of a general theory of educational development and notes that educational developers therefore draw on theories from other disciplines to inform their educational practice.
Higher educational institutes in general are very conservative and have been highly resistant to change and reform over the centuries (Evans and Franz, 1998 April; Richardson, 1979). Educational institutions in general "…which exist to open minds and challenge established doctrine, are themselves extremely resistant to change" (Robbins and Barnwell, 1998). Higher education can be described as largely bureaucratic and "…bureaucracies by definition resist change…" (Tapscott, 1996:36).
Technological innovation has often been implemented as an isolated, bottom-up initiative of academic staff for efficiency purposes. In this scenario the wider systems within higher education are often not considered and neither affected by the innovation. Enterprise-wide transformation is highly unlikely in this scenario and very fragile. The management of institutions may thus feel justified in disregarding the innovation.
Systems theory calls for an integrated approach to technological innovation: "a system is a whole that cannot be taken apart without loss of its essential characteristics, and hence must be studied as a whole" (Ackhoff, 1972:40). An enterprise and all its subsystems need to be considered when considering true technological transformation.
Technological innovations have also experienced difficulty in education because of a problem that Michael Porter calls "metrics" (Pastore, 1995). Higher education, similar to other sectors of society, has often responded to new ICT applications on the basis of efficiencies rather than using more strategic considerations. Porter (Pastore, 1995) describes this problem as follows: "The traditional criteria by which IT applications have been chosen have been ones of operational effectiveness—How many people can we save? How much faster can we process things?—rather than more strategic measures, such as how much have quality or service levels gone up". Fullan (1991) further refers to first order (or first level) and second order (or second level) changes to explain this phenomenon. He believes that most changes in education in the twentieth century have been first order changes, which are aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness of current practices.
The LASO Model acknowledges that to ensure ownership by academic staff as well as sound educational quality in eLearning, it is important that educators and educational principles drive the technological transformation of higher education, as proposed by researchers like Willmot and McLean (1994) and Caladine (1993). The structures supporting technology-based education have to ensure an educational focus and pre-eminence of educational principles rather than administrative desires or technical possibilities. Caladine (1993:7), who reviewed the literature on non-traditional modes of delivery in higher education using state-of-the-art technologies, indicates that the extensive use of ICT in education "...poses previously unencountered problems in pedagogy and andragogy". Bates (1992:265) contends that "… technological decisions need to be preceded by policy and educational decisions...". This also highlights the importance of following both top-down, bottom-up and more organic approaches during technological transformation in higher education.
The LASO Model draws on the work of Tillema (1995) who considered engaging academics in the reform process as one of the two significant management issues to address in educational reform and in education in general. He asserts that reform has to be based on the development of 'learning communities'. That means that the actual process of reform must engage academics in local communities of discourse about their educational practices. Tillema further points out that historical studies, based largely on experience in schools, show that 'top down' attempts to achieve educational reform have failed, and suggests that they will be doomed to failure until they 'confront the cultural and pedagogical traditions and beliefs that underlie current practices and organizational arrangements' (Goodman 1995:2). In technological transformation in higher education, it is therefore critical to address the concerns and perceptions of academic staff in the light of the need for changing their attitudes and to ensuring ownership by academic staff (Evans and Franz, 1998 April; Taylor, Lopez and Quadrelli, 1996). The bottom-up approaches of the LASO model gives expression to these views.
Ownership of the technological transformation by academic staff is indeed a key value in the LASO Model as Bates (1984:227) contends "… the introduction of new technology in distance education requires major changes in professional roles". Bates (1984) points to the need for specialised roles and the need for academics to gain the skills and knowledge for effective use of the new technologies, and the requirement for extensive training. These aspects would be amplified when managing the transformation of higher education through technology with its ICT base and range of technical options. Mason (1998:157) asserts that the new technologies in global education point to "… a new role for the teacher, for the student and for course material. It centres on the construction of knowledge by the student... a teacher as facilitator… information is no longer something to organise, transmit and memorise, but something to work with, think with, discuss, negotiate and debate with partners". It is therefore critical to involve academics in the reform process to obtain the necessary buy-in and prepare them at the same time for the new roles they need to play. Their involvement is also necessary to ensure that a relevant and contextualised transformation occurs that will be sustainable.
The LASO Model proposes that the reward systems be tied to engagement with the processes that facilitate the desired reform. To enable enterprise-wide technological transformation in higher education, this needs to be identified as a strategic objective and direction, and the reward systems then need to be tied to its implementation, as put forward by Munitz (1997). The institute's reward systems should encourage academic staff and students to become and remain involved in eLearning if it desires to implement technology based education on an enterprise-wide scale in the institute. Marquardt (1996:97) contends that "one of the most powerful management principles in the world is 'That which get rewarded gets done' ".
Innovation and Transformation
The LASO Model links to the notions of diffusion of innovations as the core of technological transformation; there is no transformation without innovation given that technological transformation is frequently based on new approaches to organisational processes. An innovation can be described as "...an idea or behaviour that is new to the organization adopting it" (Swanson, 1994:1070).
The LASO Model incorporates, besides its emphasis on bottom-up processes, a strong top-down innovation process. Drucker (1985) points to the importance of a top-down process given that successful innovation aims at leadership. He believes that if it does not aim at leadership right from the outset, it is unlikely to be innovative enough, and therefore unlikely to be capable of establishing itself on an enterprise-wide basis. This statement is made within the context of the private sector, but with the increasing competitive nature in the higher educational milieu this assertion is becoming increasingly relevant to higher education. Szabo, Anderson and Fuchs (1997) who reported on technological transformation in higher education at the University of Alberta, Canada similarly suggests a strong top-down approach:
There are two major intended goals of TIES [Training, Infrastructure and Empowerment System]. The first is that the chief academic officers identify a vision for alternative delivery systems of instruction for the university, publish that vision widely, and demonstrate their commitment to it in a clear and convincing fashion. Secondly, departments within the university create leadership task forces to interpret the vision for their unit and prepare colleagues to implement the shared vision.
The LASO Model, as discussed above, also proposes powerful bottom-up approaches based on the Innovation Diffusion theory (Rogers, 1995; Mahony and Wozniak, 2006) that provides a general explanation for the manner in which new entities and ideas like eLearning over time disseminate through social systems, in this case higher education. Rogers reviewed studies of diffusion of innovations from many technological contexts and forwarded a model for adoption of innovations describing key roles and behaviours in the adoption. Innovation diffusion theory is essentially a bottom-up approach based on individual activities and acceptance. Everett Rogers, however, indicated that a top-down approach could be inferred if the innovation starts within senior management (personal communication, Rogers, E. Re: Top-down approach Everett Rogers <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 10 July 1998). This would allow for both top-down and bottom-up approaches to integrate and has a higher probability for enterprise-wide transformation.
Roger's diffusion of innovation curve can thus be used as a starting point to depict technological transformation in higher education. Initially there is a take-off stage (that is introduction) during which an innovation is introduced in a social system. An entrepreneurial group called the “innovators” often then adopts it. During the next phase of maturation the "early adopters", who are change agents or opinion leaders among the social system, will enter the process thereby legitimising the innovation and opening the potential for adoption to the “early majority” and then to all members of the system. The final saturation stage in an innovation's adoption is characterised by widespread adoption. The innovation saturates the social system and growth tapers off. This process can be plotted as an S-shaped growth curve (see figure 2).
Figure 2: The Innovation Adoption Curve
(Adapted from Rogers, 1995)
Innovation in higher education – as with most innovations - takes place within the context of organisational and management structures. According to Daft (1989:274) "... organic organizations encourage a bottom-up innovation process" which is seen as typical for technological innovation. This position aligns itself with Roger's diffusion theory that also proposes a bottom-up approach when the innovation starts outside management. Daft (1989:274) however also indicates that administrative innovations follow a top-down direction of change within a mechanistic management structure. Daft (1989:570) observes that "… the trend over the last thirty years has been toward more organic structures" which he partly attributes to "… greater environmental uncertainty and nonroutine technologies". In contrast, it seems that conventional management of higher education does not provide the required organic structures that foster innovation for enterprise-wide benefit. Fullan (1991:349) refers to this dilemma as the tension of "… combining individual and institutional development..." and the necessity of having both in tandem for successful educational change.
The LASO Model further aligns itself with change as proposed in the learning organisation (Marquardt, 1996). A combination of top-down and bottom-up processes seems possible in the learning organisation. Marquardt (1996:218) contends in the context of the learning organisation that "…it is possible for any member to be an awareness-enhancing agent or an advocate for new competence development. In this way, both top-down and bottom-up initiatives are made possible". Gunn (1998:142) also emphasis the importance of using top down and bottom-up approaches in tandem,
An effective technology strategy works in both directions. From the top down, it is articulated through institutional objectives, sensitive to existing culture, constraints, strengths and weaknesses, and presented as a coherent, achievable set of goals with appropriate incentives and rewards. It must also move from the bottom-up where knowledge of teaching strategies, learning contexts and disciplinary expertise can be translated into action plans geared to achievement of institutional strategic objectives and so creating a sense of ownership at all levels of the institution.
The LASO Model has been used during the last decade at Massey University at Wellington, New Zealand (from 1995-2000), at the Cape Technikon (in 2000) and at the University of Botswana (2001 to 2005). This will now be discussed further.
IMPLEMENTATION OVER THE LAST DECADE
The LASO model emphasises the necessity for top-down, bottom-up and inside-out approaches to be integrated. It further posits that the diffusion of innovation curve has a ragged contour given the complexities of change management and reform within higher education.
Integrating Top-Down and Bottom-Up Strategies
Top-down efforts need to occur within a strategic framework for diffusion to be effective. At Massey University the president was the sponsor of the project but the project was not viewed as being of strategic importance; this led to limited diffusion. At both Massey University and Cape Technikon however the level of resources made available would not have been possible without senior management and middle management support. Furthermore when typical political problems like natural resistance to change were encountered, senior management was able to step in and direct matters. Middle management, that is heads of academic and administrative departments, played an important role in controlling resources; in some cases in a positive way and in other cases in restricting support. At Cape Technikon where the initiative was regarded as one of strategic importance, the top-down strategies included the creation of a widely owned strategic plan that included a clear and unified vision, having the vice-rector as sponsor and a task group with wide and senior representation as a sub-committee of Senate. Furthermore a high level summit on eLearning was held, an extensive business plan was developed which was approved by the finance committee of Council, a presentation to Council was made and fortnightly input was provided at senior executive meetings. This created a strong top-down impetus and the creation of a reward structure by means of a central fund that encouraged participation, which confirmed the view of Berge and Schrum (1998:35) that the key to success of campus initiatives in technology-enhanced learning and distance education is the support of campus leaders. This further correlates with Drucker's (1985) assertion that a successful innovation should aim at leadership from the beginning in order to be innovative enough and capable of establishing itself. At the University of Botswana the Vice-Chancellor created two new positions in the writer’s department which was vital for eLearning to spread namely an instructional designer position and that of graphic designer. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs) was the sponsor of the eLearning Initiative at the University of Botswana (UBel) and was available to discuss emerging issues as well as being instrumental in the formation of the UBel Team, that is the eLearning implementation team.
Running regular workshops on relevant aspects for academic staff members was an effective bottom up strategy at both Massey University and Cape Technikon. At Cape Technikon and the University of Botswana the bottom up strategies further included using pilots to create successful role models in each faculty. At both the Cape Tech and the University of Botswana the library holdings on eLearning were aggressively extended. At the Cape Technikon possible research topics in eLearning were circulated to academic staff, an eLearning seminar week was held, information sessions in each faculty were conducted and a project team with wide representation concerned themselves with the operational matters of the diffusion. Furthermore a centre for eLearning was established at Cape Technikon, an acronym and slogan competition for the project was held, regular news items appeared in the campus newspaper as well as in the Alumni and Student publications. A library exhibition on eLearning was organised, departmental meetings on eLearning was encouraged, eLearning was linked to other thrusts within the organisation, and extensive conferencing occurred on an individual level with interested academic staff members. These strategies led for example to an overwhelming response of 40 proposals for pilot projects at the Cape Technikon. At the University of Botwana a widely representative implementation team, the UBel team met monthly to consider implementation issues. The writer further brought together interested staff to form an informal eLearning research group that worked together to publish a number of papers.
Bottom-up and top-down strategies converged at Cape Technikon at faculty level in the workgroups that were established under the leadership of the deans in each faculty and chaired by an enthusiastic and capable academic. Each faculty workgroup consisted of keen academic staff members and further had wide representation including administration, the information technology group and the Centre for eLearning. At the University of Botswana the University of Botswana Educational Technology and eLearning (UBel) Committee comprised of representatives of all the faculties and relevant divisions including the library, information technology, the centre for academic development, and the centre for continuing education.
The findings in this research therefore suggests that Rogers' diffusion of innovation theory, when the innovation emerges from outside of senior management, needs to be augmented with a top-down component that includes both senior and middle management in order to accomplish effective diffusion of technology based education on an enterprise scale.
Ownership through a Team Approach for Developing Learning Materials
A team approach in which academic staff plays a key role as content experts seems to support ownership by academic staff of the transformation. The dominant team-approach for the development of distance and eLearning materials (Bates, 1993:232; DEC working party, 1989; Garrison, 1989:98&117; Holmberg, 1995) is therefore a key bottom-up approach. At Massey University, the Cape Technikon and the University of Botswana a development team for eLearning were effective in operationalising the strategic directives which included the development of materials. The following roles were used at both Massey University and Cape Technikon: that of a sponsor, project manager, content provider, creative director / graphic designer, computer specialist, instructional designer, editor and media developer.
At Cape Technikon the team was extended to include a business manager, project secretary, IT representative, library representative and representative from administration and the six chairpersons of the Faculty eLearning Workgroups.
During the development process at Cape Technikon students were used to test and provide feedback on the materials. The student representative role however could be included on the team to be consistent with the central role that students play in eLearning. The student representative role can provide essential feedback during the development process and contribute to the internal quality assurance process.
At the University of Botswana a year-long university-wide pilot study was used, in which the writer was the overall project manager, to identify a relevant and effective approach for developing eLearning materials at the University of Botswana (UB). The pilot study consisted of eight university-wide projects that were conducted between November 2002 and December 2003 that were representative of all the Faculties. The eight eLearning projects were selected in November 2002 by the Educational Technology Unit (EduTech) in the Centre for Academic Development, with input from the University of Botswana Educational Technology and eLearning (UBel) Committee. The materials for these pilots were developed between January and August 2003 and were conducted in 2003 in the real teaching-learning context.
Various multi-disciplinary roles were necessary within the eLearning development teams. It was found that team members, however, need to have the freedom to support and build each other up according to their strengths.
The role of the sponsor was found to be necessary for the provision of necessary funding, wider support and overall project control. An overall project manger ensured consistency of standards and resources across development projects. A project coordinator per project is necessary to ensure operational coordination of the various roles and team members. Close cooperation between the SME and instructional designer is vital in the development process to ensure continuity if there are availability issues. Subject matter experts (SMEs) were integral in the development process by providing content and learning activities, and also in developing materials electronically.
The instructional designer played a pivotal role in the design and development process. It seems that the instructional designer in a developing setting needs to provide clear guidance to SMEs to put in place contingency plans where there is a possible overdependence on electronic media. An instructional designer in both a developing and developed setting will encourage SMEs to consider a blended approach where a variety of media is used to counter dependence on electronic media, and also to ensure effective learning for student cohorts.
The role of the media developer is critical but might be able to be carried out by various other roles within the team including the SMEs. The graphic designer is seen as a very important role to make the eLearning materials more user-friendly and to support specific pedagogical concepts with graphical elements. The role of the editor can be accomplished by peer review of colleagues or perhaps using students to pilot the materials during the first run of the course and thereby provide early and necessary feedback.
The gatekeepers play an important role in facilitating the inflow of other organisational dimensions into the development processes and thus ensure that the development process integrates well with the organisational context. The substance and importance of this role needs to be discussed in more depth during the development process so that there can be deliberate efforts to acquire relevant external information.
Providing research assistance to SMEs were not possible at the University during the continued implementation of eLearning, but release from other duties as well as more direct involvement of subject librarians and students should be considered to assist academic staff to venture into eLearning activities. Policy can further be formulated to allow academics to engage in face to face and distance education activities using the same materials for all cohorts.
The LASO Model further includes inside-out strategies (Earl, 1989). Inside-out strategies acknowledges the central importance of people in the transformation process. As such it attempts to address perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of students, academic staff and project teams in higher education and further addresses these realities to support technological transformation. Ensuring ownership by academic staff was found to be essential in the diffusion of eLearning. Strategies such as one-to-one and small group discussions, demonstrations, academic involvement in decision-making wherever possible and explanation of the benefits of eLearning were used to ensure academic ownership.
In order to ensure ownership by academic staff as well as sound educational quality in eLearning, it was important at both Massey University at Wellington and Cape Technikon for educators and educational principles to drive the technological transformation. This confirms similar views held by Szabo et al. (1997), Willmot and McLean (1994), Caladine (1993) and Tillema (1995).
The extensive interest in the workshops that the writer conducted at the three institutions regarding eLearning indicates that staff development can be used as an important strategy to advance the transformation of higher education through technology among academic staff.
The benefits and advantages of technology based education for the institute, teachers and students were consistently highlighted in order to gain the positive interest of administrative managers and academic staff in the technological transformation of higher education. At the same time specific issues relating to eLearning were identified and strategies to address these were developed as part of the strategic plan. The issues of intellectual property (Johnston and Challis, 1994) and copyright (Barnard, 1997; McCullagh, 1995 September) in particular are amplified in eLearning where copying and replicating materials are alarmingly easy. This issue is further complicated by the notion of instructional design through teams. A model of shared ownership can be explored where the institute retains the right to use the materials if members of the course development team should leave, and where staff have the right to use the materials developed by the team in their new environment.
The Ragged Contour of the Diffusion S-Curve
The LASO Model acknowledges the complexity of technological transformation within higher education given the centrality of people to the transformation process and the resultant inside-out strategies. The experience of pursuing technological transformation at Massey University at Wellington, Cape Technikon and the University of Botswana does not confirm the smooth contours of Roger's diffusion of innovation curve. The various barriers that were encountered (both internally and externally), the uncontrollable events that negatively impacted on the implementation like key staff being allocated work with a higher priority, mistakes made and some fruitless experiments all point to a more ragged contour of the innovation curve.
The workload pressures of academics have made elearning adoption often very difficult. Changing priorities of those involved in the implementation phase has also negatively impacted on the innovation process. Navigating the complex educational reform process without established models of change to draw on has led to frustrations and in some cases ill-spent energy. Finding a balance between scholarly debate on elearning issues and practical implementation issues has been difficult given the mix of academics and support staff. The interaction of different and sometimes conflicting personalities has also been an ever-present factor in the way the teams operated.
Technological transformation at Massey University, Cape Technikon and the University of Botswana proved to be complex within its systemic dimensions and required a high level of determination by all involved as well as high standards of teamwork.
SUSTAINABLE TRANSFORMATION THROUGH NETWORKED EDUCATIONAL MANAGEMENT
The LASO Model depends on networked educational management (NEM) (Uys, 2001b; Uys, 2002) to ensure sustainability of the transformation. NEM uses a distributed implementation approach in accord with Bates (2000) who suggests a distributed organisational structure for the support of eLearning. The concept of “networked educational management” was, similar to the LASO model, developed during the writer’s doctorate research and applied over the last nine years.
Networked educational management proposes eleven dimensions to manage eLearning: networking, student focussed, globalisation, flexibility, transcending time, market orientation, computer mediation, collaboration, convergence, boundary orientation and being information based. The key feature of NEM is its distributed nature with regards learning management as well as institutional management. The distributed nature of networked educational management is based on the new connectivity within eLearning, the distribution of learning and control, the distributed nature of the Internet and intranets, and the globalisation of education.
Networked educational management has its control, power and resources distributed throughout the organisation. Managing the connectivity that eLearning facilitates is a key difference between managing the conventional class and managing the operations of elearning. The learning control as well as on-line learning and teaching materials are distributed to both local and distance students using the same interface (ie a Web browser) because of the convergence of learning modes which traditionally have been called “distance education” and “on-campus education”. This implies that the management of learning is no longer linked to physical locality (on-campus/off-campus) but distributed to study networks comprising local, distance, national and international students, that operate as virtual teams.
Bates (2000) acknowledges the challenge to create a congruity between centralised and decentralised management aspirations in tertiary education: “When it comes to organisational structures, the challenge is to develop a system that encourages teaching units to be innovative and able to respond quickly to changes in subject matter, student needs, and technology. At the same time, redundancy and conflicting standards and policies across the institution must be avoided” (p. 181). A similar tension within the organisation of information systems activities and communications has been transcended in computer and communication systems using distributed approaches. Networked educational management can ensure conformity to central principles and standards as Evans and Nation (1993) contends, and simultaneously encourages diversity (Negroponte, 1997 June).
At Cape Technikon the diffusion has been sustained through the use of a distributed implementation structure. A Centre for eLearning was established to provide central support and to coordinate the progress of the project. The task team on eLearning of Senate furthermore creates institute-wide policies.
Linked to the central structure are workgroups within each faculty that includes a representative from the Centre for eLearning.
At the University of Botswana a satellite communication structure for eLearning is being implemented. The UBel Committee has representatives from every school as the starting point for such a distributed approach. Every school further has an eTeam who are led by the school representative on the UBel Committee. At the University a similar distributed support structure was planned as a second layer of a comprehensive distributed support and communication system. The Educational Technology Unit (EduTech) in the Centre for Academic Development currently provides central support and coordinates UBel through the UBel Committee. A satellite support centre linked to EduTech was being planned for each school. One of these eCentres was implemented at the Faculty of Engineering and Technology in 2004 but due to a lack of staff has not been functioning as effective as planned when the writer’s contract finished in January 2005.
Flexibility of implementation is, however, assured through a distributed approach in which the implementation is contextualised within schools and departments. This structure seems to be working well at the Cape Technikon and the University of Botswana and confirms suggestions by Bates (2000) on having a fairly large professional centre while each faculty (or school) or large department will have a small flexible unit of technical support and generalist educational technology support.
The LASO (Leadership, Academic & Student Ownership and Readiness) Model for Technological Transformation in Higher Education emphasises the necessity for integrated and orchestrated top-down, bottom-up and inside-out strategies. This model acknowledges that the process of technological transformation is complex with many dislocations, dilemmas and uncertainties.
Sustainability requires that the LASO Model be complemented by a distributed implementation and support approach that advocates true partnership between academic and support staff. This approach provides the capacity for students or staff to initiate and participate in the technological transformation of an institution.
Creating an enduring vision and a strategic implementation framework for the effective implementation of technological innovations seems critical as Berge and Schrum (1998:35) contends "the most important function of institutional leadership may be to create a shared vision that includes widespread input and support from the faculty and administration, articulates a clear educational purpose, has validity for stakeholders, and reflects the broader mission of the institution".
The LASO Model is proposed as a guiding framework for enterprise-wide technological transformation within higher education.
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