Uys, P.M. (2004). A Syntagm of Networked Educational Management: Case Study University of Botswana. Campus Wide Information Systems (CWIS), Emerald, UK. 2004, Volume 21, Issue 1 (2004), pp.22 - 28.
A Syntagm of Networked Educational Management:
Case Study University of Botswana
Dr Philip Uys
University of Botswana, Private Bag UB 0022, Gaborone, Botswana
Deputy Director: Centre for Academic Development (Educational Technology)
Tel: +267- 3552799 Fax: +267- 302 884 E-mail: uyspm@ mopipi.ub.bw
ABSTRACT: Networked Educational Management has emerged as an effective, distributed management approach for managing educational technologies and eLearning in educational institutions. This management model has been developed during the writer's doctorate research and implementation of eLearning (also referred to as networked education) at Massey University, New Zealand as well as on consulting assignments over the last six years including a five-month consulting engagement at Cape Technikon, South Africa. Networked Educational Management has found its widest syntagmatic expression or manifestation at the University of Botswana where the writer has been leading the University-wide implementation of modern educational technologies and eLearning since early 2001. This paper describes this syntagm or practical manifestation of Networked Educational Management and concludes that Networked Educational Management, as a new educational management paradigm, has promising features for addressing the need for client satisfaction within higher education while also ensuring that strategic imperatives of the Institution are being fulfilled.
This paper describes the widest syntagmatic or practical manifestation of Networked Educational Management at the University of Botswana where the writer has been leading the University-wide implementation of modern educational technologies and eLearning since early 2001 (EduTech, 2003).
Networked Educational Management has emerged as a distributed management approach for effectively managing educational technologies and eLearning in educational institutions. This management model has been developed during the writer's doctorate research and implementation of eLearning (also referred to as networked education) at Massey University, New Zealand (Uys, 2000) – see Figure 1. Networked Educational Management has been developed in response to the question: how does one effectively manage the operations of eLearning in higher education?
Networked educational management incorporates the key elements of the new forms of private enterprise and educational management. This term is chosen since a central aspect of education in networked education and the management thereof seems to be the connectivity or networking that it facilitates often across the boundaries of space and time. This term correlates with “network management” (Limerick and Cunningham, 1993) and terms that writers like Tapscott (1996) ("internetworked organisation"), Beare and Slaughter (1993) (“network organisation”), ” Limerick and Cunningham (1993), (“network organisation”), and Tapscott and Caston (1993) ("open networked organisation") use when describing the organisational model for the emerging information age. A networked or distributed management approach is also related using a fractal technology management perspective (Uys, 1999). Tiffin and Rajasingham (1995) argue that communications have a fractal dimension that is "a node in a communications network can prove, on closer examination, to be a communications network itself (p. 37). Technology management issues can also be viewed from a fractal perspective that is to acknowledge the various levels, dimensions and nodes of the management processes of the institute, administration, the departments (both academic and administrative), the design, development and delivery of teaching materials, the student's learning and so forth.
The following dimensions of Networked Educational Management has been described earlier in this Journal (Uys, 2002) namely its distributed nature and the dimensions of convergence, its adaptability and transitory character. Networked educational management, however, has twelve dimensions: networking, student focussed, globalisation, transitory, adaptability, transcending time, market orientation, computer mediation, collaboration, convergence, boundary orientation and being information based.
The term "management" is used in a broad sense to describe planning, organising, leading and control (Boone and Kurtz, 1984; Newman, Warren and McGill, 1987; Schultheis and Sumner, 1989) on all levels of a tertiary educational institute. There has been a clear and consistent call from prominent writers on management and organisational design like Drucker (1989, 1995), Senge (1990), Peters (1988), Marquard (1996), Tapscott (1996), Limerick and Cunnington (1993) that these functions of management are to be practiced in an entirely new way in the context of the emerging global information or knowledge society.
A networked or distributed management model aims in practice at achieving a closer relationship with the client to increase the effectiveness of support and to provide easier access to technologies and also to ensure contextualising and personalising service provision based on the needs of the client, which encourages diversity of expression. Networked Educational Management further tends to ensure adherence to guidelines and principles without prescribing form, the creation of learning communities and increasing readiness for change and adaptation. A networked approach focuses on blending expertise in multi-disciplinary teams to meet emerging needs, on empowering and developing staff and on ensuring the relevance of staff competencies by ensuring that they keep abreast of changes.
Using a distributed model for leadership, development, support and access is gaining ground internationally over centralised and decentralised models, especially within fluid and rapidly changing environments.
Centralised management models are excellent for control, but weak in empowering participants and addressing diverse client needs.
Decentralised management models provide freedom to participants, but can lead to fragmented duplication of efforts and incompatibilities.
The challenge of creating a congruity between centralised and decentralised aspirations has been considered in other domains. Distributed local and wide area networks are for instance in use in the organisation of information systems. Organisations initially used (and, where appropriate, today still use) a centralised approach (based on mainframes) that focused on centralised control and economies of scale, but did not address the local needs of users and departments effectively. Decentralised approaches (where appropriate, such as home users, still in use today) then followed (facilitated by personal computers) in which local control and processing were pre-eminent, but this created inefficiencies and incompatibility with the central standards and philosophies. The solution was distributed processing through networks, employed to distribute some data processing activities to users, but to maintain centralized control over other activities. Both computer power and the data are distributed to local user sites as well as responsibility for certain computing activities.
The same applies to communication systems where the use of distributed networks like intranets and the Internet created a distributed communications model. In the oral traditions before Guttenberg's press of 1452, a centralised model of communication was most feasible. The text tradition, which followed the revolution that the printing press caused, brought with it the decentralisation of communication through paper distribution. The intranet and the Internet, however, facilitate communications from any locality and distribute the control of the communications throughout the network (for example, electronic mail can be sent by any one participant to any other participant connected to the network within an institute or globally). The Internet represents a distributed global communications model while intranets represent a distributed institutional communications model.
The experience at the University of Botswana of infusing modern educational technologies such as eLearning confirms Drucker’s statement (1998, p. 100) that “… 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.”
The University of Botswana is gradually emerging towards a networked institute, which is one in which networked education or eLearning has been implemented widely and strategically. The University, however, has to contend with the realities of using modern educational technologies within a developing environment where various obstacles like unstable and narrow communication systems militate against its successful use (Uys, Nleya & Molelu, 2003). The University has stated in its vision that it wishes to progress towards a “technologically advanced” learning environment (Uys & Shemi, 2003). The University will therefore experience what Thomas, Carswell, Price and Petre (1998) terms the “…transformation of practices (both teaching and administrative) to take advantage of technology in order to provide needed functions, rather than superficial translation of existing practices”. The University will therefore have to engage in what Bates (1999) indicate as "… a thorough re-examination of the core practices of the organisation, from advertizing to registration to design and delivery of materials to student support to assessment of students, in order to analyse the most effective way of providing these services in a networked, multimedia environment."
Tiffin (1996) explores the term paradigm as “...an abstract system of integrated elements which can be drawn upon and applied in a practical manner to give substance to meaning”, for example language, and syntagm as a specific expression of a paradigm for example an actual discourse. Bertalanffy (1968:18) follows Kuhn (1962) in defining paradigms as “new conceptual schemas”. Management of the operations of eLearning is considered as a new paradigm called “Networked Educational Management”, while managing the operations of eLearning at the University of Botswana is considered a syntagm that is a specific manifestation or expression of this paradigm.
The paradigm and syntagm interact as management of the operations of eLearning is being tested through implementation at the University of Botswana since early 2001. The interaction between paradigm and syntagm follows the action research methodology (Anderson, 1987; Carr and Kemmis, 1986; Cunningham, 1993; Lewin, 1946; Zuber-Skerrit, 1992) as it reflects the interaction between paradigm and syntagm that is theory and practice; theory influences the practice and the practice changes the theory – see Figures 2.
Figure 2 Graphical representation of the interaction between paradigm and syntagm
The Educational Technology Unit (EduTech, 2003) in the Centre for Academic Development is exploring Networked Educational Management as a distributed or networked model of leadership, development, support and access to educational technology and eLearning.
Emerging processes and structures within EduTech and the UBel (University of Botswana Educational Technology and eLearning) Programme are shifting from centralised and de-centralised approaches towards distributed models.
One of the strengths of a distributed model such as Networked Educational Management is its extended reach. The extended reach, however, also emphasises its vulnerability and dependence on each part of the network. This model is dependent at the University of Botswana on the effective functioning of both EduTech and each of its strategic partners in building a stable and enduring structure.
A distributed structure links to recommendations by Bates (2000). Bates proposes a fairly large professional centre work with small flexible units of technical support and generalist educational technology support within each faculty. The centre will operate on a project management model with many of its staff seconded to work in the faculties on a continuing basis while the units will provide immediate support and find appropriate support from the centre for bigger projects. 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).
It further adheres to concepts of open management (Paul, 1990) where there is a clear set of guiding principles which forms the basis for all decision making at all levels, while using and encouraging delegation to distribute power and authority widely.
A distributed structure is also based on the principles of a “learning organisation” (Hitt, 1996; Marquardt, 1996) in which the management is highly adaptive. Learning organisations have a greater ability to learn, encourage creativity and are seamless and boundaryless.
Implementing Networked Educational Management at the University Of Botswana
Figure 3 Networked Educational Management at the University of Botswana
In leadership through the UBel Programme, the hub (see Figure 3) represents EduTech with the UBel Committee. The nodes are formed by the distributed eTeams in each Faculty as well as in the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) and the Communication and Study Skills Unit (CSSU). These eTeams operate in a matrix structure with their primary reporting to the Faculty Executive while also reporting less formally to the UBel Committee.
In support and access, EduTech act as a central hub, with satellite eCentres to be established in each faculty, CCE and the Library as nodes of the network. The first eCentre@FET was established on 4 June 2003 in the Faculty of Engineering and technology (FET). The eCentres will provide contextualised instructional design, graphic design, media development (including online course development, PowerPoint support, photography, video production, scanning of materials), training, technical support and equipment distribution.
In development, EduTech uses multi-disciplinary teams. This is already practised in the development teams of the eight official 2003-eLearning pilot projects. These teams consist of a content expert(s), editor, an instructional designer (EduTech), graphic designer (EduTech), online media developer (EduTech) and Library staff member.
The eCentres and eTeams operate closely to stimulate the creation of a University wide learning community in educational technology and eLearning.
Staff in the satellite eCentres report to the Deputy Director: CAD (Educational Technology), but also links more informally in a matrix structure to the Dean/Director of the organisational group in which it is based.
It must be noted that until each Faculty (as well as CCE and the Library) has an eCentre, an academic staff member of the University will be able to access any eCentre for required support, and eCentres are not exclusive to any specific faculty.
The devolutionary approach embedded in Networked Educational Management calls for an extensive training programme. This programme is already actively being executed at EduTech through an eLearning Certificate. In 2002 over 30% of the academic staff members of the University totally 720 has been trained in various aspects of the use of educational technologies and eLearning.
The Networked Educational Management model is dynamic in nature. This is already evident in the flow of new technologies through the distributed system. New technologies will normally be centrally evaluated and experimented with and then passed on to the eCentres and eTeams. This model however also allows any node to be the originator of new technologies and approaches.
Another aspect of the dynamic nature of this model is that members of faculty eTeams would over time be able to increasingly perform some of EduTech’s functions in the areas of development and support in continued close cooperation with EduTech.
The dynamic nature of this model further allows for ease of extension to Affiliated Institutions of the University that could for instance each have their own eTeam and eCentre. The rollout would be in phases and prioritised according to eReadiness. The Networked Educational Management model provides for unlimited extension to Associated Institutions of the University and other agencies in Botswana and beyond.
Networked educational management deals with a new convergence of on-campus and distance learning which has been made possible through networked education particularly with the advent of Intranets and the Internet. Garrison (1989:117) notes that this convergence is “…blurring the boundaries between conventional and distance education”. This is due to an increase in the ease and feasibility of simultaneously offering a networked course to on-campus students as well as to distance students. Berge and Schrum (1998:31) contend, “it is important to recognize that on-campus programs and courses may often use the same resources and infrastructure as those delivered to students at a distance”. This convergence are leading to questions at the University of Botswana about the relationship between role of EduTech and that of CCE as the conventional distinctions between on-campus and distance education are fading.
Networked Educational Management, as a new educational management paradigm, has promising features for addressing the need for client satisfaction, which includes academis staff and studentys within higher education while also ensuring that strategic imperatives of the Institution are being fulfilled.
Transformation has become a key descriptor for the environment in which educational institutes operate. Networked Educational Management has been operative at the University of Botswana for over two years and is proving to be an effective approach to the management of new educational technologies such as eLearning. Networked Educational Management emphasises the importance of networking weak links together into a powerful and sustainable management system, which is in line with an Ethiopian proverb: When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.
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