Uys, P.M. & Tulloch, M (2007). Appropriate Change Leadership for the Introduction of Flexible Learning within University Governance and Strategic Leadership Frameworks: A Comparative Analysis of Case Studies in Developed and Developing Countries. Paper presented at the Integrating for Excellence Conference 2007.
Appropriate Change Leadership for the Introduction of Flexible Learning within University Governance and Strategic Leadership Frameworks:
A Comparative Analysis of Case Studies in Developed and Developing Countries
Dr Philip Uys
Manager, Educational Design and Educational Technology,
Centre for Enhancing Learning and Teaching
Tel: +64 2 63384538 Fax: +64 63384342 E-mail: email@example.com
Associate Professor Marian Tulloch
Director, Centre for Enhancing Learning and Teaching
Tel: +64 2 63384658 Fax: +64 63384342 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
central question guiding this research is the determination of appropriate
change leadership approaches for the introduction of flexible learning
within university governance and strategic leadership frameworks. Case
studies over the last twelve years in two developed countries, that is
It has been widely acknowledged that universities operate in an increasingly dynamic and volatile global environment which calls for high levels of change leadership. Stace and Dunphy (2001, pp. 262-263) argue that "... as we move into the twenty-first century, we face more change rather than less, and the pace of change will quicken for both governments and enterprises alike. In particular, we face the challenge of transforming organizations, traditional production and consumption patterns and our personal lifestyles to reflect the fact that we are an integral part of a global community and an ecology vital to our welfare and survival. We must all become change agents now." Kotter (1996) identifies three drivers of an increase in the rate of change in the business world, that are also impacting on higher education namely “…the globalisation of the economy along with related technological and social trends.”
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. Flexible learning and distance education are at the forefront of educational responses to the changes that are taking place locally, regionally, nationally and internationally". The term “flexible learning and teaching” is used to describe the provision of an array of learning and teaching experiences and opportunities using a wide range of media, environments and technologies to offer a variety of ways of learning and types of study. Flexible learning is often operationalised through the use of a blend of educational technologies in which elearning features strongly. The paper considers approaches to change leadership in the area of flexible learning through a series of case studies drawing on a range of approaches to effecting change in higher education (Bromage, 2006; Buchan & Buchan, 2003; Fullan, 1991; Gunn, 1998; McNaught, 2003; Nixon, 1996; Ramsden, 1998; Szabo et al, 1997; Uys, 2000; Uys, 2007) as well as more generic change management models (Bolman & Deal, 2003; ChangingMinds.org, 2007; Hitt, W. D., 1995; Kotter, 1990; Kotter & Cohen, 2002; Rogers, 1995; Stace & Dunphy, 2001).
University Culture and Organisational Change in Higher Education
Universities are frequently conservative and over the centuries have been highly resistant to change and reform (Evans and Franz, 1998 April; Richardson, 1979). Yet the last fifty years have seen huge changes in the higher education sector driven by mass education, globalisation and increased external accountability mechanisms which have impacted on organisational structure. Garrison (1989:38) contends that as “…formal education grew in size and complexity, bureaucracies became the controlling mechanism”. In the British universities during the 1990s “… there has been a steady increase in bureaucracy and a steady decrease in the amount of time available for core academic activities particularly at senior levels” (Middlehurst, 1993:189). This is problematic for internal change as “…bureaucracies by definition resist change…” (Tapscott, 1996:36). Moreover, Paul (1990:32) identified a disjuncture between the largely bureaucratic model of conventional institutional educational management and the “collegial model” under which academic staff operate. Ramsden (1998) has identified characteristics of academics that make leadership for change difficult; they tend to be suspicious of formal planning, distrustful of management, have low commitment to corporate goals and are trained to question and criticise joint agendas. It is therefore necessary, as Fullan (1991:350) suggests, "… that we explicitly think and worry about the change process" in educational reform.
In a rapidly transforming environment the balance in types of model of university organisation is shifting, offering alternatives to the collegial and the bureaucratic approach. McNay (1995 in Ramsden, 1998) provides a typology to describe the changing operation of university organisations in terms of two dimensions: ‘tightness’ or ‘looseness’ of (a) policy definition and of (b) control over implementation; the focus of the former is on ends, of the latter on the means by which they are achieved. Four types of university culture are identified: collegiate (loose policy definition and implementation control), bureaucratic (loose policy definition but high implementation control through rule-based processes), corporate (tight control of both policy and implementation) and enterprise (tight control of institutional objectives but devolved strategies for achieving them). Ramsden (1998) suggests that the enterprise culture, by retaining a significant role for decision making at the level of the academic organisational unit, can be both responsive to the changing educational environment while retaining enduring academic values. In changes related to learning technologies, however, the balance of tight and loose control over implementation is a particularly challenging one because the institutional imperatives around a centralised approach to IT infrastructure provision can militate against the engagement of academics in changing their teaching upon which any effective implementation of learning technologies ultimately depends.
Innovation, transformation and change
The strategic rationale for technology-enhanced education and flexible learning should be geared at achieving institutional transformation not merely efficiencies. Fullan (1991) distinguishes first order changes aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness of current practices from second order changes that aim at fundamentally changing the ways that institutions operate arguing that that most changes in education in the twentieth century have been first order changes, and that “second order reforms largely failed” It is therefore critical to ask about the appropriateness of change management strategies for moving flexible delivery of learning and teaching forward in higher education especially as it pertains to relevant governance and strategic leadership frameworks. One of the key debates around change management is around the relative effectiveness of top-down and bottom-up change strategies. Organic systems approaches have been used to justify both bottom-up and top- down strategies.
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 change approach when the innovation starts outside management. He argues that conventional management of higher education does not provide the required organic structures that foster innovation for enterprise-wide benefit. 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". Yet too often, bottom-up technological innovation that supports flexible learning has been implemented as an isolated initiative of academic staff for efficiency purposes. Even when innovation is undertaken by individuals or small groups of staff who have interest, enthusiasm and expertise in a particular learning and teaching domain, the spread of excellent practice can be very slow and fragmented, failing to flow on to systemic organisational change that is aligned across layers of the institution. In this scenario the wider systems within higher education are often not considered nor 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 has also been used to support top-down change with calls for an integrated approach to institutional 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 transformation. Drucker (1985) points to the importance of a top-down change 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.
Yet typically governance is top-down and change management instruments lack an educational base and do not reward collaboration. Strategic plans and alignment are necessary but may lack empowerment and motivational drivers that can only be provided by leadership. Change management approaches often focus on a rational approach only in which plans play a central role. Governance has more to do with management than leadership and focus on planning, organizing and control, which are typical process of management (Boone & Kurtz, 1984; Kotter, 1990). 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. Trust, which is foundational to change, cannot be build and senior management and coal face issues are removed from each other. Tillema (1995) 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).
The importance of using top down and bottom-up change approaches in tandem, is emphasised by Gunn (1998:142):
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 importance of bottom-up
strategies to create a sense of ownership of university strategies by academics
and professional staff requires alignment with individuals personal and career
goals. Strategies for communication, training and reward structures are
commonly deployed as part of change management along with a recognition that
institutional change must move beyond individual innovation by emphasising the
role of teams in the leadership for change process. For instance, a report on
technological transformation at the
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. (Szabo, Anderson and Fuchs (1997)
Figure 1 brings together the top-down and bottom-up processes in the LASO model for technological transformation in higher education (Uys, 2001). The LASO Model (Uys, 2007) 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...".
The LASO Model draws on the
work of Tillema (1995) who considered engaging academics in the reform process
as a significant management issue in educational reform and in education in
general. He asserts that reform has to be based on the development of 'learning
communities' and the need to 'confront the cultural and pedagogical traditions
and beliefs that underlie current practices and organizational arrangements'
(Goodman 1995:2). The focus on organisational learning shifts attention from
the adoption of ideas by individual academics, (e.g.
One of the challenges of the dual top-down and bottom-up approach is to ensure that the creation of local workgroups and teams is not just a device for disseminating top-down strategies. For instance Drucker (1998, p.157) describes the fundamental task of management as one of empowerment “… to make people capable of joint performance by giving them common goals, common values, the right structure, and the ongoing training and development they need to perform and to respond to change”. By contrast Berge and Schrum (1998) contend that:
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” (p. 35).
Despite the concept of “empowerment” Drucker talks of “giving” goals and values while Berge and Schrum see members of the organisation contributing to the creation of a shared vision.
Figure 1: The LASO model
Gibson and Manuel, (2003) argue that effective communication and continued interaction allows those involved to develop common values and a shared understanding based on mutual trust which is fundamental to building of communities, allowing them to grow, change and achieve objectives. The development of 'learning communities' that engage academics in local communities of discourse about their educational practices provides a sound basis for reform (Tillema, 1995). If ‘learning communities’ are to create change, however, they must involve learning at all levels of the organisation. Building trust requires that local ‘learning communities’ engage in discourse that challenges those responsible for strategic planning and institutional support structures to expand their understanding of the ‘messy’ (McNaught, 2003) realities of learning and teaching in specific environments and adjust goals and strategies accordingly. Senge (1990) used the term ‘learning organisation’ to describe organisations with shared values and vision that display a capacity for sensemaking and critical self improvement at individual, team and systems level. These are challenging ideals for large organisations.
Action research and cycles of change
Because of the dual teaching and research focus of universities they are ideally placed to engage in research around organisation change. Action research provides a cyclical learning framework in which planning and action are linked to the gathering evidence on the impact of change and reflection to inform further planning. Using action research as an evaluative framework for major change poses both intellectual and practical challenges. The language of planning, action, observation and reflection is based in a participatory process in which the researchers are actors who systematically observe and document the effects of their actions and the way circumstances enhance or constrain outcomes. Reflection, in this context, is a social sensemaking process which is forward looking in setting new or modified directions for future planning and action. The collective rather than imposed nature of action research implies that the participants are not objects of research but active autonomous agents. In strategically aligning action research in learning and teaching is the risk of being perceived as using an action research approach that is co-opting rather than participatory (Kemmis & Taggart, 1988). The critical feedback of participants may not sit well with centralised change leadership.
The process of relating
top-down and bottom-up change management in the implementation of flexible
learning in higher education is examined through three case studies involving
the first author over a period of 12 years. These case studies are the
implementation of networked education on the Wellington campus of Massey
University (formerly Wellington Polytechnic), 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 open and flexible
learning, and four years of implementing eLearning at the University of
Botswana to January 2005. Findings in these cases are considered for the
enhancement of flexible learning at
The governance of the University through the Council’s delegated powers to the Principal was instrumental in the provision of resources to kick off the hypermedia in distance education (HYDI) project. The Principal funded the HYDI project from an innovation budget which provided the necessary computer infrastructure for the project. The president was the sponsor of the project also in terms of general support and inviting the first author, who was the project manager to make presentations to the Management Board. The project was, however, not related to a specific strategic goal and this contributed to limited diffusion and buy-in in flexible learning. Top-down change efforts thus need to occur within a strategic framework for diffusion to be effective toward bringing organisational change. The level of resources made available would not have been possible without senior management and middle management support.
Bottom-up change strategies at Massey, however, lead to interest among pockets of academics most notably the adult education group, who also operated as the learning and teaching group, who was central to the pilot conducted in 1997 to develop a free online subject. The central Bottom-up change influence during this implementation of flexible learning, referred to as networked education at this time, was the result of an action research project that the first author, as doctoral student (Uys, 2000), conducted from 1995 to 1998. In line with the observation by Cunningham (1993) that there are difficulties with the application of the positivistic research paradigm to carry out research and change in real-life settings, a qualitative methodology like action research was deemed more appropriate to address the research problem which was to investigate what the key management issues were when implementing networked education in tertiary education.
The action research process
typically occurs as a spiral of sequential research cycles. This process was
initially defined by Lewin (1946) and further developed by others including
Carr and Kemmis (1986) and Zuber- Skerrit (1992). There are typically four interrelated steps
or elements within each cycle that do not necessarily occur sequentially, but
can be a continuous process as the four elements (plan, observe, act and
reflect) may occur in parallel. Action research therefore acknowledges the
complexity of reality by allowing the research to progress within a series of cycles. This allows the
research to mature while it is possible that the problem, variables,
hypotheses, and methods may undergo modification as interim results are validated
or invalidated (
The leadership provided by
the first author in introducing this change within Massey University,
Wellington have also aligned this study more with “diagnostic action research”
(Chein, Cook and Jarding, 1948) than with “participant action research” – the
latter being strongly advocated for use in the educational sphere (Kemmis and
McTaggart, 1988; Zuber- Skerrit, 1992; Elliot, 1991). This was a major flaw in
unlocking the potential of action research to bring about wide institutional
change. This does not imply that this research was done in isolation. Members
of the HYDI team that worked with the author to develop networked education at
Open and Flexible Learning
The first author was the
project manager during a five-month consultancy in 2000 at the
The level of resources made available would not have been possible without senior management and middle management support. The Rector and Vice-Chancellor and the Vice
Rector strongly supported this work. 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.
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.
Bottom-up and top-down strategies converged 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.
A development team for eLearning were effective in operationalising the strategic directives which included the development of materials. The following roles were used: that of a sponsor, project manager, content provider, graphic designer, computer specialist, instructional designer, editor, media developer, business manager, project secretary, IT representative, library representative and representative from administration and the six chairpersons of the Faculty eLearning Workgroups. The community of practice concept was extended to include a group of approximately 50 staff members who were a blend of academic staff and support staff.
In this case study
innovation occurred within a strategic framework which provided momentum for
success. The strong central support enabled a consultant from outside to play a
crucial role in establishing an innovation that was sustained by buy-in from
all divisions and faculties and alignment of top-down and bottom-up
strategies. Inside-out strategies can
help compensate for some lack of understanding of the culture of an
organisation by the consultant and ensure that change is embedding outlasting
any individual change agent. eLearning at
eLearning Implementation at
The first author lead the Educational Technology Unit (EduTech)
in the Centre for Academic Development (CAD) as Deputy Director: Centre for
Academic Development (Educational Technology) from 2000 to 2004 and the
The mission and vision of the University of
Botswana (UB) to transform its academic processes
towards an increasingly technological base has strongly influenced the move
towards eLearning at the University. The vision of the
University is to strive for excellence in the provision of education to the nation that
includes the use of ICTs in the teaching-learning process. This vision lead
directly to the launch of the eLearning Initiative at the
eLearning at UB has been defined in line with the University’s vision as the appropriate organisation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for advancing student-oriented, active, open, collaborative and life-long teaching-learning processes.
UB aligned itself with the stated objectives of
The rationale formulated for using advanced learning technologies at the University of Botswana therefore included increasing the quality of learning and the success rate of students; creating and supporting new research opportunities; alleviating increasing administrative and teaching pressures on academic staff; supporting academic freedom and freedom of speech through free information flows and making teaching more rewarding and exciting for academics.
At UB the emphasis of the LASO Model (Uys, 2007) on inside-out change strategies (Earl, 1989), which acknowledges the central importance of people in the transformation process, was considered and attempts were made to address perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of students, academic staff and project teams.
The inside-out change focus
of the LASO model underscores Kotter and Cohen’s emphasis (2002) that change
management approaches should focuses on both rational approaches as well as on
the affective domain through see-feel-change strategies. UBeL, however,
focussed most of its efforts on the traditional read-think-change strategies
such as the circulation of documents, email discussion lists (such as the
university-wide UBeL list) and meetings that did not lead to wide-spread sense
of urgency for change. The
An exception in which a see-feel-change strategy was used was the monthly UBeL Club meetings where academics and students were the presenters and told their own stories of the benefits and issues of using eLearning. These “brown bag” meetings were successful in its intention to present real life stories but seemed to attract mostly the same audience. eLearning was thus not a widespread interest among academic staff.
Ownership by academic staff was strived for to ensure the diffusion of eLearning at UB. 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 a reasonable level of academic ownership. Other strategies included involving academics in the UBel Committee and the eTeams that have been established in each Faculty. Two academic staff members on the UBel Committee represent each faculty and these staff members lead the eLearning programme within their faculty through an eTeam; this initiative has had varying degrees of success. Academic staff members, through the UBel Committee, were central to the selection of the online Learning Management System.
Running regular workshops on relevant aspects for academic staff members was an effective bottom up strategy to broaded the based of eLearning users. The UBeL training programme for instance ran more than 60 educational technology workshops from 2002 to 2004 as part of the UBeL Certificate and these were attended by more than 30% of all academic staff at the University.
Academic staff members were also central to conducting a University-wide needs analysis and in the design of the 2003 eLearning pilot programme. A team approach in which academic staff played a key role as content experts helped to support ownership by academic staff of the transformation. This dominant team-approach for the development of distance and eLearning materials (Bates, 1993:232; DEC working party, 1989; Garrison, 1989:98&117; Holmberg, 1995) provide to be a key bottom-up change approach. A year-long university-wide pilot study was used, in which the first author was the overall project manager, to identify a relevant and effective approach for developing eLearning materials at the University. The pilot study consisted of eight university-wide projects that were conducted between November 2002 and December 2003 and that were representative of all the Faculties.
The first author further brought together interested staff to form an informal eLearning research group that worked together to publish a number of papers. All the bottom-up change strategies did create a very loose sense of a community of practice that relied strongly on the energy that came from EduTech.
The benefits and advantages of technology based education for the institution, 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.
This case study demonstrated the important role played by central leadership from a learning and teaching group as critical for the innovation with professional development as a major change strategy. Again there was an alignment top-down and bottom-up strategies with buy-in from all divisions and faculties and a network of interested people, a primitive community of practice, being instrumental in sustaining an innovation. In this developing country the University’s goal aligned with broader national goals and the novelty value of new technologies played a key role in uptake and participation in professional development
Conclusions and recommendations
The results from the case
studies are being considered by an
Cognisance of the organisation’s culture will have to be taken in the change strategies. The inside-out change focus of the LASO model underscores Kotter and Cohen’s emphasis (2002) that change management approaches should focuses on both rational approaches as well as on the affective domain through see-feel-change strategies. A video of students and staff expressing their need for more flexibility and higher quality of learning and teaching will be produced to be used to create a sense of urgency for change. A follow-up video is planned for later in 2008 where students and staff express their views on what changes have occurred. These videos would be used in presentations to schools and divisions and also possibly in the introductory sessions for new academic staff. Posters will be used widely on notice boards in the schools and supporting divisions. Stories can paint vivid pictures and will be used by flexible learning champions at ‘brown’ bag’ meetings and school based information and professional development sessions.
The LASO Model for Technological Transformation in Higher Education (Uys, 2007) emphasises that university governance as a strong top-down impetus working through planning, organizing and control, needs to operate in an interactive and mutually supportive relationship with change leadership. Change leadership that provides motivation and ownership can complement the reliance on plans and alignment of traditional change management strategies.
Building of communities of practice will be trialled as a key bottom-up change process that links to action research practices in providing support and motivation during institutional change. As one of its specific University level initiatives to support flexible learning CSU is establishing an Institute for Innovation in Flexible Learning and Teaching. Designed to be an interdisciplinary centre of excellence for applied, educational research and the promotion of innovative and sustainable practice in flexible learning and teaching, the Institute will be an ideal framework to support Action Research initiatives within schools.
Change activities and strategies will need to be aligned within the strategic framework of CSU to ensure that there is widespread buy-in from all divisions and faculties. This will ensure strong central support from the learning and teaching group, the IT division and student support services. The novelty value of the new online learning management system could act as a driver for change, while ongoing professional development can provide a major vehicle for change.
At Charles Sturt University these strategies and change dimensions will be studied to see how effective these prove to be in the desired change to higher quality and an increase in the flexibility of learning and teaching delivery.
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