CYCLE 1 - TOWARDS THE VIRTUAL CLASS
Chapter three provided an overview of the action research methodology. In Chapter four the first of four action research cycles, which occurred from July 1995 to December, 1995 is described.
During cycle 1, the vision to implement the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic was initiated and the first steps towards this goal were taken. This process started when the HYDI project at Wellington Polytechnic commenced early in cycle 1. Networked education at this stage was a totally new concept within this Polytechnic.
Wellington Polytechnic most teaching (excluding a few courses in education) at
this stage used the face-to-face mode on the physical campus in
In July 1995 the Educational Development Department invited Lobodzinski (1995) to conduct a workshop on hypermedia and the World Wide Web (WWW) at which five departments were represented, indicating an initial interest in WWW-based education (Appendix 1). This author attended this workshop and saw potential benefits in using the WWW and hypermedia for tertiary education - the vision of the virtual class at Wellington Polytechnic was born. At this stage the author saw the virtual class particularly as a mode for facilitating distance education.
This chapter has been structured according to the typical phases in action research:
4.2. act and observe
This action research log for cycle one consists of 619 electronic mail messages of which key messages are included in Appendix 7.
The overall objective for this action research cycle was to manage the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure so that the feasibility of the concept of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic could be tested.
In the draft project proposal to the President (Appendix 1) the author stated the aim of the HYDI project as " …to establish the initial feasibility of the vision for the Wellington Polytechnic". In this draft proposal the author acknowledged the uncertainty which surrounded this innovation: "this report is a 'draft' proposal due to the strategic focus of this report, the early stages of conceptualising and the great number of variables and parameters of this project due to its wide scope and the speed of changes in the underlying computer technology" (Appendix 1).
If the outcome were to be positive, cycle 1 would form a solid basis for the further implementation of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic because it was perceived that resources and support would then become more readily available.
At the same time it was intended that pursuit of this objective would lead to the early identification of heuristics for managing the implementation of the virtual class. The possibility of identifying some of the characteristics of managing the operations of the virtual class was limited owing to the early stage of implementing the virtual class infrastructure.
As this was the initial introductory phase of implementation, or the take-off phase in the S-shaped adoption of innovation curve (see Figure 2.1), for the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic, it was expected that the findings and conclusions in cycle 1 would be preliminary and could well be superseded by those in further cycles. This is often the case in action research as interim results are validated or invalidated.
To meet the overall objective, the following strategies were formulated as the modus operandi for cycle one:
4.1.1. Define the vision of the virtual class at Wellington Polytechnic in such a way that the vision can be effectively communicated
4.1.2 Communicate the vision in such a way that management and other support for the implementation of the virtual class can be obtained
4.1.3 Implement the vision by
126.96.36.199 securing resources for the initial introduction of the virtual class and identify detailed resources and skills requirements for the next phase of implementing the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic;
188.8.131.52 carefully selecting and managing the first steps in creating the technological architecture for the virtual class at Wellington Polytechnic; and
184.108.40.206 analysing how the organisation responds to this new paradigm of the virtual class
4.1.4 Forge closer links with institutions, organisations and individuals already conducting research and involved in networked education.
These strategies were closely linked to the operational plan for implementing the virtual class at Wellington Polytechnic (Appendix 1).
4.2 Act and Observe
This section contains a discussion of how the strategies above were carried out.
4.2.1 Define the vision of the virtual class at
Shortly after the hypermedia workshop late in July 1995, which ignited the vision of the virtual class, the author started working on a proposal to define the vision of implementing networked education at Wellington Polytechnic. In the draft project proposal the author defined the vision as “Combining hypermedia on the World Wide Web as a distance learning medium with current educational strategies to provide education to both overseas and New Zealand students” (Appendix 1). The Internet and the WWW were identified as key technologies in delivering education internationally.
The use of the virtual class was seen as a way to reach off-campus students through the WWW. It was thus seen to be particularly applicable to distance education because intranets had at that stage not gained much prominence.
The advantages of networked education were highlighted in the draft project proposal (Appendix 1) as well as in the communication of the vision that followed. These advantages included the prospect of reaching and retaining more clients (students) in foreign countries as well as in the wider New Zealand, overcoming physical space restrictions in Wellington, building a reputation of technological innovation and addressing the client's needs in an international market as well as increasing the productivity of our staff by adding the concept and application of hypermedia to content and facilities that already existed
A number of factors were identified in the draft project proposal (Appendix 1) as being critical for the implementation of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic. These factors included support from senior management; ensuring confidentiality of the project; a speedy implementation; controlling access to educational materials on the WWW; bridging the gap of ESL to penetrate the Asian market; working with SEACC in making the Internet more acceptable in a large number of Asian countries by addressing their concerns such as freedom of speech, pornography, terrorist activities; basing material on the NZQA Framework, thereby ensuring the availability of resources and thorough planning and management of the project. It was important to test these in cycle 1 so that the management of the project could be targeting appropriate goals.
Senior management support was deemed important to ensure that resources could be made available and also because the author believed that networked education would impact the institute on academic and administrative levels. The President of Wellington Polytechnic provided managerial and financial sponsorship for this project, shared this vision with his directorate colleagues and senior management, and promoted the interests of the HYDI project. Having the president as sponsor was central to the early successes of the project.
Managing the project through a project group instead of a committee was proposed by the author and accepted by the President to ensure that the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure could be actioned speedily. A committee could,, however have provided wider ownership and participation from the start.
international possibilities of networked education emerged and closer links
with the South East Asian Computer Confederation (SEACC) was seen as an
important strategy to capitalise on the new opportunity of offering education
internationally via the Internet. Contact was made with the Secretary-General
of SEACC at a conference in August 1995 and he indicated that opportunities for
Differences in languages and culture are management issues to be addressed in networked education. The author did not foresee that the Wellington Polytechnic networked courses would be translated into foreign languages. It was therefore important to ensure in some way or another that speakers of languages other than English would be able to gain proficiency in English to participate in networked courses.
confidentiality of the project was deemed critical, as the author believed that
the HYDI team might be creating a unique educational experience for the
students. As more information about similar developments nationally and
internationally emerged, it became clear that the combination of hypermedia
presentations, visits by lecturers to major centres of students in networked
education, and inviting students to attend annual/semester workshops locally
would not be a “unique approach” (as initially perceived). Other institutes in
tertiary education in
4.2.2 Communicate the vision in such a way that management and other support for the implementation of the virtual class can be obtained
The author believed that the implications and possibilities of the virtual class would involve the entire institution and that it should not be localised to any specific academic department or grouping. The author also realized that financial resources would most probably not be able to come from a school or departmental budget as the project commenced at the end of a financial year. Therefore the draft project proposal (Appendix 1) to implement the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic was presented to the President in 1995. At this meeting the author indicated a personal willingness to lead the implementation.
The President of Wellington Polytechnic at that time, Mr Bob Bubendorfer, accepted the draft project proposal and appointed the author shortly thereafter as project manager. Unbeknown to the author, the President had previously expressed a desire to move the Polytechnic in this direction (Finance Registrar, personal communication, 1996). The President became the sponsor of the project and took personal ownership of the project (Appendix 7:3), which became known as project HYDI (Appendix 3) since it was then aimed at the use of hypermedia in distance education.
Key individuals and groups identified by the author
included members of the Directorate and of the Senior Management Group (SMG)
consisting of the Directorate, Registrars, Heads of academic schools and some
administrative managers. The vision was communicated on
At the same time, a bottom-up approach was also followed whereby general sessions were held to which administrative (also called allied) staff, heads of academic departments and general staff were invited to attend (Appendices 7: 4 and 7: 5).
As the development of the Website progressed, two public sessions were held to which the directorate, the SMG and Heads of Departments were invited and which were well attended, to demonstrate progress, to obtain feedback and create a sense of ownership.
4.2.3 Implement the vision
This strategy had three supporting action plans:
220.127.116.11 Secure resources for the initial introduction of the virtual class and identify detailed resources and skills requirements for the next phase of implementing the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic.
18.104.22.168 Carefully select and manage the first steps in creating the technological architecture for the virtual class at Wellington Polytechnic.
22.214.171.124 Analyse how the organization responds to this new paradigm of the virtual class.
126.96.36.199 Secure resources for the initial
introduction of the virtual class and identify detailed resources and skills
requirements for the next phase of implementing the virtual class
The request for the required resources was presented to the President in the initial project proposal (Appendix 1). A project group to implement the vision, rather than a committee, was proposed. Staffing was described according to the four roles identified by Lobodzinski (1995), namely a producer (performing project management duties), content director (organising and ensuring the quality of the content), graphics/design artist (ensure quality presentations) and a software specialist (expertise in hypermedia and the related software, hardware and networks). The ICT specified included multi-media computers, good network links, development software like Hyper-G (Hyperwave, 1998), a type of UNIX (Lynux was available through the Computer Studies department and a multi-media authoring package (which was available via the Computer Studies and Graphic Design Departments).
Financial support was requested on an as-needed basis since the HYDI team needed to experiment and since networked education was a new paradigm at Wellington Polytechnic. The president made approximately NZ$40,0000 available from his development budget for the acquiring of software and hardware and for the project manager to attend two relevant conferences in order to rapidly learn more about educational hypermedia applications.
Obtaining time release from academic teaching duties was not possible at the stage when the project commenced. The author did request that the team members be formally appointed to the team, but the President did not agree to this and indicated that the pilot project should be executed with volunteers. At that stage the President also indicated that the author’s description or employment conditions could not be revised as requested in a memo (Appendix 3).
The HYDI team was informally formed from Wellington Polytechnic staff early in September 1995 by personal invitation from the author who trusted that success in the pilot project would lead to formal time allocation to the project. The team was based on the roles put forward by Lobodzinski (1995) and drawn from the Polytechnic staff who attended his Hypermedia Workshop in July 1995. The author identified a fifth role of “educational adviser” to ensure that educational considerations had a high priority in blending the technical, design and administrative considerations, and therefore a staff member from the Academic Staff Development Department (which was later renamed to the Educational Development Department) was also invited.
staff members invited accepted the challenge and indicated that they were
enthusiastic (Appendix 5 and Appendix 7: 1 contain typical responses) to
explore the new possibilities that the Internet offered. Each person invited
was asked to think carefully about the invitation, discuss the matter with
relevant managers and notify the project manager of their decision. Eight staff
members voluntarily formed a project team: two staff members from the
Department of Computer Studies, one from the
Some team members were relieved from some of their duties to be involved in this project. Others, however, did not have any reduction in their duties and no additional remuneration was provided in any of these cases.
was warned that voluntary commitments beyond and above normal duties by HYDI
team members could attract negative reaction from the academic and allied staff
unions. A negative reaction by the unions could have impacted the feasibility
of continuing with the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure, but
this fortunately did not occur. It was a challenging opportunity to navigate
the culture of the institute since the author was a newcomer to Wellington
The author foresaw that, based on a systems approach, all administrative departments and groups like the library, computer support, the international student office, learning support and the course information centre would be involved in this project in the longer term. These groups were at this stage dealing with on-campus students only, but the virtual class would require of them to deal in future with students in networked education. The communication sessions included specific invitations to representatives from each of these groups.
The HYDI team had to operate within the conventional reporting structure of the institute, and thus the roles of a sponsor (supporting the progress of the project), external contacts adviser (who advises on external relations and implications), academic adviser (advises on all academic matters) and operational adviser (managing the budget) were identified and input was sought from these senior staff members during cycle 1. These staff were seen as important gatekeepers of this project.
The team approach seemed to have worked well, but at the end of cycle 1 it was not clear which team members would remain on this voluntary team while formal allocation was being sought for involvement in project HYDI in cycle 2. The project manager was allocated a reduction in teaching time of 30% in 1996. Other staff members negotiated some recognition for their involvement while yet others had to withdraw from the team in 1996 because of their full-time duties. The two Library members of the team who participated in order to learn more about WWW publishing did not continue in 1996. It was clear that new team members would have to be found for the next cycle.
The skill requirements of team members became clearer as the cycle progressed, and the various roles identified seemed appropriate to continue within the next cycle.
During cycle 1 the project team identified and learned how to use some of the technologies involved in networked education. The strategy of using a pilot project was very helpful in this regard. By developing the Wellington Polytechnic Website, the HYDI team established that both PC and MAC multi-media computers, multi-media authoring packages, graphic design software, Web browsers, software to convert word processing documents to HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), access to the Internet, the World Wide Web and a Web server were needed for networked education. Cross-platform and cross-browser testing of on-line materials proved to be necessary to ensure that the on-line materials had a consistent appearance and behaviour for Web users on different computer platforms (like MAC and PC) and using different versions of Web browsers.
The focus at this stage in creating Web-based materials was on the front-end technologies, that is to say the technologies that facilitate the computer-user interaction. At this stage database-driven software for WWW development was not seen as critical, and the HTML pages were stored in flat files within directories. This strategy proved helpful in quickly getting material on-line.
The outcome of the pilot project suggested that the hardware and software obtained during cycle 1 was a reliable platform for the further implementation of the virtual class infrastructure in the next cycle. As the technology base (that is computer language, web server, Internet access) of the Website and Web-based materials for education do not differ, it was assumed at this stage that the hardware and software used to develop the Website were the same as for networked education. The budget for 1996 was therefore based on the expenses that were necessary to create the Website.
188.8.131.52 Carefully select and manage the
first steps in creating the technological architecture for the virtual class at
A pilot project (Appendix 3) to create the Wellington Polytechnic Website (Wellington Polytechnic, 1998 July) was carried out because the author had observed that the team did not have a sound knowledge of the required technologies to do networked education. The use of inter-disciplinary teams to facilitate projects was not a common practice within the Polytechnic and the concept of the virtual class had to be tested within a real organisational environment. The team’s successful performance and achievement in the pilot project could furthermore lead to gaining the ongoing support of the President, while establishing support from other senior managers for the project.
The pilot project required the Wellington Polytechnic (which already had a domain name registered) to select an external Internet Service Provider for hosting the Website since an internal web server did not exist. This new relationship needed to be managed as part of the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure.
Printed copies of the content materials on the Website were sent to all the relevant groups and departments for comments and changes. Besides ensuring that the correct information was posted on the Website, this was also an attempt to ensure wide participation from the outset in the implementation of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic.
The HYDI team realised that managing the dynamic nature of changes to on-line materials is different than managing changes to print-based materials. A change procedure for alterations to the Website was designed and distributed (Appendix 4). The document stated that: "it is important to keep the Home Page alive by updating materials regularly. This can be done much more quickly than waiting for the next print run of brochures or for print advertising deadlines.”
Team members were regarded and respected as being expert in their areas. Individual objectives were reviewed on a regular basis. The project management philosophy was that decisions within the team were to be made on the lowest possible level. This approach was unlike the managerial approach at Wellington Polytechnic that tended to be bureaucratic and hierarchical. These differences sometimes led to conflicts between team members and other Wellington Polytechnic staff members. Some of these conflicts remained for most of the research period as a clash of expectations and "cultures". The emphasis in the project management approach was on achieving the desired goals in cycle 1 in a very limited time and a positive, goal-oriented approach was therefore followed within the team to meet the deadline.
A prototyping development methodology was followed. Incremental development occurred, as sections of course contents were placed on-line, evaluated and changed, while further sections were being prepared to go on-line. With on-line materials, the HYDI team found that the publication can be continuous and changes can occur frequently and regularly. In the spiral that is the prototyping approach, each of the six systems development life cycle phases (investigation, analysis, design, implementation, maintenance and review) is essentially executed per module/prototype in an experimental and incremental manner. Implementing the virtual class infrastructure in conventional tertiary education is characterised by factors which point to using the prototyping approach: a low degree of certainty about input and outcomes, low user experience, immediate results are normally desired, a high degree of risk, a large number of alternatives (although the degree of complexity is average owing to the ease of WWW publishing and the availability of Web servers and technologies through Internet Service Providers) (Stair, 1992:405; Burch, 1992:15). The nature of the on-line media and the large degree of intrinsic flexibility of the virtual class technologies facilitated prototyping. This flexibility also allowed the team to experiment with different approaches to development and design as well as with the ICT at hand.
The speed of developments in the underlying ICT was demonstrated in the on-line page creation process. When the project started the HYDI team had to code HTML using basic text editors. Within three months the HYDI team was using extension programs of two of the most popular word-processing programs to convert documents directly into HTML. Changes in the way different computer platforms and Web browsers rendered on-line materials further complicated the management of the development of the Website.
The team members had offices in different parts of the Polytechnic campus and therefore operated for most of the time as a virtual team with a high dependence on electronic mail, as is illustrated by the many (619) e-mail messages between the project manager and others during cycle 1. Lipnack and Stamps (1997:7) define a virtual team as "a group of people who interact through interdependent tasks guided by common purpose" that "works across space, time, and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technologies", which accords with the macro view that. global virtual teams operate as a temporary, culturally diverse, geographically dispersed, electronically communicating work groups (Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1998). Electronic communication also allowed the author to manage the project across the conventional limitations of time and space (Appendix 7: 6). In addition, a number of face-to-face meetings were also held. This was a challenging experience and the entire process worked fairly well despite the fact that team members didn’t know each other well, that it was an interdisciplinary group, and that limited time was available to complete the pilot project. However, some team members felt that the lack of face-to-face communication and the vast amount of electronic mail communication impacted negatively on operations and relationships within the team.
The pilot project to develop the Wellington Polytechnic
Website (July 1998) was fully implemented in less than three months and on the
A few workshops for allied staff with basic e-mail skills were held soon after the launch in order to assist them in the various schools to deal with any international inquiries as the Website made the Wellington Polytechnic immediately more accessible internationally.
A second pilot project to develop a CD-ROM with the "Web home page" information for the Wellington Polytechnic by July 1996 was also envisaged at this stage because an integrated CD-ROM and WWW delivery model for networked education was envisaged for addressing the limited Internet bandwidth available at this stage.
meeting of the HYDI team at the end of 1995 identified aspects of the Website
that needed attention in 1996. One of the tasks was to have the Website
Among the tasks to be pursued in the next cycle was one to transfer ownership regarding department information to departments and to transfer ownership regarding school information to schools. Ownership regarding the Website seemed to be a significant issue to address, and also one that would have an impact on the acceptance of the vision for networked education at Wellington Polytechnic. The response from schools to a call for them to provide information for the Website indicated that the Website was not yet seen by the schools and departments as a medium that they were responsible for keeping current and to developing further. Ownership of Website information was not properly established at this early stage and remained a problem in 1999.
The author proposed to the President that the Senior Management Group (SMG) jointly formulate the criteria for the selection of the first networked course to be developed for distance education in 1996 (Appendix 7: 8). This was an attempt to create wider ownership of the implementation of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic and to do a thorough market evaluation but was not successful. The President already had a specific study course in mind, which was based on perceived general marketability. This course was linked to a Polytechnic stand-alone certificate in education which already used distance education (Appendix 7: 8). This course, however, had not been delivered by distance education and had a strong face-to-face content. The President's preference for this course was discussed at a SMG meeting.
Another aspect in the marketing of future networked courses was using the most appropriate branding. This illustrated an increased emphasis on having a market orientation when offering networked education. The author felt that the units/courses would be more marketable if they were New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) approved (Appendix 1).
A serious drawback in setting up the technological virtual class infrastructure was that the internal computer services group was not able to support the HYDI project with an evaluation of appropriate software or with the technical computer teething problems, as their focus was more on operational matters as against the HYDI focus on innovation. This again was a clash of cultures and also a demonstration of the inflexibility of bureaucratic systems versus the more flexible approaches within the HYDI project. The centrality of ICT in offering materials via the WWW emerged very strongly. Fortunately the computer specialist within the HYDI team was sufficiently skilled and managed to work through the various technical computer challenges encountered.
184.108.40.206.1 Analyse how the organisation responds to this new paradigm of the virtual class
At the end of cycle 1 the first pilot project towards implementing the virtual class infrastructure (the Wellington Polytechnic’s Website) was completed. The general response at this stage to the Website and the vision of using the WWW in education was favourable. For instance, at the launch the sponsor of the project (that is the President) complemented the team on implementing the Website in less than three months and held a well attended public reception for all staff as part of the launch.
The computer services group at this stage indicated to the author that the project had not been properly costed and that they did not have adequate time to attend to some of the requests.
A serious attempt was made by the implementation team to work, as far as possible, within and comply with the Polytechnic systems and culture. The HYDI team, for example, created a graphic design document (Appendix 7: 2) which was presented to the appropriate directorate member and the HYDI team obtained permission to proceed.
There were instances, however, where clashes of the team culture and the institutional culture seemed inevitable due to the differences in flexibility, deadlines, and perceptions and also because of the politics involved in establishing this project. The Polytechnic’s operational systems were typically that of a conventional tertiary educational institute and tended to operate more slowly and more bureaucratically than was the case within the project to implement the virtual class infrastructure. The project did sometimes run across formal reporting lines, hierarchies and procedures because of the very limited time period available in which to achieve the pilot project’s objectives. Contributing factors to the conflict with some heads of schools were that the project did not run from within a school, but ran directly under the auspices of the President’s office (and thus contrary to the conventional hierarchical reporting lines) and received substantial financial support from the President. This was seen by some as money that could have been spent on operational aspects within Wellington Polytechnic instead of on an unproven and unchartered cause led by a relative newcomer to the institute.
4.2.4 Forge closer links with institutions, organisations and individuals already conducting research and involved in networked education and commercial activities on the Internet
The writer realised that the possibilities and feasibility of providing networked education could not be tested only through the limited pilot project at Wellington Polytechnic during cycle 1. The strategy to forge closer links with others was therefore necessary to ensure a proper evaluation of the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure within Wellington Polytechnic. Furthermore, a tertiary education institute is an open system that interacts with, for example, government and industry in its external environment and needs to be aware of changes in this environment in order to respond appropriately to these.
In establishing links with others involved in similar
projects, the HYDI team was also learning about the pitfalls and possibilities
of implementing the virtual class infrastructure. Contact via electronic mail
and by conference attendance was initiated with visionaries, developers and
educationalists in hypermedia both in
The author also attended the 1995 New Zealand Computer Society (NZCS) conference in August 1995, which contributed significantly to the writer’s ideas on creating the initial project proposal through the papers of three contributors. Recker (1995) conveyed her conviction that the Internet was going to revolutionise education internationally. It provides through hypermedia a highly natural and truly interactive means of communication by using multi-media. It facilitates group interaction among the students and with the lecturer through the use of on-line communications. The Internet was growing exponentially in public and business awareness, in the number of users and in the number of Web servers.
view that impacted on the author’s vision to establish networked education at
Wellington Polytechnic was that of Spence (1995). He stated that according to
industry experts in the
According to Lau (1995) the opportunities in South East Asian countries for New Zealand educational institutions had greater potential than before due to the high regard for New Zealand’s educational standards, and deregulation and liberalisation sweeping across South East Asia. This encouraged the writer to pursue networked education with an international focus as part of the project.
The Internet and specifically the World Wide Web were seen as central technologies with tremendous potential in networked education. Myburgh (1995), admitting that it is always risky to predict the future particularly where technology is concerned, indicated clearly that teaching and learning were undergoing a revolution based on the extraordinary capabilities of the Internet. This was a typical reflection of the optimistic sentiments expressed by the HYDI project team during cycle I.
The WA Telecentres project also positively considered the use of the Internet and saw government sponsored access to the Internet as opening up new communication options for them. This service included a bulletin board facility, on-line education units, electronic mail and WWW search facilities (WA Telecentres, 1995).
While the advantages of education via video-conferencing was being
strongly utilised in the Western Australian Telecentres project (WA Telecentres, 1995), it appeared to be an expensive option and is
further based on the traditional classroom model which perpetuates the
inflexibilities regarding dates, times and places (Latchem, 1995:105). The
writer envisaged that effective on-line video-conferencing over the Internet
would be possible in the future. Perceptions at that time about the cost of
developing networked course materials were optimistic because most of the WWW
tools themselves were available at low cost.
At the New Media and On-line Commerce conference in
September 1995, Mark Shearer (1995), General Manager, Telecommunications and
Media Industries, IBM Asia Pacific emphasised that most governments in
During the Australian National Telecentres Conference
(October 1995), visits to telecentres demonstrated how telecommunications could
be used successfully to enable distance learning. The networking at the
conference led to a meeting in
The contacts described above strengthened the vision of networked education and encouraged the author to further research this area and to continue with the HYDI project.
4.3.1 Managing the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure
These findings address the following elements of the MIT90 schema (see Figure 1.3):
4.3.2. roles and skills of individuals;
4.3.3. organizational structure;
Using technology-based education seems to require a firm base and widespread use of ICT throughout an organisation. The Wellington Polytechnic at the stage when the pilot project was launched, in general preferred to have paper-based communications and many staff members did not have access to computers, which in turn made the newly developed Website inaccessible or irrelevant for many of them. At the University of Melbourne, Australia, where a campus-wide information system (CWIS) was implemented, Goldenfarb (1995) similarly noted that one barrier to the successful implementation of the CWIS was low IT skills, but if this problem could be identified, it could be overcome to enable any department to become a successful adopter. It therefore seems important to increase the level of computer literacy of staff members and the use of ICT in general within a conventional tertiary educational institute when implementing the virtual class infrastructure.
Implementing the virtual class infrastructure as early as possible was a critical success factor identified in the draft project proposal. This was confirmed because many other tertiary educational institutes were also experimenting with networked education. In order to have a significant impact in the growing area of networked education, early participation of an institute in networked education seemed a better approach than not responding to the possibilities and threats of networked education. Kenichi Ohmae asserts that "to prevent competitors from getting there first, a company must launch in the key markets simultaneously. Globalisation will not wait” (Caulkin, 1990:29).
At Wellington Polytechnic the advantages that networked education would create for the institute, teachers and students were emphasised in the draft project proposal and in communicating the vision of networked education. Highlighting these benefits seemed important to increase the interest of and participation by administrative managers and academic staff in the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure. Goldenfarb (1995) reported similar findings regarding successful departmental adoption of networked education:
(a) Departments that recognized the low skills as barrier found solutions to this problem and rated highly in the ranking order.
(b) Departments that had very high IT skills but did not see a clear advantage in adopting networked education, ranked last. The reason might be that in the absence of a clear relative advantage they did not have full commitment from the head of the department. Many departments reported success in obtaining commitment from the leader, when clear benefits were demonstrated in trial/pilot projects.
Productivity increases were envisaged for academic staff because of the scalability of networked education. Approximately the same input in creating a face-to-face course could possibly yield a greatly enhanced output due to the potential of international and national delivery of a course via the Net to a much larger audience. At this early stage of having only done a pilot project, this seemed to be feasible as the visitor statistics to the Wellington Polytechnic Website demonstrated that a single source document could reach large numbers of people across the globe. Although the input to create the Website was similar to creating a comprehensive paper brochure, the output, in terms of readership and reach, was much higher and easier to facilitate. This correlates with the wide expectation of leaders both inside and outside higher education that technology can enhance “...the overall productivity of the educational process” (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, 1995:3).
Selecting appropriate methods for promoting the virtual class internally to the relevant parties seem to be an important management issue in implementing the virtual class infrastructure in conventional tertiary education. What might be necessary, as was the case at Wellington Polytechnic, is to follow both a top-down and bottom-up approach simultaneously. If it is only top-down, academic and allied staff might not be aware or convinced of the possibilities of networked education and the impact it might have on their work and ownership could be a problem. Again, if it is only bottom-up, senior managers might not support it and resources might be difficult to obtain while it could also potentially lead to uncoordinated localised efforts.
The prominence of the project at Wellington Polytechnic and the level of resources made available would not have been possible without the support of senior management. When internal political problems were encountered, the President was there to step in and direct matters. When the initiative for moving towards the virtual class comes from senior management (top-down), this support is implicit. Goldenfarb (1995) similarly found that a critical success factor in the diffusion of innovation was obtaining senior management support, citing the example of the head of Information Technology that demonstrated some early achievements to the Vice Chancellor and his deputies. Their awareness and interest in the project provided the top-down pressure on heads of departments to support the project, which gave the project the legitimacy and full acceptance into the everyday operation of the institution.
This illustrates the central role that senior management plays in bringing about organisational change, and in this case for the introduction of the virtual class in a conventional tertiary educational institute. The backing from a group of managers in senior positions seems to be necessary if progression towards the virtual class is to be an institutional one with strong budgetary support.
The vision was communicated to senior and middle management to obtain their support for this project and to create a sense of ownership. Although the response from senior and middle management was positive regarding the Website development, they did not demonstrate a sense of ownership but merely received the information and did not actively participate - even though there were evaluation sessions to which they were invited and input was requested of them. Ownership, which is substantial personal commitment by the relevant administrative, academic and allied staff, is a significant objective when implementing the virtual class infrastructure in conventional tertiary education. Not enough was done to ensure ownership by senior management especially in view of the initiative for the development of the virtual class coming from outside the administration, the high work pressures senior management often work under and the traditional tussle between administration and academia. This lack of ownership was illustrated by the limited response from schools and departments within Wellington Polytechnic to requests (for a typical request see Appendix 7: 9) to provide information for the project in their respective areas for placing on the Website. The limited time frame in which the pilot project occurred negatively impacted on activities to ensure ownership. Therefore strategies such as one-to-one and small group discussions, demonstrations and explanation of the benefits of using the WWW could and should have been used in the early implementation stages of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic to ensure ownership by senior and middle management. As was noted by Goldenfarb (1995), the overarching objective of their project was “adoption” which can also be described as “ownership”. At this stage, the top-down support was primarily that of the President, while the bottom-up component was essentially within the HYDI team. Both aspects were not addressed properly in this first cycle and needed more attention in following cycles.
Goldenfarb (1995) similarly found that a critical success factor in the diffusing of innovation was following a top-down and bottom-up approach simultaneously:
(i) The CWIS project started by setting up a Steering Committee with representatives from four of the twelve academic faculties in the University, the Library and Information Technology staff. Those invited to participate were mainly lead users, who had already some relevant expertise, or were recognised as stakeholders who could benefit largely from the use of the new technology.
(ii) The head of Information Technology demonstrated some early achievements to the Vice Chancellor and his deputies. Their awareness and interest in the project provided the top-down pressure on heads of departments to support the project. This gave the project the legitimacy and full acceptance into the everyday operation of the institution.
(iii) When departments were asked to identify what was critical to their adoption of CWIS, all ten departments nominated their product champion, who drove the project through all the critical steps of the implementation process. Seven of the ten departments identified the support of their leader as having played a major role.
findings in Cycle 1 and that of the study at the
In following both approaches simultaneously, preference was given to an organic implementation model rather than an institutional implementation model to implement networked education at Wellington Polytechnic after the project was authorised by the president. By an “organic model” the author means that the processes and outcomes are based on grassroots level needs, that the diffusion would occur in an evolutionary way, and people taking ownership of the new paradigm would drive the implementation (Daft, 1989). By an “institutional implementation model” (also called mechanistic model) the author means that processes and outcomes are developed through a broad top-down decree, and ownership of the new paradigm is not a high priority; staff are expected to do as instructed (Daft, 1989). More emphasis on the organic implementation model rather than the institutional implementation one was deemed to be appropriate when introducing the virtual class in a conventional tertiary educational institute because the paradigm of the virtual class was a new concept to conventional tertiary education. Understanding the possibilities of the virtual class and how it serves the needs of students and teachers is a gradual process which requires time to work through the implications of the differences between the virtual class and the traditional class. Academic staff needs to take ownership of the virtual class concepts and practices because they operate largely in an autonomous way when deciding how to deliver teaching. Nixon (1996:9) points to the important contribution of academic staff to the wider institutional actions: "university teachers bring important insights to bear on their own practice and these insights constitute an important perspective on the nature of learning and the institutional conditions necessary for learning to flourish”. The implementation of the virtual class in a conventional tertiary educational institute is furthermore a long-term strategic process and can be jeopardised if its implementation is decreed in a top down fashion to achieve short-term gains.
Any innovation, including networked education, faces the challenge of bridging a lack of knowledge and understanding of its the benefits and advantages. However, networked education poses an additional challenge: to balance the gradual promotion of information about the virtual class to tie in both with the cyclical and relatively slow pace of teaching and administrative cycles which occur in a more predictable and repetitive pattern within conventional tertiary education and with bringing and keeping all parties involved up to date with this rapidly developing field. This tension is a management challenge that needs to be addressed in the promotional strategy of implementing the virtual class infrastructure.
project was used to good effect at Wellington Polytechnic to introduce the
virtual class infrastructure. A pilot project facilitates experimentation in a
new field, testing of concepts and processes, the formulation of guidelines and
principles, the establishing of credibility, promotion of the innovation as
well as analysing how an organisation responds to a new paradigm or innovation.
Selecting the right pilot project can provide an early response by the
organisation that can then be used to formulate appropriate implementation
strategies for the full implementation of an innovation. Goldenfarb (1995)
similarly reports that the CWIS project used pilot/trial projects, and also
that a pilot project was again used when the
(i) After a three month pilot, that trialed the various hardware and software options for both clients and servers, the central project implementation group established a set of guidelines for using CWIS in this institution, compatible with other systems and the University network.
(ii) Many other departments reported success in obtaining commitment from the leader, when clear benefits were demonstrated in trial/pilot projects.
(iii) In the next semester, the University will be delivering its first online multimedia based course in science to high achieving students in selected high schools. If the project is successful, this program could expand to other disciplines and other markets.
Using a pilot project or a few pilot projects therefore seems to be an appropriate strategy for introducing an innovation like the virtual class in a conventional tertiary educational institute.
In Cycle 1, the first course to be used in networked education was selected by the President based on general marketability. Thorough market research was not done to inform this critical decision and this proved to be a setback for the project in the long run as illustrated in the research cycles that followed.
In terms of a change model to provide overall structure for managing the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure in a conventional tertiary educational institute, the Lewin and Schein model for organizational change (Stair, 1992) can be helpful. The HYDI project engaged in each of these stages in Cycle 1, but instead of treating them as consecutive stages, treated them rather as dimensions of a dynamic process. The stages are listed with a description of how each step was applied in Cycle 1 of the project:
(i) Scouting: Identify potential areas or systems that may need change: educational planning, development and delivery
(ii) Entry: Stating the problems and the goals: included and described in the initial proposal document
(iii) Diagnosis: Gathering data and determining resources required: described in the initial proposal document and further developed during the pilot project
(iv) Planning: Examining alternatives and making decisions: some early decisions were contained in the initial proposal document, for example, that the WWW was to be used as key delivery medium; others were made by using the pilot draft where a large degree of exploration, discovery and experimentation was allowed for in all areas: educational, technical and design (to be developed further in the following cycles).
(v) Action: Implementing the decisions: decisions were followed through in a consistent manner in the pilot project
(vi) Evaluation: Determining whether the changes satisfied the initial objectives and solved the problems identified: this was done through internal team discussions, through open sessions where colleagues from all management levels were present, and through the distribution of hard copies of on-line materials
(vii) Termination: Transferring the ownership of the new/changed system to the users and ensuring efficient operation: at the end of cycle 1 the Website was probably still seen as something belonging to the HYDI project.
It is important that management identifies and tests the perceived critical success factors for the institute to progress towards the virtual class at an early stage in order to prevent allocating valuable resources to non-critical activities. Some factors will prove to be critical while others might be found to be of little or no significance as was the case at Wellington Polytechnic. At the University of Melbourne, Australia, the same approach as at Wellington Polytechnic was followed (Goldenfarb, 1995) by identifying and testing the critical success factors in diffusing a campus-wide information system (CWIS) by which most academic departments were striving to reach potential students in Australia and overseas:
A research project that looked closely at the first ten departments adopting the use of CWIS, set out to test if Critical Success Factors in diffusing innovations, identified in the literature and at other universities played key roles in diffusing the CWIS in this University. It also set out to identify Critical Success Factors that were unique to this institution.
management issue in the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure in
conventional tertiary education is the use of motivational tools appropriate
for encouraging those involved in the creation of networked education.
Conventional tertiary education in
Attending relevant conferences was a valuable strategy for establishing contacts and learning from others (as described). The limited financial resources made it impossible to use external consultants - learning from others at conferences proved to be a cost-effective alternative.
resources available proved to be a critical success factor (Appendix 1). It is
necessary to deliberately state the requirement for adequate resources, as
conventional tertiary education can be unrealistic in its expectations of the
resourcing required for staff to achieve what is beyond their normal call of
duty. Time allocation for those involved in the HYDI project was seen to be critical
as the project moved beyond enthusiastic voluntary participation to the next
cycle. At the
An institution that values innovation and wants to encourage creativity, has to provide the resources to support innovative projects. Although, all heads of departments supported the CWIS project in principle, very few made funds available for additional staff. The central CWIS implementation group have taken on CWIS in addition to a very busy schedule of other responsibilities, having to work on the project in their own time. To encourage innovation an organisation must allow some slack resources or be willing to take some risks and allocate resources to new ideas at an early stage. Espoused support that is not backed up by allocation of resources is not enough incentive to adopt, except for those that are most enthusiastic or those who tend to gain major benefits.
The nature of the media and the characteristics of the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure in conventional tertiary education, point to the use of a prototyping systems development methodology for developing courses for the virtual class (Stair, 1992; Burch, 1992; Uys, 1997a June). On-line materials are in a “living” format, that is hypermedia, which is a very flexible medium to which changes can be made with ease, and publishing on-line materials is normally a continuous and uncomplicated process through using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). WWW based content has only one source copy that needs to be updated and that can then be re-published for the Internet audience. Media like CD-ROM and print require a more rigid and structured approach with changes having to be made through errata notices or republication. Hypermedia therefore lends itself to the use of a prototyping approach when developing on-line content.
220.127.116.11 Roles and skills of individuals
The growing awareness of networked education among tertiary education institutes globally as discussed above emphasises the need for academic staff, administrative managers and allied staff to become well informed about the possibilities of and issues pertaining to networked education.
The composition of the HYDI team proved to work well in this pilot project, but an additional role of educational director was identified for developing the first networked course in cycle 2. This role is crucial when designing and developing educational hypermedia materials because educational principles need to guide the development of networked education and these educational principles have a higher priority than graphic design features and the capabilities of ICT or administrative concerns. However, the centrality of ICT in developing on-line materials pointed to the important role of the computer specialist(s) in the development team. The titles of these roles changed slightly during Cycle 1 from the original titles in the draft proposal (Appendix 1). The external contact adviser and the academic adviser were specifically included as gatekeepers. The computer specialist, graphic designer, educational director and specifically the content director acted as gatekeepers. The proposed roles for a hypermedia team are:
- sponsor : supports the progress of the project
- external contacts adviser : advises on external relations and implications
- academic adviser : advises on all academic matters
- project manager : manages the project
- content director : organises and ensures the quality and currency of the content (rotating role for each course)
- creative director / graphic designer : responsible for all visual aspects including the production of graphical elements
- computer specialist : advises and supports all relevant software, hardware and networks; integrates text and graphical elements into appropriate computer formats eg HTML, Shockwave graphics
- educational director : ensures sound educational processes.
18.104.22.168 Organizational structure
A multi-disciplinary project team comprising design, education, computing, marketing, management and specific content specialists was used to develop the Polytechnic's Website. The team approach seemed to be a good model with which to continue in future cycles for developing networked education because of the effectiveness of this approach in developing the Website in cycle 1.
believed that the benefits of networked education was institute-wide and that
localising the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure to a specific
academic department or grouping would hinder its effective diffusion and
adoption. Although localised initiatives can eventually diffuse to influence
the wider institute, it seemed that an institution-wide approach from the
outset would be most effective in promoting the innovation. The author presumed
that the HYDI project was established in this way because it was under direct
control of the President and the author provided input at senior management
meetings. Later feedback, however, suggested that this was not the case as the
HYDI project was often associated with the President or the author instead of
the institute as a whole. Effective gatekeeping could have provided this
critical information early in the project. At the
(i) The CWIS project started by setting up a Steering Committee with representatives from four of the twelve academic faculties in the University, the Library and Information Technology staff. Those invited to participate were mainly lead users, who had already some relevant expertise, or were recognised as stakeholders who could benefit largely from the use of the new technology.
(ii) After a three month pilot, that trialed the various hardware and software options for both clients and servers, the central project implementation group established a set of guidelines for using CWIS in this institution, compatible with other systems and the University network.
(iii) The project group recommended a distributed model, in which each department was encouraged to set up their own server and take full responsibility for its continuos maintenance and update.
The concerns raised by the computer services group during cycle 1 (as mentioned above) furthermore demonstrate the importance of ensuring that all wider stakeholders with regards to the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure are consulted and that the existing organisational structures are respected.
there are many similarities between conventional tertiary education in
The rapid changes associated with the ICT used for creating on-line materials (which is to be expected in such a new and developing field), in terms of not only newer versions but new types of ICT, for example, Hyper Reality, needs to be considered when selecting software and hardware. This points to the need for flexibility in an institute's approach to acquiring and discarding ICT, and the need for caution when technologies seem to lock an institute into rigid processes and approaches and do not allow for the speed of changes in on-line publishing technologies.
At this stage in the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic, an integrated or hybrid CD-ROM and WWW delivery model for networked education was planned until such time as the Internet could accommodate rich media content more efficiently (and hence a second pilot project to develop a CD-ROM with the "Web home page" information for the Wellington Polytechnic by July 1996 was planned). This hybrid model seemed to have possibilities for managing the limited Internet bandwidth in linking rich media content to the dynamic capabilities and ease of distribution of the WWW.
A basic technological requirement for a conventional tertiary educational institute that aims to implement the virtual class infrastructure is to establish and manage links with an Internet Service Provider for hosting the on-line materials or, alternatively, an internal web server of the institution’s own. It is essential for on-line materials to be hosted on a Web server attached to the Internet in order to facilitate national and international access to the on-line materials.
conventional strategy regarding recruitment of international students often
entails recruiting international students to study at the physical location of
the institute. The ease of international delivery of on-line materials pointed
to a new strategy for conventional tertiary education, which is to use ICT to
deliver courses to where the students are. The wide expectation of ICT in this
regards is described as follows: “Leaders both inside and outside the higher
education establishment have high hopes that technology can provide the means
through which education can be delivered effectively to students who live in
remote areas” (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems,
1995:2). In some projects like the Western Australian network these hopes were
realised "the network quickly showed it was possible to overcome distance
and to provide equity and access to rural and remote students" (WA
Telecentres, 1995:1). Physical locality is
an important factor to consider in creating and managing the technological
virtual class infrastructure. This was illustrated in considering the physical
locality of international users, thereby creating a Wellington Polytechnic
Website mirror outside
4.3.2 Managing the operations of the virtual class
The research findings in this section support the second research question (How does one manage the operations of the virtual class?). This section relates to the “Management Processes” element within the MIT90 schema (see Figure 1.3).
The international dimension of managing the operations of the virtual class was highlighted at this early stage through the pilot project of developing the Wellington Polytechnic Website as the Internet plays a pivotal role in both the virtual class and deployment of Websites. The Website immediately made the Wellington Polytechnic accessible internationally because of the global nature of the Internet. Instead of sending a large number of brochures to a few targeted countries, the single source of this “electronic brochure” was available to the whole world. It seems therefore that networked education naturally brings a conventional tertiary educational institute to the international stage where educational management needs to occur in a global context. This will impact on many of the sub-systems of an institute through changes in their vision, mission and long term objectives.
class presents an opportunity for conventional tertiary education in
Bridging the gap of English as second language (ESL) to penetrate the Asian market was initially identified as a critical success factor (Appendix 1). The Wellington Polytechnic already had courses in teaching English as second language. It was, however, not certain at this stage whether the Asian countries would be specifically targeted for networked education studies of Wellington Polytechnic. Entering international educational markets through networked education where English is not the first language, is a management challenge to be addressed.
Establishing contacts with others in the field proved to be extremely valuable for the author in managing this new endeavour at Wellington Polytechnic. It strengthened the vision of networked education through an increased appreciation of the possibilities, dynamics and issues of the virtual class. It provided encouragement to further research the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure and to continue with the hypermedia project. The growth in networked education internationally suggests that it is an essential practice for a conventional tertiary educational institute that wishes to progress along this path to learn and collaborate with others in this field. Electronic communications increase the feasibility of international exchanges. Collaboration and exchange with others in the field nationally and internationally do, however, require resources for attending conferences, obtaining applicable literature, encouraging exchange agreements and providing synchronous and asynchronous means of electronic communication.
access on the WWW to the Wellington Polytechnic's on-line educational materials
was a critical success factor (Appendix 1) that was confirmed during cycle 1.
Materials on-line on the WWW are accessible by anybody with an Internet
connection. The management issues of ensuring security (Graham, 1995 September)
and addressing copyright issues (McCullagh, 1995 September) featured as key
topics at the "New Media and On-line Commerce" conference in
Managing the dynamic nature of on-line materials is a new aspect of management in the virtual class as reflected in a proposed change process for the Website (Appendix 4): “It is important to keep the Home Page alive by updating materials regularly. This can be done much more quickly than waiting for the next print run of brochures or for print advertising deadlines.” In paper-based teaching, once the materials are provided to the student (or published), these cannot be changed except by errata notices or a total re-issue, be it via distance education or handouts in class. On-line materials, however, can be changed continuously and immediately - as experienced during the initial development of the Wellington Polytechnic Website - and this new approach needs to be communicated to all relevant parties. Managing the dynamic nature of on-line materials thus requires tight change control systems while simultaneously capitalising on the flexibility of the materials.
The flexible and continuous publishing possibilities of on-line materials as well as the continuous changes in the ICT underlying on-line publishing point to the need for flexibility within the software and hardware for developing on-line materials.
The flexibility and keen interest that team members had in networked education, assisted the author substantially in coordinating the project. The project team operated as a virtual team since the members were physically located throughout the campus and had other full-time roles that made physical meetings extremely difficult. The team, however, had to find ways to work together and communicate effectively on this project. Asynchronous on-line communication in the form of electronic mail was used extensively. For synchronous communication, telephone conversations and some face-to-face physical meetings were held as these were necessary in getting to know each other and create a measure of group spirit. The team thus essentially experienced the virtual class model of education where teachers and learners are removed in time and space (Myburgh, 1995). Through this experience the author gained confidence, even though the operation of this virtual team faced some operational problems, that the learning environment within the virtual class would be able to be managed effectively. It also highlighted the need for future teachers in networked education to gain a solid grasp of the dynamics of a virtual team to conduct networked education.
It became clear that ICT plays a central role in on-line publishing and needs to be managed as essential, critical elements of networked education and not as an optional extras. During Cycle 1 the central role of ICT in on-line applications was illustrated in many ways (as described above). ICT was therefore identified as being central to the operations of the virtual class, which has a strong on-line dimension as expressed in networked education. The role of ICT within networked education can be seen as analogous to paper and physical structures (like buildings and roads) within conventional tertiary education that have to be available and functional for education to occur.
The critical and fundamental role that ICT plays in on-line applications highlighted the need for computer literacy of future students in networked education. It followed that planning for and providing appropriate training in the use of ICT for students was essential.
The implementation of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic was in embryonic form at the end of Cycle 1. The research findings of Cycle 1 are documented in 4.3.1 and 4.3.2 above.
The implementation process highlighted a number of preliminary heuristics in managing the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure as well as some characteristics of managing the operations of the virtual class. These findings are of a tentative nature as only the first cycle, which analysed the pilot project of creating the Wellington Polytechnic Website, had been completed. Managing the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure to this point indicated some significant management differences between conventional education and networked education (as discussed in 4.3.1 and 4.3.2 above).
The overall objective for this action research cycle was to manage the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure so that the feasibility of the concept of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic could be tested. This objective was pursued through the following strategies:
4.4.1. the vision of the virtual class at Wellington Polytechnic was defined in the initial proposal (Appendix 1)
4.4.2 the vision was communicated to different management levels and other staff in a variety of ways using different platforms - this needed to be extended in the next cycle
4.4.3 the vision was implemented:
22.214.171.124 resources for the initial introduction of the virtual class were secured and
detailed resources and skills requirements for the next phase of
implementing the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic were identified
126.96.36.199 the first steps in creating the technological architecture for the virtual
class at Wellington Polytechnic was completed, but ownership had to be extended in the next cycle
188.8.131.52 the organisation’s positive response, based on the pilot, to the new
paradigm of the virtual class needed to be tested in the next cycle when the on-line campus and the first networked course would be created
4.4.4 closer links with institutions, organisations and individuals already conducting research and those involved in networked education and commercial activities on the Internet proved valuable and needed to continue in the next cycle.
The conclusion after cycle 1 was that it was feasible to progress with the implementation of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic and that more of virtual class management would be learned when developing a first networked course. This concluded the first of the four action research cycles.
As indicated in Chapter one, in order to address each of the research questions, the action research had to progress to the point of fee-paying students enrolling and participating in networked courses at Wellington Polytechnic. This was not possible at this stage when the Wellington Polytechnic Website was only implemented as a pilot.
In the second cycle, which occurred from January to December 1996, the plan was to progress with the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic from a pilot project stage, to having a networked course. The plan also included implementing the virtual class infrastructure more comprehensively through the creation of the Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus and a first networked course. These actions would highlight more heuristics for managing the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure in conventional tertiary education and assist in identifying the characteristics of virtual class management.