Uys, P.M. (2000). Towards the Virtual Class: Key Management Issues in Tertiary Education. Unpublished PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Available online:






In cycle 1 of the research, the Wellington Polytechnic Website was developed as a pilot towards implementing the virtual class infrastructure.


Cycle 2 is geared towards further answering the research questions of how to manage the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure in conventional tertiary education, and also how to manage the operations of the virtual class. The further implementation of the virtual class infrastructure is intended to test the findings of cycle 1 (described in Chapter 4.3.1 and 4.3.2 above).


In cycle 2 the implementation of the virtual class was to have moved away from a limited pilot stage to a more comprehensive implementation of the virtual class infrastructure through the creation of the Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus (1998, June) as well as the creation of the first networked course.


The Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus with the first networked course is central to the infrastructure for networked education. This is the infrastructure necessary for teacher, learner, problem and knowledge to interact through Internet or intranet technologies for the purpose of learning (as defined in Chapter 1).


In cycle 2 the HYDI project would be established as an institute-wide project, although essentially experimental. The first networked course was a free sampler course, and no full-time staff was allocated to the project. The vision for networked education was limited; for example, the author obtained a 30% reduction in teaching load to manage the project while some other staff who participated in the project formally received a small time allocation towards the project.


External to the HYDI team, staff of Wellington Polytechnic perceived the Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus as an interesting add-on to conventional education. The HYDI team saw networked education at this stage mainly as a tool for delivering distance education. The HYDI project was carried out as a tiny part of the overall operations of Wellington Polytechnic. 


This Chapter, like the previous chapter, has been structured according to the typical phases in action research that is:

5.1.      plan

5.2.      act and observe

5.3.      reflection.


The duration of this action research cycle was from January 1996 to December 1996.


The action research log for cycle 2 comprises 1314 electronic mail messages of which the key messages are included in Appendix 11.


5.1     Plan


The overall objective for this action research cycle was to manage the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic from the preliminary pilot stage to the infrastructure required by the institute to offer networked education. The emphasis in cycle 2 was on creating a stable infrastructure for building the first commercial networked courses in a further research cycle.


The plan was not to extend the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure widely into different academic areas but to retain the focus on courses within the degrees in education. In cycle 2, using Rogers’ diffusion model (Rogers and Scott, 1997), the outreach activities should be concentrated on getting the use of the innovation to the point of critical mass. These efforts should be focused on the early adopters, the 13.5 percent of the individuals in the system to adopt an innovation after the innovators have introduced the new idea into the system. Early adopters are often opinion leaders, and serve as role models for many other members of the social system. Early adopters are instrumental in getting an innovation to the point of critical mass, and hence, in the successful diffusion of an innovation.


The plan also included further advancing the visibility of the HYDI project and promoting the ownership of the vision of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic specifically among senior and middle managers.


Some perceived operational actions for this period are described in a progress report in September 1995 (Appendix 3) that highlights the assumption of the author that networked education needs all the supporting sub-systems which the conventional class requires, but based on ICT.


Seven strategies were formulated as the modus operandi for cycle two to ensure that the overall objective above would be met:

5.1.1.   concentrate promotional activities on the “early adopters” by developing the first networked course

5.1.2        advance the visibility and ownership of virtual class concepts among senior and middle managers

5.1.3        implement a stable technological architecture for the virtual class

5.1.4        identify and implement effective administrative services

establish a marketing strategy

5.1.5        identify and implement appropriate organisational structures

5.1.6        further extend and forge new links with institutions, organisations and individuals already implementing the virtual class.


5.2     Act and Observe


This section contains a discussion of how the strategies above were carried out.


5.2.1    Concentrate promotional activities on the “early adopters” by developing the first networked course


Continued support by the President for the HYDI project was evident through the financial sponsorship in cycle 2. He also supported the idea of a free sampler networked course to be developed in cycle 2.


As mentioned in Chapter four, there was a specific course offered by the Educational Development Department that the President had in mind for development as the first networked course. After discussion at a SMG meeting, it was decided that the “Teaching techniques for adult learning” course would be developed as the sample networked course (Wellington Polytechnic, 1998 April). However, this critical decision was made without carrying out a thorough market research.


The Educational Development Department (EDD) had some experience in distance education and was also planning to start delivery in 1998 of a Master of Education that would have a strong distance delivery component. The Educational Development Department therefore saw networked education as an important and relevant development and was keen to be involved in the HYDI project. The teaching philosophy within the Educational Development Department was to give pre-eminence to the student who carried through into the development of the sampler course.


The Educational Development Department qualified well to be the primary “early adopters” as the department was well-respected and established within the Wellington Polytechnic.  Rogers and Scott (1997) indicate that the early adopters need to be a more integrated part of the local system than the innovators, have opinion leadership in many systems, need to be not too far ahead of the average individual in innovativeness and needs to be respected by their peers. The Educational Development Department was also represented on the HYDI team, but this did not negatively impact their role as early adopters.


The team approach to the development of the sampler networked course was extended when in early February the "Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) Hypermedia Team" was formed. It consisted of the core HYDI team (project manager, creative director / graphic designer, computer specialist, educational director) plus the content providers from within the Educational Development Department.   


An training opportunity for the academic staff in the extended team arose through staff development when the author organized an open Hypermedia Seminar (Lobodzinski, 1996).  Further bottom-up promotion was also intended through this seminar which was well attended by Wellington Polytechnic staff from a wide range of departments. This indicated an increase in interest in networked education. The Educational Development Department in particular was well represented.


Using the names of the workshop delegates as a base, an internal e-mail group of “interested staff” was created and periodic messages about progress of the HYDI project was distributed to this group as a way to internally promote networked education  (Appendix 11: 8). This group was also invited to assist in the development of the first networked course in any way they felt possible, and some assistance was offered by them.


A team workshop in a group decision-making mode was held at the start of the year to plan the development of the sampler networked course. This workshop was specifically designed to incorporate the “early adopters” in the innovation of implementing the virtual class infrastructure. 


In the first cycle the computer specialist, with the help of others, was also responsible for integrating text and graphical elements into appropriate computer formats in creating the on-line materials. However, when the development of the sampler course was planned and some of the team members who helped in this area in cycle one were no longer available, it became clear that a distinct role within the hypermedia team of a media developer was needed. No provision had initially been made for funding of this role and therefore it was decided to use second-year multi-media students of the Department of Computer Studies for creating the basic HTML code. This was defined as a project within their course and was structured as a group assignment (later in cycle 2 a staff member was added to the HYDI team in this role). The work of one of the groups of students was selected as a basis for further development (Appendix 11: 18).


At this workshop the development process for a module (called a "chunk" by the team) of the first networked course was defined. The content providers would provide the content in electronic format to the project manager via the head of the Educational Development Department. The project manager would be the link with the computer specialist, the creative director (graphic designer) and the lecturer (who convened the course in which the students acted as on-line media developers). A flexible and dynamic process was created whereby direct links between the content providers and the computer specialist as well as the creative director were established for testing purposes and for alterations. This process was followed over the next five months in which the sampler networked course was developed  (the long period of development was due to the very limited staff allocation to the HYDI project).


The systems development methodology of prototyping (Stair, 1992; Burch, 1992) was discussed at the workshop and was used with good effect during the next few months as the sampler networked course was developed. The process that was followed is depicted in Figure 5.1.


Text Box: Investigation

For whole course:




Then for every module relating to content, visual design and technical computer aspects:

Text Box: Analysis


Text Box: Design


Text Box: Code and Test


Text Box: Implement


Text Box: Maintenance and Review





Figure 5.1         Prototyping Development methodology as used in this study

(Adapted from Stair, 1992:406)


At certain stages during the development process, joint evaluation meetings were held to evaluate certain aspects of the course, and also to build more of a team spirit and keep the “early adopters” group informed (Appendix 11: 18).


During the iterative development process, it became clear that the additional role of an editor was required. The editor needed to be an objective person who could scrutinise all the materials and point out any inconsistencies, spelling mistakes and typing and language errors. A staff member in the Educational Development Department offered to act in this role. In the sampler course the editor scrutinised the content of the sampler course and contributed significantly to the quality of the content.


To evaluate the instructional design of this first networked course, a session was held at the completion of the sampler course, asking a group of on-campus students to browse through the sampler and provide feedback on the course via an on-line response form (Appendix 11: 14 - 17). They were asked to comment on factors like interactivity, the use of graphics, off-campus access, navigation and how it compared to printed materials.  They made valuable comments that were fed back to the HYDI team for consideration.


The HYDI team found that on-line materials could be continuously re-published with ease because of having a single source to update. This dynamic nature of change to on-line materials therefore needed to be managed both in the development and delivery of networked education. Changing the content of a networked course while students are working through a networked course can cause confusion for them. A revision page was therefore created in the sampler course to inform students of changes.


A known problem of traditional distance education courses is the isolation that these students often experience; however, certain strategies can reduce this problem (Henri and Kaye, 1993:29-31; Stacey, 1997 June). It is possible that these students don’t know their fellow students or who their lecturers are (as the author experienced when studying for an Honours degree at a distance education university). This is an area which on-line communications can impact significantly (Mason, 1996 June).  The HYDI team's attempt to facilitate and manage the communications in the sampler course was to have a standard hyperlink to an “Ideas Exchange” at the bottom of each Web page in the course. Here students can post public messages for other students on a dedicated message board, publish materials on-line, post public messages for the lecturer on a dedicated message board, send private messages to the lecturer via e-mail. 


The issue of privacy of information was analysed and the option was provided to students to specify their e-mail address on the message boards if they wanted to receive personal responses to their postings.


These boards can be used to bridge the boundaries of space and time when using it asynchronously (participants are not together in time). The boards, however, can also be used for synchronous (participants need to be together in time) communications to create a quicker feedback cycle. Current boards are designed for asynchronous use and a proper CHAT facility would need to be investigated in further cycles.


Networked education did enable the development team to consider the individuality of every student by catering for different ways of navigating a course and for different learning styles. This also left the students more in control of the management of their own learning. The navigational preferences of sequential and random navigation were addressed in the sampler course. The WWW and intranets cater very naturally through hyperlinks for the random learner. The HYDI team saw the management of navigation through the materials as an integral part of instructional design. No strict sequence was built into the sampler course, although suggestions for sequential progression are made to the students. The learner can thus take any route through the content and activities; the only fixed requirement is that the assessments need to be completed before any credit can be obtained.


For the sequential learner, special measures needed to be taken in the design of the first networked course. In the sampler course a clickable navigational "course map" was used as an anchor, which is a graphical presentation of the proposed sequence of the main sections in a course, and is presented at the start of the course. One of the standard hyperlinks at the bottom of each page within the course links to this "map" to help students orient themselves. From the page that contains the "course map", students can also access an "Index" page which contains an extensive list of most of the hyperlinks within the course. The inherent capability of Web browsers to change the colour of all followed links is used on this "Index" page. A student can access this page and see which elements of a course have been visited and which elements still need to be done. This, however, is a crude method as Web browsers reset these colours after a user specified period and furthermore does not indicate to the student that the work on the page has actually been completed but merely that the page has been visited.


Certain facilities were included in the sampler-networked course to support specific learning styles. Learning styles refer to the preferred way that a person processes information and describe the typical mode of thinking or problem-solving of individuals (Kearsley, 1994). Mind maps were used extensively to provide a visual overview of areas within the course.


Kolb's description of learning styles (1984) was used by the Educational Development Department content providers to cater for the individuality of students and to allow the student to manage their own learning. Kolb (1984) postulates that learning styles may be seen along a continuum running from concrete experiences (CE), reflective observation (RO), abstract conceptualisation (AC), to active experimentation (AE). Using these preferences, Kolb postulates four types of learners namely divergers, assimilators, convergers, and accommodators.


For those who prefer active experimentation, that is to say those who learn best by actively engaging in a practical application of the theory, a "Gymnasium" section was created (which has a hyperlink at the bottom of each Web page within the sampler course) where students are provided with exercises of both a practical and a theoretical nature  


The "Gymnasium" section in the sampler course also assists those learners who prefer concrete experiences, that is to say those who learn best when they are involved in new experiences. The WWW also naturally lends itself to "discoveries" through hyperlinks to other course materials or to external sources. Students can also have new experiences in their learning through random navigation, a high level of inter-activity through e-mail, message boards, on-line feedback on assignments as well as the use of multi-media that is graphics, colours, sounds and movement.


For students who prefer learning by reflective observation, that is to say learn through watching others or by developing observations about their own experience, a "Reflection" section (which is hyperlinked to form the bottom of each Web page within the sampler course) was created to provide students with "thinking" exercises - often more advanced questions or points to ponder on.  The "Gymnasium" section also assists this learning preference. Asynchronous on-line communication in networked courses on the WWW also assists this learning preference since the student has the opportunity to reflect before responding to students, lecturers, the content or to assessments.    


Students that learn best through abstract conceptualization, in other words by creating theories to explain their observations, are catered for through the extensive narrative within the sampler course.


The content providers and educational director from the Educational Development Department gave pre-eminence to the learner by also looking to incorporate constructivism in the sampler course. The central tenet of the constructivist approach is that "…the world is constructed by the individual" (Boyle, 1996 June:751). Constructivism is a philosophical educational approach by which it is argued that since knowledge is socially and culturally constructed (Brookfield, 1985), it is the learners who need to construct knowledge for themselves. It argues that no two people have exactly the same personal constructs of knowledge (Zepke, 1998). Hypermedia systems can facilitate this approach very well as hypermedia technology is seen as enabling rather than directive in that learners browse hypertext documents in constructing their own knowledge according to associations in their own cognitive structures (Landow, 1992).


The implications of educational media instructional design are well summarised by Boyle (1996), who suggests that such  instructional design should focus on construction of knowledge rather than instruction, developing of contextually authentic rather than artificial learning tasks, setting  collaborative tasks within clearly defined social contexts, giving students voice and ownership within the learning process, enabling students to construct knowledge from their own life experiences and awakening students to their part in the knowledge construction process. There should also be an expectation on the part of the lecturer to receive valid but different expressions of meaning in assessments.


The importance of networking with others engaged in similar projects to verify ideas and learn from them was illustrated when the author attended an overseas conference and visited tertiary education institutes. The author formulated the lessons learned as recommendations (Appendix 8). Specific aspects relating to the networked courseware included the possibility of having an area on the screen where a student can make personal study notes (annotations) that are saved on their own computers. Also that students can develop valuable hypermedia “text books” as part of their course assignments that can be used by future students (Bos,  Kikstra and Morgan, 1996 June); the same would be true of examples of student assignments in general that can be used as a learning resource for future students. This illustrated another way that networked education can connect or network students to other students by bridging the barrier of time and essentially connecting past and present.


Another aspect that came to the fore was that of taking cultural differences and preferences into account in the design of courseware (Chyou and Esiley, 1996 June). Target markets will have to be well researched to establish any specific cultural preferences and then to investigate possibilities of incorporating these.


The HYDI team was still responsible for maintaining the Website too. An attempt was made to formalise the Website change process (updated in February 1996; Appendix 4). A discussion was held with the senior manager of the Management Information System (MIS) group  in which it was decided that MIS would take over the maintenance of the Website. This signified a positive development in the wider diffusion of the vision for networked education at Wellington Polytechnic as the Website was increasingly seen as an important marketing tool for the Polytechnic. The Management Information Systems (MIS) group also wanted to engineer it to become part of the mainstream activities at Wellington Polytechnic  (Appendix 11: 12 and 20).      


The HYDI team had face-to-face meetings from time to time to discuss issues arising from the tasks that were being completed and to build team coherence. Most of the intra-team communications, however, were via electronic mail as this multi-disciplinary team were physically located in different parts of the Polytechnic, and therefore still operated for most of the time as a virtual team.


5.2.2    Advance the visibility and ownership of virtual class concepts among senior and middle managers


The continued support of the President as sponsor of this project was a source of encouragement for the HYDI team throughout cycle 2 (Appendix 11: 11 and 12).


The importance of senior management support was again demonstrated in cycle 2 when the President requested that the author become a member of the Computing Advisory Committee. This committee discusses and makes proposals to senior management on operational computer issues (Appendix 11: 6). This contributed to linking the HYDI project to the recognised structure of the institute.


A report was presented to senior management on the author’s overseas visit in cycle 2,  containing the observation based on the conference workshops and presentations (Appendix 8) that “distance education via hypermedia delivery has been validated as an important delivery medium.”


At the invitation of the President, the author provided input on a monthly basis at the meetings of the Senior Management Group (SMG) and periodically also progress reports (Appendix 9 and N). This invitation was an indication of the President’s continued support for the project and his desire for a successful outcome and wider implementation. For instance, the name of the virtual campus, “Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus” was decided on by the SMG with input from the HYDI team. These sessions in retrospect could have been used much more effectively to gain support from within the SMG. The assumption of the author, however, was that everyone in the SMG fully supported and felt a sense of ownership of the HYDI project. It was later learned  that the support base was much smaller than assumed, which pointed to the difficulty of implementing an innovation in conventional tertiary education and to the need for understanding the culture of an organisation.


The author suggested to the President that the first networked course as well as the Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus be launched at an open session to be followed by a small celebration (Appendix 11: 1) to which some senior managers were invited. This was designed to be a motivational instrument for the HYDI team members, for showing public recognition for the team and the vision for networked education, and as further internal promotion of the possibilities of networked education. 


A positive view of HYDI was reflected in a memo in December 1996 by the head of Educational Development Department to the writer (Appendix 23) after discussions with the President, Vice President  and other staff. The memo stated that  "it was agreed that HYDI and the development of ‘new media’ involving computer mediated learning is very important for the polytechnic” and  "it was agreed that the work of coordinating ‘new media’ developments would grow to a full-time load from 1998 and that the polytechnic would commit itself to funding such a full-time position from 1998.”


5.2.3    Implement a stable technological architecture for the virtual class


The plan was to conduct a second pilot project aimed at  developing a CD-ROM with the "Website" information for the Wellington Polytechnic. CD-ROM technology was seen as an important complementary medium to the Internet with which the HYDI team wanted to experiment in order to create hybrid systems because of the bandwidth limitations of the Internet. The directorate, however, decided that HYDI should not pursue this planned second pilot project because of the resources required.


What in fact came to be created were the technological architecture to support the first networked course (Wellington Polytechnic, 1998 April) as well as the Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus (1998, June).   This virtual campus, which was called the "Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus", was created as the entry point for students in networked education at Wellington Polytechnic. It was made accessible from the Website for marketing purposes and includes links to all networked courses:


Text Box:  Sampler course
Text Box:  1997: Niche market short courses


          Website             On-line Campus






Figure 5.2         Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus positioning


The On-line Campus includes hyperlinks back to the Wellington Polytechnic Website (Wellington Polytechnic, 1998 July), which describes the activities, support and other courses at Wellington Polytechnic and provides contextual information for the student in networked education.


To minimise Internet access costs for the student, the instructional design included an option for the student to download a compressed version of the whole course, enabling them to study off-line. Students thereafter need to come on-line only to participate in on-line communication.  


In the On-line Campus a “Help” section was included to assist students in a variety of areas. A hyperlink to this “Help” section is included at the bottom of each Web page of the On-line Campus for easy access. Various technical computer issues are covered including more information on down loading the zipped course files, setting up the Web browser to send e-mail, down loading applicable plug-ins for the Web browser and the minimum computer configuration required. The following general information was included in the On-line Campus: How to enrol for networked courses; how to communicate on-line with lecturers and other students; how to navigate through courses; how on-line note-taking may be conducted.


The need for ICT literacy and expertise within the wider institute was recognised and the author suggested to colleagues in the Computer Studies department that they develop and present a course in Java (a cross-platform programming language especially useful for Web applications) in order to build up expertise in this field within the institute. This was not pursued further because some databases allowed the development  in a fourth generation language to be exported as Java applets (Appendix 11:7).


Managing the relationship with the Internet Service Provider (ISP) continued as the on-line campus and sampler courses were also hosted at the same ISP. A program (script) was down-loaded from the WWW and placed on the Web server for use with the on-line message boards. The delays in communication between the ISP and the HYDI team during experiments with asynchronous communications indicated that having an internal Web server would be the preferred option. The technological architecture within the HYDI team comprised the PC and MAC multi-media computers, multi-media authoring packages, graphic design software, Web browsers, software to convert word processing documents to HTML, a scanner, as well as access to the Internet, the World Wide Web and access to a Web server.


The report on the author’s overseas visit in cycle 2 contained recommendations and observations about technological architecture (Appendix 8), and it proposed that HYDI acquire a multi-media object-oriented database in 1997/1998 for more appropriate management of the courseware data (Lobodzinski and Williams, 1996 June; Lennon and Maurer, 1996 June; Schultheis, and Sumner, 1989). HYDI also had to employ someone with database management skills on the project to carry out this function.


A workshop in adaptive educational hypermedia at an ED-MEDIA conference (Brusilovsky, 1996) led the author to believe that, although complex to achieve, adaptive educational hypermedia should be a key design goal in hypermedia development at Wellington Polytechnic from 1997 onwards. This means that educational material is presented in an individualised and possibly unique way to students on the basis of mapping systems that are created for each individual student. This highlighted the centrality of the student in networked education which allows the students to navigate the materials and have the material presented to them in a way that suits them. This is one of the basic advantages of networked education over the traditional classroom method. A skilled programmer in some scripting language or another, eg JAVA or PERL would be required.


Virtual reality could possibly also be explored to enhance the learning experience of students because it has the potential to encourage more active participation and increased accuracy in illustrating features and processes. Although Chambers et al. (1996, June) indicate that VR in education is in its infancy, they are positive about the potential of VR in education as computing power increases and cost decreases.


Although the technological architecture for the on-line campus was developed as part of the implementation of the virtual class at Wellington Polytechnic, no (on-campus) student Internet access policy was yet in place (Appendix 11: 21). This indicates the need for also addressing wider policy issues when implementing a technological innovation.


5.2.4    Identify and implement effective administrative services


At this stage the enrolment procedure for networked courses was designed and tested since it was envisaged that students could enrol for the free sampler course if they desired to obtain credits for it. An on-line form was designed for students to indicate when they were planning to start studying, their highest educational level and some biographical and contact details. The Educational Development Department, as content providers of the first networked course, would receive this application and follow it up by sending out a comprehensive printed application form.


Students who wanted to gain credit for this course would have to enrol and payment could be made by faxing credit card information through to the Educational Development Department or by using a bank order. If demand for the Wellington Polytechnic's courses was high in a specific country, possibly creating  a local deposit account for student fees was envisaged.


As the sampler was a free course available to the public, security measures like access to the course via user identification and password were not used (as would be the case in the following cycle for commercial courses). The course files were, however, technically protected through the security measures of the ISP so that only designated members of the HYDI team could update the on-line materials.


In terms of assessment, the plan was that students who enrolled for the sampler course would send their assignments to the course convenor by traditional mail or as an attachment to electronic mail.


5.2.5    Establish a marketing strategy


The specific marketing strategy that was decided on was to develop a free sampler networked course. This procedure was based on a similar very effective strategy that was used to market the popular Web browser Netscape (1996).


No market research was done before selecting the first networked course. The Educational Development Department had been active in distance education and one of the courses that they offered was selected. It was also believed that the specific course selected as the Sampler course could have a more general application. At the extended HYDI team workshop in February to plan the development of the sampler networked course, the target market for the sampler course was identified as being part-time New Zealand students interested in learning to teach adults - this included supervisors and people in the workplace.


The international possibilities of networked education were becoming more apparent and early in 1996 a meeting was held with the directorate member responsible for external liaison and international affairs. It was decided that the contact information of the International Student Office and the Course Information Centre would be prominently placed on the Website to assist national and international students to make on-line contact. The importance of marketing networked courses internationally using conventional means that included international educational fairs, as well as the possibilities of adapting a networked course for students in different geographical areas were discussed. The author saw a new role for the International Office in promoting networked education internationally.


The report on the author’s overseas visit in cycle 2 (Appendix 8) contained a marketing recommendation that short courses for niche markets based on thorough market research be selected for development in the next cycle and that these be developed in parallel to the core formal courses in the next cycle.  It was clear that all the resources of the HYDI project could be fully tied up for the foreseeable future in the networked education development of the Bachelor of Education, leaving no resources to move the innovation wider. It was therefore considered desirable for short courses to be developed and that they should have an emphasis on the international market, since the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) was primarily focused on the New Zealand market.


5.2.6    Identify and implement appropriate organisational structures


Obtaining adequate staff resources was difficult as this initiative was funded solely from the President's development budget.  The HYDI project still operated as a virtual team with members from different departments from various parts of the campus. Involvement in the HYDI project for all team members was secondary to other permanent duties. The project manager, for instance, had a 30% time allocation towards the HYDI project in cycle 2. The computer specialist also received a time allocation towards the project and duties within HYDI were included in this person’s annual performance objectives.


Information was obtained from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and University of Southern Queensland in Australia on how their hypermedia developments were structured (Appendix 11: 3 and 4). This correlated well with the HYDI team’s composition of sponsor, project manager, content director, creative director/graphic designer, computer specialist, educational director, editor and an on-line media developer. It seemed as if the HYDI team had the kind of composition that would facilitate wide implementation of the new virtual class infrastructure.


Recommendations concerning the organizational structure were included in the report on the author’s overseas visit in cycle 2  (Appendix 8). One such recommendation was that the hypermedia project should be placed on a firmer footing from 1997 in order to achieve the goals of this venture as specified by the President. It was felt that the structure at the time did not provide adequate focus and potential for the achievement of these goals. The conviction grew that the initiatives concerning the virtual class should not be localised in a specific school or department within a school because the implications and possibilities of the virtual class were seen to be institute-wide. It was also felt that continuity would be provided to the HYDI project if the project in 1997 were to be located closer to where it might reside eventually. This concern arose through the impending retirement of the President (and sponsor) at the end of 1997.  In addition,   relocation of the project would move the reporting structure of the project and budget to a department like the Educational Development Department, which was closely involved in the vision of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic.


A unit could be formed, perhaps to be called “The New Media Unit”, that would  serve all the schools in the Polytechnic and as such would be a general support unit like the Library and the Educational Development department with a mission to research and implement appropriate new information technology in appropriate curricula at the Wellington Polytechnic. This unit would combine and balance the principles of education and of information technology to achieve its goals. Therefore it was felt that such a unit could reside within the Educational Development Department (second preference), or on its own (first preference) due to its general support function, or linked in some way or another with the computer development group (with the Academic Registrar). The name of such a new unit was discussed within the HYDI team and centered around the concept of “new media” (Appendix 11: 13). As a member of the Computers in Teaching Advisory Group (CTAG), the author therefore proposed the formation of a New Media Group at the end of 1997 (Appendix 11: 5 and Appendix 12) as a formalisation of the HYDI project and also to widen the diffusion of this innovation. The proposed mission was "enabling technology-based educational improvement and innovation for open and flexible learning” with promotion (and marketing), training, development, research and support as its the main functions.


Organizational culture and project dynamics did not seem to harmonise well as personal politics and institutional politics interacted. The dual reporting lines of the author to the President and to the operational adviser, who was also the author's head of school at that stage, proved to be problematic. Based on all the factors above, the project manager proposed to the President that the HYDI project be moved to the Educational Development Department - the “early adopters” group (Appendix 11: 2). At directorate level it was decided that it was in the best interest of all parties and that project HYDI be located in the Educational Development Department. The HYDI project thus became the HYDI Educational New Media Centre in the Educational Development Department at the start of 1997.


5.2.7    Further extend and forge new links with institutions, organisations and individuals already implementing the virtual class


Networking with others and maintaining these contacts was essential for the author to be able to evaluate the implementation of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic within a national and international context through feedback and advice. Links with other researchers in this field also enabled the author, for instance, to obtain information from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and University of Southern Queensland in Australia on how their hypermedia developments were structured (as mentioned above).


Contact with Prof Suave Lobodzinski who ignited the vision of networked education at Wellington Polytechnic through his hypermedia workshop (1995, 1996) was maintained and led to a seminar that he conducted in Wellington. This workshop further promoted this innovation among other departments. He also provided information on possible conferences that could be attended (Appendix 11: 7) for further networking and learning from others. 


Similarly, the contact with Prof. Colin Latchem, Head: Teaching and Learning Group at Curtin University of Technology in Perth was maintained (Appendix 11:10) to be able to learn from developments at their institute. 


The author and the head of the Educational Development Department attended the ED-MEDIA World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications in June 1996 to assess what other institutes are doing in networked education. The networking at the conference renewed the vision for networked education at Wellington Polytechnic, and inspired the head of the Educational Development Department to actively explore networked education. The author also visited the New Media Lab and Academic Computing Services Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as the New Media Centre of California State University at Long Beach.  Many of the recommendations and conclusions of the report on this overseas visit that are referred to above (Appendix 8) were implemented over the research period. A specific recommendation was that collaboration should be sought with other institutions in New Zealand.


5.3     Reflection


5.3.1  Managing the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure


These findings address the following elements of the MIT90 schema (see Figure 1.3): and skills of individuals structure Strategy


Exploring the possibility to publish student results on an intranet or the Internet accentuated this serious management issue and challenge to ensure the privacy of student information (Dearden, 1995). Underwood (1995) points to the increase in the risks to personal privacy because of ICT advances in general and the Internet in particular. Underwood lists unauthorised access, insecure storage of data, incorrectly recorded information and intrusion through ICT products and services as sources of this increased risk. In networked education most information about a student and also the teacher could reside in digital form on computers. Ensuring appropriate access to this information is both essential and complex, as digital information does not diminish when shared and is difficult to contain.


Developing a free sampler networked course based on the "Netscape" (1996) marketing strategy for on-line promotion was effective in that it did generate interest nationally and internationally in the HYDI project. The “free give-away of the first version” marketing strategy for on-line promotion can thus be followed when promoting courses within the virtual class. In this strategy a selection of courses, or parts of courses, can be made available free of charge in order to entice the student to enrol for other courses or the entire course.


In some conventional tertiary educational institutes decentralised organisational structures whereby central services and responsibilities are devolved to departments are becoming popular (Yetton, 1993; Randle and Brady, 1997; Hart, 1999 July). This devolution includes budgetary aspects that might leave central services with little funding for institute-wide innovations and projects requiring funds. The President’s development fund at Wellington Polytechnic however, provided the central funding necessary to start and maintain this initiative in cycle 2. Unless adequate central funding is available for innovations like the virtual class, these developments can easily occur in isolation and without wider impact.


The prototyping development methodology that was proposed in the previous cycle and described above was used to develop on-line materials and worked satisfactory.  The reason for this was that the development of the first networked course displayed the features that point to using the prototyping approach, namely 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) (Burch, 1992; Stair, 1992). The HYDI team also experienced that the virtual class technologies have a large degree of intrinsic flexibility and therefore facilitate prototyping. For instance, HTML is very pliable and on-line message boards can be updated and changed rapidly. On-line materials can be termed as being in a “living” format, that is to say hypermedia, as  most flexible, can be changed easily and publishing on-line materials is a continuous and simple process. As each module within the sampler course was developed, it was tested and reworked in a series of iterative cycles until the content provider was satisfied.


The HYDI team found that an effective method of introducing change is using a pilot project (similar to the development of the first networked course during Cycle 2). The first networked course was essentially another pilot project (after the development of the Wellington Polytechnic Website as the first pilot in the first research cycle) since it was not a commercial networked course, but a free sampler. This pilot facilitated experimentation in this 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 the new paradigm of networked education.


The Lewin and Schein model for organizational change (Stair, 1992:396) is used to describe the stages that occurred in this second cycle 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: these were identified through team discussions and focused on creating the first networked course as well as the Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus

(iii)              Diagnosis: Gathering data and determining resources required: included in the budget request to the president for cycle 2

(iv)              Planning: Examining alternatives and making decisions: a large degree of exploration, discovery and experimentation was allowed for in cycle 2 in all areas: educational, technical and design (to be developed further in the following cycle).

(v)               Action: Implementing the decisions: decisions were followed through in a consistent manner and the first networked course as well as Wellington Polytechnic On-line Campus was created and launched in August 1996

(vi)              Evaluation: Determining whether the changes satisfied the initial objectives and solved the problems identified: this was done through team testing, testing by internal students and through feedback to the content providers

(vii)             Termination: Transferring the ownership of the new / changed system to the users and ensuring efficient operation: at the end of cycle 2 full ownership of the first networked course was taken by the Educational Development Department who provided the content and ensured  that educational principles guided the course development process.


Our experience of involving students as part of a teaching programme in a critical role of networked course development was not successful. Although some of the student groups produced good modules for the sampler course, it proved very difficult to couple the deadlines of this commercial project of developing networked education with the academic learning outcomes of the course. There was no academic justification to link project deadlines to the assessment criteria of the course, which lead to difficulty in having students produce the work on time (Appendix 11: 19).  The author's conclusion was that the development of networked education is to be managed as a commercial project in which professionals fill the required roles and where deadlines are set and treated seriously. 


The motivational tools that were available to the author in cycle 2 were again the "non-hygiene factors" (the "motivators") in Herzberg's theory (1960), to encourage those involved in the creation of the virtual class. These included a feeling of achievement, recognition of achievement, how interesting the work was, responsibilities for decision-making, opportunities to develop and to learn new skills. Wellington Polytechnic could not offer any financial incentives to HYDI team members.


Collaboration and exchanges with others in the field have proved to be invaluable in cycle 2. The importance for a conventional tertiary educational institute that aims to progress along this path to link up with others working in this field in order to learn from them and to collaborate with them, was underlined in this action research cycle.


The cost of distribution of materials shifts considerably from the institute to the student, as the students have to pay their ISP for studying on-line. This is a management issue that needs to be addressed, especially considering that the student in the virtual class additionally also requires ICT to access courses. Roles and skills of individuals


It became clear that there was a serious need for student training in basic IT skills as well as having access to the Internet when learning in the virtual class. The teaching of computer skills could ideally be integrated as part of the learning process of each academic department, not only in the department that teaches IT courses. This can be achieved by pursuing a strategic organisation-wide goal to enable students to increasingly engage in the learning process by using the ICT of the emerging information society.


Although the sampler course was not intended to have any students who actually enrolled, a lecturer within the Educational Development Department was nominated to respond to e-mails and also to monitor the message boards. This pointed to new processes of communication whereby students can reach a lecturer by electronic mail and whereby the lecturer needs to respond to electronic discussions on on-line message boards, and raised the management issue of a how to construct an appropriate workload formulae for teachers in networked education. Barnard (1997:32) highlights the concern this is causing some academic staff: “…others may be concerned over additional work loads and how their position will be affected once their expertise is readily available as a packaged course over the Internet”. “Contact time” - the time a lecturer spends in front of a class - is often used as an important yardstick and component of a lecturer’s workload in conventional on-campus tertiary education. In conventional distance education, again, a certain amount of "office time" might be required.  How relevant is “contact time” or "office time" when no or very little face-to-face contact is occurring? The networked education teacher also finds that, because the virtual class is unbound in space and time (except when synchronous meetings are held), a new flexibility is required in academic activities like communicating with students. This can amount to a significant number of “invisible” or “virtual” hours. Changes in the working lives of six academics who moved from teaching a Master's degree in a traditional face-to-face tutorial format to one in which they also taught the same program in a distance mode were explored by Johnston and Challis (1994). They found that the move to distance teaching required the academics to adopt more flexible working hours which included evening and weekend work. The invisibility of these "abnormal" working hours meant that the university might not recognise or value this work, which confirmed the author’s concerns.


In cycle one a project team composed of the sponsor, external contacts adviser, academic adviser, project manager, content director, creative director/graphic designer, computer specialist and educational director was proposed. In cycle 2 the author realized that two more roles are required, namely that of an editor and an on-line media developer while students evaluated the course. These roles incorporate the "five actor categories" that Paquettee, Ricciardi-Rigault, Paquin, Liegeois and Bleicher (1996, June) distinguish in the construction of a virtual campus namely learner, trainer, content-expert, manager and designer. The gatekeeping did not work well because the external contacts adviser and the academic adviser had high workloads and were thus passive in the role of gatekeeping. The computer specialist, graphic designer, educational director and specifically the content director acted as predominantly internal gatekeepers while the author acted in a boundary spanning gatekeeping role. Organizational structure


Taylor, Lopez and Quadrelli (1996) (who investigated the relationships between diversification in modes of delivery, use of ICT, academics' teaching practices, and the context in which those practices are employed in two of the three large universities in Brisbane namely Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology) strongly recommend that teams should be used when developing more flexible modes of delivery. This was also the experience at Wellington Polytechnic and reinforces the idea that in the design and development of networked education a multi-disciplinary team is required because diverse disciplines like education, graphical elements and ICT are involved. This is in contrast to the general practice of instructional design in conventional tertiary education, which is often a solo activity of an individual lecturer. Spender (1996a, September) bases the multi-disciplinary nature of instructional design and development of networked education on the progression towards the information age and the corresponding blurring of the lines between learning and work, and education and the media. In the education industry, Spender foresees infinite possibilities across the board for creative people, including writers, artists, sound technicians, film makers, media researchers, graphics geniuses, animators and computer professionals. In fact, Spender sees this as a new development for the education enterprise to amass a vast array of talent.


It seemed important to ensure that the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure was not localised in a specific school or department within a school because the author saw the implications and possibilities of the virtual class as operating institute-wide. A central unit instead of a localised project seemed a better basis for providing sustainable training, support, research and development. A separate unit to house this initiative was proposed as the first preference, and as second preference, to locate it within the Educational Development Department (which serves the whole institute).


The implementation of the virtual class infrastructure calls for appropriate policies to be developed, for example access of on-campus students to the Internet, publishing on-line and on-line communication protocols. Policies can blend the requirements of an innovation with the institutional capabilities and culture and are therefore necessary for wide implementation. This top-down aspect was neglected in this action research and could have been used to obtain positive support from administration. Technology


The focus in terms of the technological architecture at this stage was still on implementing front-end technologies,  that is to say those technologies that support the user-computer interface. This allowed a rapid start with networked education at Wellington Polytechnic without having to set up a complicated and costly technological architecture. Acquiring back-end technologies such as database generation of HTML pages had to be postponed owing to limited staff resources in managing and maintaining these technologies. However, the technologies in the virtual class generally are most flexible, for example HTML, which allows for the back-end technologies to be introduced at a later stage. Focusing on the implementation of front-end technologies at this stage, therefore, appeared to be a good initial strategy to rapidly implement networked education.  The need for a relational or object-oriented multi-media database was, however, identified during cycle 2 for managing the elements of a networked course.


5.3.2    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?) and describes the “Management Processes” element within the MIT90 schema (see Figure 1.3).


In cycle 2 the author started investigating appropriate administrative processes for networked education in preparation for commercial networked education planned in the next cycle. Enrolments in conventional education (where physical structures are used) enforce a strict regime where students and administrative staff need to be at certain times and specific places - the virtual class removes these barriers and allows flexible enrolment. This may cause difficulties for conventional administrative procedures, related computer systems and academic work processes. Anywhere/anytime enrolment might be technically possible within the virtual class, but it might not be feasible to implement it in a totally open way because of the complexities it creates. However, the potential openness in the enrolment processes and procedures that the virtual class allows needs to be exploited. Some courses, where group work is not essential, could be offered on a continual, flexible basis.


On-line applications and enrolments that use the asynchronous possibilities of the virtual class can remove the typical bottlenecks that occur during enrolment time at most conventional tertiary education institutes. Students can provide the necessary details in a secure on-line environment and have it electronically verified for completeness and correctness. A single page that constitutes the contractual arrangement between the institute and the student and that carries the student's signature, could be faxed or posted to the institute.     


Boone (1985:130) indicates that instructional design "…involves translating the identified and analysed learning needs of target publics into meaningful and cogent designs and developing effective teaching-learning strategies for their implementation". Although instructional design deals with "…how to make instruction work as well as possible with the tools at hand" (Mager, 1988:1), the reality in conventional tertiary education is that instructional design often does not deal with graphic design or ICT design. In networked education, however, instructional design in practice generally also includes graphic design as well as ICT design. Therefore the scope of instructional design in practice in the virtual class is wider and hence different from conventional education practice.


The virtual class brings a new flexibility to learning through its asynchronous components that include the use of the WWW or intranets, electronic mail and message boards. Students can study at their own choice of pace, place and time but also have the advantage of synchronous communication activities when required.


The virtual class environment enables students to be in charge of managing their own learning. In networked education the student may have the materials on-line, have hyperlinks to Websites for further research, can communicate with other students in the course as well as communicate on-line with students and lecturers in other locations - be it nationally or internationally. Correlating to this greater autonomy of the student, is a change in the role of the teacher in networked education from being an instructor to being more of a facilitator (Mason, 1999). Thompson (1997:2) challenges teachers to expand their intellectual and professional horizons in the virtual class environment:

Professional development, particularly those activities intended to introduce instructors to distance teaching, should not only train participants in the use of educational technology, but also encourage participants to reflectively view distance education as part of a larger educational vision. In the current educational environment this vision must include a commitment to the process of non-traditional instruction, sensitivity to the unique needs and challenges of a variety of distance learner populations, and readiness to expand one's intellectual and professional horizons beyond past practices and individual institutions.


One of the significant differences between conventional education (whether it is distance or on-campus education) and networked education seems to be the connectivity that networked education facilitates by bridging the boundaries of both space and time. The HYDI team initially used the term distributed on-line education to capture this characteristic of virtual class education; the author later started to use the term networked education to highlight this aspect even more. It connects or networks student and student, teacher and student, student and resource, teacher and resource, past and present independent of geographical position or time differentials. Managing this connectivity is an important difference between the management of the conventional class and the virtual class. Hawkridge (1995:8) contends that "the greatest difference, however, between the old and new media is their capacities to sustain two-way communication that aids learning”. On the class level, there is a new relationship between student and lecturer. In the conventional class, the teacher often has a one-to-many relationship with the students, which is based on the conventional teaching model as well as on convenience for the students. Students in a course will often relate with the academic community solely via the convenor of the course when seeking clarification, feedback, additional instruction or wish to challenge ideas. The on-line student, however, is  " longer confined to our campus and its teachers and students and activities" (Tiffin, 1996a November:2). The student now has various teachers accessible by e-mail and they may be geographically located anywhere in the world. This was vividly illustrated when the author wanted to clarify an aspect of Roger's (1983) diffusion of innovation theory and was able to use electronic mail to contact Everett Rogers personally and received clarification within 24 hours through a reply electronic mail (Rogers, E. Re: Top-down approach Everett Rogers <>, 10 July 1998). The student in the virtual class, through an extended group of teachers in networked education, may therefore be more challenging in discussions and also more knowledgeable than the conventional student. Furthermore, lecturers might have to deal with a new relationship with their students, which is not one-to-many but one-of-many.


Networked education enables the instructional designer to consider the individuality of every student by catering for different learning styles, ways of navigating a course as well as individualised presentation. This provision increases the possibilities for students to manage their own learning. Mediated individualised instruction is an appropriate educational goal (Romiszowski, 1984) and extends the provision for different learning styles and different ways of navigating through a course to true adaptive hypermedia systems where personalised presentation can occur (Brusilovsky, 1996). Carver, Howard and Lavelle (1996, June:121) provides an example of adaptive hypermedia based on learning styles:

Students determine their learning style by answering a series of twenty-eight questions. Based on the student's responses, a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) executable calculates each student's individual learning style, stores this student profile as a file on a WWW server, and associates it with the user's login. When the student logs in to begin a lesson, the student is given the option of exploring the course material according to their learning style...


Using a constructivist approach also adds to the centrality of the learner in the virtual class. It gives pre-eminence to the learner since it is argued that as knowledge is socially and culturally constructed by the individual, it is the learners who need to construct knowledge for themselves. Landow (1992) asserts that hypermedia systems should be seen as learning rather than teaching systems since these systems strongly facilitate the use of a constructivist approach in instructional design.


5.4     Conclusion


The implementation of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic moved closer to being able to offer networked education, but this innovation was still being primarily located within the Educational Development Department. Notwithstanding the support of the President, the lack of general ownership of the vision for networked education at Wellington Polytechnic among senior and middle management as well as the cultural and political complexities that this innovation experienced, contributed to this position.


The action research findings of cycle 2 are documented in 5.3.1 and 5.3.2 above.


The implementation process during cycle 2 highlighted and confirmed a number of heuristics for managing the implementation of the virtual class in conventional tertiary education and also pointed to more features of virtual class management (as described in 5.3.1 and 5.3.2 above).


The overall objective for this action research cycle was to manage the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure at Wellington Polytechnic from the preliminary pilot stage to the infrastructure required by the institute in order to offer networked education through the following strategies:

5.4.1        the promotional activities which focussed on the “early adopters”, the Educational Development Department, by developing the first networked course was successful  and full ownership of this course was achieved

5.4.2        the  visibility and ownership of virtual class concepts among senior and middle managers was still very limited

5.4.3        a stable, albeit basic, technological architecture for the virtual class had been  developed

5.4.4    only limited administrative services were implemented because the sampler course was a free course and not intended for student enrolment

5.4.5        a basic marketing strategy was established and implemented

5.4.6        appropriate organisational structures were explored and recommendations were made for the implementation thereof

5.4.7    new links with institutions, organisations and individuals already implementing t   he virtual class were forged and established contacts were maintained.


It became evident that the implications for managing the operations of the virtual class in conventional tertiary education were extensive and pointed to significant differences between conventional management of tertiary education and management of networked education.


A second order question that emerged was whether conventional tertiary education could adapt its management approaches and processes to the extent that is required to effectively use networked education. This would be further explored in subsequent cycles.  


This concluded the second of four cycles of this action research.


As indicated before, the action research had to progress to the point of fee-paying students enrolling and participating in networked courses at Wellington Polytechnic in order to address the two research questions. The sampler networked course was not intended to attract any fees and during cycle 2 no students participated in this course.


In the next action research cycle that occurred from January to December 1997, the plan was to develop and deliver the first commercial networked courses and to establish the HYDI project as an integral part of the organisational structure. Through these strategies it was envisaged that more would be learned about managing the implementation of the virtual class in conventional tertiary education, and that more features of virtual class management would be identified.