MANAGING THE OPERATIONS OF THE VIRTUAL CLASS: NETWORKED EDUCATIONAL MANAGEMENT
In Chapter 8 the findings relating to the first research question, "How does one manage the implementation of the virtual class infrastructure in conventional tertiary education?" were presented.
In Chapter 9 the findings related to the second research question "How does one manage the operations of the virtual class?" are reported. The research findings address the element “Management Processes” within the MIT90 schema (see Figure 1.3).
In Chapter 9 the author tentatively proposes a new educational management paradigm for managing the operations of virtual class: networked educational management (see Figure 9.1). The twelve dimensions of networked educational management can be seen as the essential characteristics for managing the operations of the virtual class.
These dimensions are a synthesis of the characteristics of managing the operations of the virtual class as reported in the four research cycles (4.3.2, 5.3.2, 6.3.2 and 7.3.2). The discussion in this Chapter relates these characteristics to the theoretical underpinnings of this research.
The term networked educational management is
chosen since a central aspect of education in the virtual class and the
management of such education seems to be the connectivity or networking
that it facilitates across the boundaries of space and time. This term
correlates with “network management” (Limerick and Cunningham:1993)
and terms that authors like Tapscott (1996)
("internetworked organisation"), Beare and Slaughter (1993)
(“network organisation”), ”
Networked educational management is proposed as an integrated management system for the operations of the virtual class. The networking dimension is therefore central to networked educational management as it also functions to connect all the other dimensions (Figure 9.1). The integrated approach is based on the premise in systems theory that “a system is a whole that cannot be taken apart without loss of its essential characteristics, and hence must be studied as a whole” (Ackhoff, 1972:40). It also relates to Michael Porter's emphasis on integration in order to achieve competitive advantage in organisations (Pastore, 1995, October 1).
Twelve dimensions of networked educational management are described below:
9.2 Student focussed
9.6 Transcending time
9.1 Market orientation
9.2 Computer mediation
9.11 Boundary orientation
9.12 Information based.
Networked educational management postulates that a distributed model of management is appropriate for networked education at both learning and institutional level. Networking is therefore regarded as the central premise of networked educational management. The distributed nature of networked educational management is based on the new connectivity within networked education, the distribution of learning and control, the distributed nature of the Internet and intranets, and the globalisation of education.
9.1.1 Networked management of learning
Managing the connectivity that networked education facilitates, is a key difference between managing the conventional class and managing the operations of the virtual class and hence calls for a distributed management in the virtual class. One of the most significant differences between conventional education (whether it is correspondence or on-campus) and networked education seems to be the connectivity that networked education facilitates. It bridges the boundaries of both space and time. It connects or networks student and student, teacher and student, student and resource, teacher and resource, past and present, independent of geographical or time differences.
This connectivity within networked education and its management links to Nipper’s (1989:64) concept of “third generation distance education”, in which the essence is “interactive communication facilities”. Nipper contrasts this connectivity with low interaction among students and teachers in the first generation “correspondence teaching” (Holmberg, 1995:3) and second generation “multi-media distance teaching”. Hawkridge (1995:8) contends that “the greatest difference… between the old and new media is their capacities to sustain two-way communication that aids learning”.
On-line communications advance networking among students and teachers, which Hodgson, Mann and Snell (1987) refer to as “expert networking”. Networked courses can provide both synchronous and asynchronous on-line communication facilities. On-line video and voice conferencing, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), shared whiteboard facilities and other real-time interactive applications are being explored in education and commerce, while asynchronous facilities like electronic mail and hypermail threaded message boards are commonly used in networked education. Part of networked educational management is managing the new dynamics of communication in a virtual environment (Gundry and Metes, 1997).
Control of the learning and the actual on-line learning and teaching materials are distributed among both local and distance students, using the same interface (that is to say a Web browser) because of the convergence of learning modes that traditionally have been called “distance education” and “on-campus education” through networked education. This convergence is described below (see 9.10) and imply that the management of learning is no longer linked to physical locality (on-campus or off-campus), but distributed to study networks comprising local, distance, national and international students that operate as virtual teams (Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1998; Lipnack and Stamps, 1997).
9.1.2 Networked management of the institute
The management model at institutional level in conventional tertiary education is one of tension between a centralised administrative approach and a decentralised academic approach in which the centralised, bureaucratic (Garrison, 1989; Paul, 1990) and hierarchical dimensions (Middlehurst, 1993) seem to be uppermost. Conventional tertiary education has been highly stagnant in its practice and perception of management and seems to be highly resistant to change in this domain (Patterson, 1997; Trow, 1996).
Conventional management of tertiary education struggles with the desperate need to reform its management because of the external environment, but is often ineffective in its endeavours because of this internal tension. Against this background, Cohen and March (1974) depict the modern university in the extreme as an organised anarchy.
Networked educational management proposes less centralised control in line with private enterprise, which has been transformed to greater decentralization and less bureaucratic management approaches (Drucker, 1998) in order to respond more effectively to change (Beare and Slaughter, 1993).
There is a real challenge to create a congruity between centralised and decentralised management aspirations in tertiary education (Bates, 2000; Paul, 1990). A similar tension within the organisation of information systems activities has been transcended by the use of distributed networks like intranets and the Internet. Organisations initially used (and, where appropriate, today still use) a centralised approach (based on mainframes) that focused on centralised control and economies of scale, but did not address the local needs of users and departments effectively (Schultheis and Sumner, 1989:565). Decentralised approaches (where appropriate, such as home users, still in use today) then followed (facilitated by personal computers) in which local control and processing were pre-eminent, but created inefficiencies and incompatibility with the central standards and philosophies (Schultheis and Sumner, 1989:568). The solution was distributed processing (through networks like intranets and the Internet), used “to distribute some data processing activities to users, but to maintain centralized control over other activities… (this) means that both computer power and the data can be distributed to local user sites... can also mean distributing responsibility for other computing activities to the user ” (Gibson and Hughes, 1994:558; Schultheis and Sumner, 1989:569). The same applies to communication systems where the use of distributed networks like intranets and the Internet created a distributed communications model. In the oral traditions before Guttenberg's press of 1452, a centralised model of communication was most feasible. The text tradition, which followed the revolution that the printing press caused, brought with it the decentralisation of communication through paper distribution (Innis, 1972). The intranet and the Internet, however, facilitate communications from any locality and distributes the control of the communications throughout the network (for example, electronic mail can be sent by anybody to anybody else connected to the network within an institute or globally). The Internet creates a global distributed communications model while intranets create an institutionally distributed communications model.
Networked educational management emulates the distributed networked systems it is based on. The management style reflects the distributed nature of the systems in and through which it operates. Paul (1990) argues for this congruity when stating that an institution that is dedicated to the values and practice of open learning needs to have a management style that is open. Networked educational management will thus be based on a clear set of guiding principles which forms the basis for all decision making at all levels, while using and encouraging delegation widely to distribute power and authority (Paul, 1990).
Networked educational management further aligns itself with Luke’s (1997:2) notion of ‘net work” as “the new kind of intellectual and institutional labour needed to transform the existing national/ industrial/ traditional university into an informational operation with new transnational/ postindustrial/ innovative capabilities ”.
The globalisation of education may furthermore necessitate collaboration and partnerships. These partnerships can exist to ensure the local support of distance students in networked education, to address accreditation and certification issues (see Chapter 8) or for more effective participation in networked education. Institutes might therefore find themselves physically or logically distributed through partnerships and collaboration with other national and international institutes. This calls for a distributed management system in education: networked educational management. Networked educational management is a response to the need identified by (Morrison, 1995) to interact on "learning highways" across all borders.
Networked educational management has its control, power and resources thus distributed throughout the organisation. The ICT base of networked educational management facilitates an organisational model that moves away from centralised control. The decentralisation of control aligns itself to the view of Bates (1984a), Garrison (1989) and Peters (1993) that new technologies offer the possibility of an alternative model to the large, centralised and specialised distance education system in the post-industrial society.
Networked educational management contends that a distributed model of management of conventional tertiary education is appropriate for networked education, which is based on the Internet or intranets. Networked educational management links with the distributed emphasis of “open management”, being energised by value-driven leadership, as proposed by Paul (1990) and with the distributed models both in information systems activities and communications. Networked educational management aligns itself to the newer forms of distance education that Rumble (1992) describes as a highly distributed system.
Networked educational management further conforms to two of the ten major transformations (or megatrends) in society identified by Naisbitt (1982), namely a transformation from centralisation to decentralisation (in effect distribution) and from hierarchies to networking. Networked educational management links through its distributed nature to the idea of the new organisation that empoweres individuals to manage their own networking towards a common objective (Limerick and Cunningham, 1993).
In contrast to a mechanistic control process, networked educational management has an organic control process (Burns and Stalker, 1961) in which “knowledge and control of tasks are located anywhere in the organization” (Daft, 1989:1). Networked educational management aligns with an organic control structure in which the employees contribute to the tasks of the department, tasks are altered and redefined through the interactions of employees and there is less hierarchy of authority and relevant control. In an organic control structure there are also few rules, while knowledge and control of tasks are distributed throughout the organization and communication is predominantly horizontal (Daft, 1989). Learning organisations (Marquardt, 1996:1) similarly “make greater organizational use of employees at all levels of the organisation”. Networked educational management will ensure conformity to central principles and values and simultaneously encourage diversity. Active progression towards the virtual class opens an institute to the impact of the distributed nature of the new educational technologies (specifically the Internet and intranets). Networked educational management encourages the distribution of objectives, control, power and resources throughout the institute, and indeed among its students (see 9.2 below).
Networked educational management being based on a distributed model, can therefore ensure conformity to central principles and standards while simultaneously encouraging diversity and thus transcends the tension between the centralised administrative management and decentralised academic management approaches. Instead of bureaucracy and anarchy, networked educational management may contribute in a philosophical way to harmony within tertiary education.
The organisational structure which could embody the notion of networking is one in which centralised and decentralised management need to be integrated (Bates, 2000). Networked educational management could find expression in an organisational model as described by Bates where a fairly large professional center work with small flexible units of technical support and generalist educational technology support within each faculty (or school).
Networked educational management can further enable tertiary education to use a “network structure” which is used in private enterprise to outsource some or part of its essential functions (Drucker, 1995; Robbins and Barnwell, 1998). Teaching can be outsourced in networked education to teachers who may be anywhere in the world. Administration can be outsourced to external organisations that process for instance on-line enrolments, assessments, student records and computer systems. Research aspects can be outsourced through international collaboration (see 9.9 below). The control of learning is essentially “outsourced” or distributed to the students in networked education due to their central role described below.
9.2 Student Focussed
The shift in networked education from a national to a global educational focus (see 9.3 below) has created a controlling position for the student in the virtual class. The global reach of networked education, the distributed nature of the Internet, the increase in private enterprise participation and the growth of transnational educational collaboration shift the focus of education away from the nation state. In this paradigmatic shift the focus and control transfers to the student who can select from various international offerings, access Websites and people across cultural, national and philosophical boundaries, while constructing their own learning and meaning through a constructivist educational approach (Mason, 1998:157).
The global nature of the virtual class gives students a new, extensive
choice of locally and internationally offered courses. Networked
education makes it technically possible for students to engage in networked
courses from different institutes of their choice in order to gain a
qualification. This calls for increased critical
analysis skills of students to make the appropriate choice as well as for
transnational accreditation and certification (see 9.11 below). The
student now has various teachers accessible by e-mail and they may be
geographically located anywhere in the world (
The learners in the virtual class have the ability to access other students, lecturers and resources globally (Tiffin, 1997 April). The virtual class through the use of educational technologies like the Internet, which is a global (Wizards, 1997) and expanding phenomena (Internet Software Consortium, 1999b), bridges national borders and occurs in a “space” which is accessible from anywhere in the world where access to the Internet is possible (Uys, 1998 April). This means that anybody in the world with a telephone connection can access the Internet (even though it might mean making an international call).
Networked educational management has to deal with the student in the controlling position since networked education is based on ICT which per se has the potential to provide more control to the student (Garrison, 1989; Bates, 1994). Peters (1993:43) points to an assumption of management in a post-industrial society in which control will occur through “employee self-control”, which he interprets as referring to the student. Peters (1993:52) postulates that learners could well “…insist on determining themselves what and how to learn” which is increasingly common in networked education.
Networked education further enables the instructional designer to
consider the individuality of every student by catering for different learning
styles, different ways of navigating a course and individualised presentation
through adaptive hypermedia systems (Brusilovsky, 1996). The constructivist
approach has been propagated as a fitting approach in networked education. The central
tenet of the constructivist approach is that "…the world is constructed by the individual" (Boyle, 1996 June:751).
Constructivism is a philosophical approach in which it is argued that since
knowledge is socially and culturally constructed (
In networked education on-line publishing is extremely easy. Students in networked education, in contrast to the conventional student, can with ease be on-line providers and publishers themselves by using facilities like hypermail threaded discussion boards, on-line journals and newsgroups (Uys, 1997b June). The student in networked education can further study at their own choice of pace, place and time and may enrol on-line using "anywhere - any time" enrolment (as discussed above).
The central role of the student correlates with the new role of the teacher as facilitator in networked education (discussed in Chapter 8). Zepke (1998:179) states that “…the teacher’s role is a limited one… the role includes - facilitating students learning by communicating and empathising with them; structuring knowledge and arranging a reasonable workload; helping students develop, change and critique their own learning structures”. In networked educational management the student is in control.
In this regard networked educational management could be seen as linking to a “network structure” (Robbins and Barnwell, 1998) in which the control of learning is essentially “outsourced” or distributed to the student based on the principles and facilitated by the processes described above.
The global nature of the virtual class is possible because the new
educational technologies, in particular the Internet, facilitate and lead
naturally to the globalisation of education
Networked education has an integral distance education component and
links therefore to the globalisation possibilities in education, which distance
education per se makes possible
(Evans and Nation, 1993). The rationale for global courses could be for
educational institutes to extend its market particularly into developing
nations (Evans and Nation, 1993) or socio-political, technological and
purely educational grounds (Mason, 1998). Globalisation
is also seen as a generic feature of later modernity (Evans and Nation, 1993)
which is occurring in many areas like the
economy (Holland, 1987; Tapscott, 1999) and communications (
Networked education has a strong global disposition also because it is information-based (Drucker, 1989). The global nature of the virtual class means that institutes in tertiary education can project themselves into a global educational market of providers and students which places new demands on management.
It is therefore important for each conventional tertiary educational institute, besides considering participating in networked education, to employ appropriate strategies to survive and prosper. Conventional tertiary education might provide personalised attention through smaller groups, excellent social interaction possibilities on campus, focusing on addressing the needs of the local work-market, addressing the specifics of the local culture, as well as increasing the quality of their education and building a reputation for excellence in target areas. These strategies could be built into the organisation's long term objectives. Institutes participating in the virtual class might further need to focus on establishing a specific niche in the international educational market.
Networked educational management through its global nature also addresses the management of relationships with collaboration and consortium partners (see 9.9 below). It also address the new competitive international educational market since competition can come from everywhere in the digital economy (Tapscott, 1996).
Networked educational management therefore also needs to authentically address cultural differences in an international educational market and arena (see 9.7 below).
Control is an integral part of management (Newman, Warren, McGill, 1987) that is hugely impacted by the transitory nature of the operations of the virtual class. Networked educational management acknowledges a decrease in control, more uncertainty and therefore an increased in risk in the management of digitised education (Tapscott, 1996).
The central position of the student as described above (under 9.2) and the changing nature of the student body contributes to an uncontrollability of huge proportions, which challenges the essence of conventional educational management and have to be addressed in networked educational management. The virtual class is unbound in space and time - networked education allows the student to study any time and anywhere. Networked education provides students with the flexibility of studying at their own pace and also at their choice of place. Networked education further allows students to either study independently in a more flexible mode or as part of a group in a more structured manner.
The transitory nature of networked educational management is linked to both the transitory nature of the technological environment and that of the change process. The environment in which networked education in tertiary education occurs at the beginning of the new millennium has been described as exceptionally dynamic and volatile (Tapscott, 1996). The introduction of computers in education is seen in revolutionary terms by some (Drucker, 1989). Even the nature of the change process from conventional to networked education itself is not stable (Morrison, 1995).
The global dimension of networked educational management furthermore increases the boundaries of the institutes using networked education and exposes them to be impacted by more factors and influences from a turbulent international environment. The boundaries of the networked educational organisation (see 9.11 below) are also becoming wider and more fluid.
In the emerging information or knowledge society, education has to further contend with an exponential growth of the amount of new information available for use by organisations, governments, and businesses and people (Nugent, 1996). The growth in the Internet continues to be exponential (see Figure 1.1) while there are furthermore sustained, revolutionary changes in the ICT that undergird networked education (Bates, 1995:45; Szabo et al., 1997). In the increasingly digitised environment of networked education, networked educational management needs to allow for less control and more risk-taking (Tapscott, 1996).
Networked educational management takes cognisance of the immediacy of information that is one of the themes of the new economy. Tapscott (1996) refers to information immediacy as a critical factor in establishing the transitory nature of the new enterprise as a real time enterprise. Networked educational management thus facilitates the operations of a real time tertiary educational institute.
Web-based materials are further especially fluid due to the ease of publication and the state of continuity of Web-based materials as demonstrated by Farrell (1999:2) "Due to the nature of the World Wide Web and the re-structuring of home pages by Web masters, the addresses might change by the time readers try to access the referenced sites". Lennon and Maurer (1996, June) emphasised the importance of managing the hyperlinks embedded in on-line materials and pointed to the use of specialised software to automate this process. In networked education the materials and teaching process is in a state of continuity in contrast to the state of discontinuity of materials in conventional tertiary education. Once a course is on the WWW, it remains available and no special arrangements are needed to keep it continually available - special arrangements however have to be made to discontinue its availability. Effectively managing the discontinuity of on-line materials is necessary to meet student expectations and provide ongoing support, and in so doing avoiding that the institute comes in disrepute. The virtual class thus needs special approaches to ensure a seamless discontinuity like de-registering the materials with the search engines and guides, replacing the course materials with clear notices to that effect or contacting those whom the institute know have bookmarked the materials.
The dynamic nature of on-line materials require tight change control systems in networked educational management while at the same time addressing the flexibility of on-line materials that can be changed continuously and immediately. This is different from using other publishing mediums like paper or CD-ROM. The distributed nature of networked educational management can address this tension (as described in 9.1 above).
The turbulent and dynamic internal and external environment described above calls for networked educational management to be highly adaptive. It connects to the concept of learning organisations (Marquardt, 1996) in which management needs to be highly adaptive. Networked educational management is organised along a flat hierarchy and is seamless and boundaryless like learning organisations (Marquardt, 1996). Esquer and Sheremetov (1999, July) further points to a consensus that successful universities of the future will be those that operate with high flexibility.
The team approach in course development in networked education (described in chapter 8) also leads to high level of flexibility in networked educational management regarding project management and collaborative approaches (Daniel, 1998).
There is also a strong requirement for flexibility within the software and hardware for developing on-line materials itself due to the inherent flexibility of web based materials (see 9.4 above). Management of networked education also needs to be flexible in the approach to acquiring and discarding ICT in order to grow with the continuing developments in the undergirding ICT.
An adaptive approach is also required in managing the learning environment through instructional design. Adaptive hypermedia systems achieve personalised presentation (Brusilovsky, 1996). 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.
On-line enrolment and Web-based study makes "anywhere - any time" enrolment technologically possible, but it might not be feasible to implement it in a totally open way due to the complexities it create for administration (see Chapter 8). The potential openness in the enrolment processes and procedures that the virtual class allows need to be exploited.
JIT teaching (see 9.6 below), that is teaching that can change rapidly and immediately based on the needs of students and is available when students need it (Tiffin and Rajasingham, 1995; Marquard, 1996; Mason, 1998) calls for the management of teaching to be particularly adaptive.
The factors above point to a high level of adaptability that is required in networked educational management in relation to the administrative, academic and technological management of the virtual class. Peters (1988) believes that the modern business organisation needs to be far more decentralised and responsive due to the more unpredictable and competitive environment; this is also applicable to the management of an educational organisation that embraces networked education.
9.6 Transcending Time
This dimension of networked educational management deals with the immediacy of networked education, the impact of the adaptability of networked educational management (see 9.5) on time, and the ability of networked education to transcend time through the asynchronous components of networked education.
Networked educational management deals with an immediacy that Tapscott (1996) identifies as one of the themes of the new economy. This is also the case in networked education as Web based materials (be it on the Internet of intranet) can be updated continually and immediately. Just as immediacy within enterprises facilitates just-in-time (JIT) shipping and manufacturing (Tapscott, 1996:63), it leads in networked education to JIT teaching - teaching that can change rapidly and immediately based on the needs of students and is available when students need it (Tiffin and Rajasingham, 1995; Marquard, 1996; Mason, 1998). This can be managed manually or in conjunction with adaptive teaching systems (Brusilovsky, 1996 June; Carver, Howard and Lavelle, 1996 June)
Networked educational management addresses the immediacy of resources and people in networked education. A hyperlink to a source on the Internet or an intranet provides an immediacy that is not possible in conventional education. Hyperlinks provide seamless transfer to pages within the networked course as well as to global information sources on the Internet. The practice in networked education to provide links to electronic mail addresses or discussion groups across time zones leads to the sense of the immediacy of people. Adding to this immediacy are programs like ICQ (2000) and Yahoo Messenger (2000) which can indicate when other members of an on-line discussion group access the Internet.
Flexibility is prevalent in the virtual class also through the ability of students to study at their own choice of pace and time and also has the advantage of synchronous communication activities when required. The virtual class further facilitates the option for students to either study independently in a more flexible mode or as part of a group in a more time-constrained manner.
On-line enrolment and Web-based study makes "anywhere - any time" enrolment technologically possible (as discussed above) and in this way transcends the time factor in the enrolment process. This flexibility challenges the control emphasis of administrative systems. Efficient administrative management that caters for this flexibility might be achieved through using grouping and pacing. Students define their study goals at enrolment. When studying to obtain a formal qualification a more structured approach can be followed but when studying for professional development only, a more flexible approach can be employed. Students might also enrol in a course that has been specifically designed in conjunction with a specific sector of industry in which case the industry dictates the structure of the course. Students can then be grouped based on their purpose of study and their progress monitored against their stated goal, while following the related administrative processes. While the learner might need to be closer to the centre of the educational formula, the other necessary factors to make the formula work like effective administration, must be appreciated and taken into account when managing networked education.
9.7 Market Orientation
orientation in networked educational management is required because of dramatic
changes in the competitive nature of the tertiary educational market, and also
because of the changing nature of the student body. Networked education needs
to match the needs of an information society (
Drucker (1985) asserts that innovation needs to be focused on the market and driven by the market. This also needs to be the case with the management of networked education as an educational innovation.
Entrepreneurship is no longer the domain of private enterprise but critical to ensure the validity of conventional tertiary education. Drucker (1985) maintains that the development of the modern university is a case study in entrepreneurship. Networked educational management therefore incorporates entrepreneurship.
Tapscott (1996) contends that in the digital environment, competition comes from everywhere. This seems also the case in tertiary education where any institute in the world using networked education becomes a potential competitor in the local educational market. The extent of collaboration as described (see Chapter 2) further points to the requirement in market orientation in educational management.
The virtual class further seems to be an enabling factor in the increasing proximity between industry, entertainment and education that impact on long term strategies of growth and survival of conventional tertiary education. Tapscott (1996) notes convergence as one of the themes of the new economy. He holds that new media is the dominant sector in the new economy, which are formed through the integration of computing, communications, and content industries such as tertiary education. This change could have extensive organizational, economic and cultural effects on post-compulsory education (Evans and Nation, 1993).
Universities are emerging (Drucker,
1989) for example
Management within networked tertiary education will increasingly have to take the principles of adult education (andragogy) into account. Drucker (1989) identifies continuing education as a new requirement for education in the knowledge society (p. 243). Education is becoming more of a lifelong endeavour than a few years stint after school. Spender (1996b, September) asserts that the whole society is becoming the student body and many in this extended student body will be drawn to the open and flexible nature of networked education.
The market orientation of networked educational management implies that entering international educational markets where English is not the first language when networked courses are in English, needs to be addressed. Providing assistance to non-native English speakers - ideally on-line - needs to be integrated in networked education. If not, the translation of courses and presentation through adaptive hypermedia systems need to be considered.
Networked educational management is embedded within the (internal) culture of an educational organisation (Drucker, 1998). Networked education however exposes both teacher and student to inter-cultural exchanges in Internet based learning communities that could impact on the unity of an organization (Gundry and Metes, 1997).
Cultural sensitivity and alignment need to go beyond mere language translation. Woodhouse (1999) points out that education is not culturally neutral. In the virtual class with its global character, the importance of culture as a significant determinant in how students desire to learn, how the content should be structured and how the learning experience should be facilitated must be appreciated in the management of the virtual class. Students may choose to study close to home because of convenience or physical security factors, but culture may also contribute to this choice. Dealing with foreign cultures needs to be managed with care and requires teachers to have knowledge about cultural differences and sensitivities for these differences. This can be easily overlooked in networked education where communications often exclude clues to the culture of the communicators like pronunciation, moral values, and physical appearance.
Offering courses globally has implications for the pricing of these courses since conventional tertiary education is often subsidised by government and therefore differentiates between fees for local students and those outside its geographical area. In the virtual class the fee structure however needs to take the local target market of the student into account in order to be competitive in that specific market - networked education therefore calls for differential pricing.
Managing networked education therefore needs to be relevant to the market in which the trends, threats of competitors and the needs of students are paramount.
9.8 Computer Mediation
In embracing networked education, an organisation also embraces the ubiquitous use of ICT, as networked education is the expression of the virtual class when teacher, learner, problem and knowledge interact through Internet and intranet based technologies. Networked educational management therefore is highly computer mediated.
In a systems based approach, using the MIT90 schema (see figure 1.3), the computer-mediated nature of networked educational management impacts on strategy, roles and skills of individuals, management processes and organizational structure. In this environment the management in all its fractal dimensions will be largely computer enabled for instance through electronic communications, reporting, tasking and delegation, project management and class management. The reality in conventional tertiary education is that instructional design often excludes graphic design and ICT design. In networked education however, instructional design in practice generally also includes graphic design as well as ICT design. The scope of instructional design in practice therefore in the virtual class is wider and thus different from the practice in conventional education. The ubiquitous use of ICT in institutes which uses networked education extensively, thus requires higher levels of computer and information literacy of academic an administrative staff as well as their students.
Widespread participation by on-campus students in networked education could naturally increase the demand for access to on-campus ICT. The convergence of traditional on-campus education and distance education could therefore require a decrease in spending on lecture theatres and an increase in spending on extending computer facilities like computer laboratories and the availability of intranet access in more public areas like libraries
extensive set of technologies, which have become transparent through their
ubiquitous integration into every-day life and through our frequent use,
constitutes the infrastructure of conventional on-campus or distance education.
The technologies and systems necessary for instance for a typical conventional
lecture include transport, media, electricity, air conditioning, buildings,
ducting, clothing, food preparation, piping, waste systems and so forth. The
virtual class also requires an extensive infrastructure that parallels that of
the conventional class but are constructed digitally (
A specific management issue in the planning of the computer-user interaction is to take ergonomics of the physical interface and the equipment used to interact with the ICT into account. It is necessary for both the teacher and the student in networked education to manage this aspect of the computer-user interaction in order to avoid the possibility of repetitive strain injuries (RSI) - also called operational overuse syndrome (OOS). The institute has a responsibility to create awareness and to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to both the teacher and the student in networked education to manage the computer-user interaction appropriately.
Computer mediated collaboration in networked education has become widespread (Bates, 1993b). A new requirement for management in the information or knowledge society is managing the dynamics of communication in a virtual environment (Gundry and Metes, 1997). Tapscott (1996:55) highlights networking and collaboration as a vital modern management issue. Networked educational management therefore needs to include the particular challenges in the management of computer mediated collaboration such as dealing with anonymity, authenticity and the lack of traditional communication clues.
Networked educational management for technology managers incorporates the phenomena that some people when they don’t have the skills to work effectively online, may blame the technology (Gundry and Metes, 1997). Technology managers need to be able to point to available training opportunities and support mechanisms for mastering the new ICT (as discussed in Chapter 8).
education uses the tools of the emerging information or knowledge society as
the educational tools. At this stage these tools are however not only in its
infancy and undergoing revolutionary changes, but the full complement of what
is required is not fully established. In the current phase of networked
education, there are often realisations of totally new technologies needed (
Networked educational management therefore strategically manages ICT as essential, critical elements of networked education. Michael Porter (Pastore, 1995, October 1) points out that the best way to think about ICT is not as a separate entity, but as integral to what makes a company unique in all its activities.
Collaboration is central to many dimensions of networked educational management. Collaboration among institutes is due to the pressure of increased competition through the wider global reach of networked education. It is founded on the networking dimension and relates to its boundary orientation in that institutional and transnational boundaries are transcended through increased collaboration.
Tapscott (1996) points to collaboration and networking as central management issues also applicable in education. It is becoming common for conventional tertiary educational institutes that wish to progress along the path of networked education to link up with others working in this field and correlates with one of Fullan’s (1991) six themes of educational change namely to establish alliances. Many universities and colleges are indeed positioning themselves for effective participation in distance and particularly networked education through collaborations on institutional level as in Universitas 21 (1999), ECIU (1999), NUDC (1999), CENIC (1999), ADEC (1999) and METEOR (Indramalar, 1999 April 23). This seems to confirm Michael Porter's emphasis on clustering within competitive industries (Caulkin, 1990).
The collaboration is however no longer exclusively that of educational institutes. It could include private enterprise, entertainment industry players and other (Evans and Nation, 1993). Networked educational management, being based on ICT, would have to contest with an openness of huge proportion (Garrison, 1989). This openness increases collaboration opportunities with other institutes and could lead to large learning systems that could well be a network of institutions (Forsythe, 1984).
Through collaboration, networked educational management links to the form of organisational design called a “network structure” in which outsourcing is used extensively (Robbins and Barnwell, 1998). Drucker (1995:68) identifies outsourcing as a central example of managing in what he calls the “networked society”. Essential educational processes can be outsourced (as described above) through wide collaboration with other institutes facilitated by the Internet and other digital technologies.
The possibilities and ease of student collaboration are also enhanced through synchronous and asynchronous on-line communications that lead to increased connectivity. Electronic mail, CHAT, hypermail threaded message boards and the like provide opportunities for students to collaborate in cost-effective ways with each other and others external to the student body. Hodgson, Mann and Snell (1987) refer to student and teacher collaboration as “expert networking”. Through the new technologies discoveries can be shared, as well as developments and reference materials.
Collaboration furthermore pertains to instructional design for networked education where a team orientation is prevalent in development. The research indicated that a multi-disciplinary team is required in the design and development of networked education because of the need for educational, graphic design and communication and information technology perspectives. This is in contrast to instructional design in conventional tertiary education that is often a solo activity of an individual lecturer (discussed in Chapter 8).
The team-concept is one that is proposed in a more generic sense in private enterprise by Peters (1988), Drucker (1998), Hayes and Watts (1986) and Tapscott (1996). The learning and development teams in networked education however display the characteristics of a virtual team; that is a group of people working towards a common goal in a computer-enabled environment where they are removed from each other in physical space (and often in time). Therefore understanding how a virtual team operates is necessary in managing the on-line learning of students and the development of networked education.
Collaboration and exchanges with others in the field nationally and internationally do however require strategic planning and management as well as resourcing for instance to acquire and install the ICT to be used for interacting with others, travelling and conference costs, obtaining applicable literature and facilitating exchange agreements.
The convergence that networked educational management need to address finds expression on the institution level as well as the more detailed learning levels.
On institutional level this convergence is increasingly among educational institutions, enterprise, entertainment and the like (Evans and Nation, 1993).
The convergence that networked educational management needs to address is related to it being computer mediated. ICT is fundamental to the operations of networked education (as described in 9.8 above). Bates (1995) points to the convergence of telecommunications, television and computing as an important technology trend for the distance-teaching organisation (p. 45), while Tapscott (1996) highlights convergence of computing, communications, and content industries as one of the themes of the new economy. Networked educational management needs to manage a new integration or convergence of computing, communications, and educational content.
Networked educational management deals with a new convergence of on-campus and distance learning which has been made possible through networked education particularly with the advent of intranets and the Internet. Garrison (1989:117) notes that this convergence is “…blurring the boundaries between conventional and distance education”. Bates (1984a) also suggests that many dual mode institutes will emerge as conventional education move into distance education This is due to an increase in the ease and feasibility of simultaneously offering a networked course to on-campus students as well as to distance students. With the same interface (that is a Web browser), networked education and teaching materials are available to both local and distance students. Students can evaluate each other's on-line published materials, do group assignments together and form informal study groups. The shape that this convergence might take can vary. Teaching and learning materials for instance can be placed on-line as well-designed networked courseware which include on-line communication facilities, different navigation paths, catering for different learning styles, access and pointers to other WWW resources and exercises. The local students may also have face-to-face tutorials to work through exercises and may sit tests and exams in a physical building. Distance students also have access to the on-line materials but have on-line real-time tutorials, may attend some workshops on the physical campus, and do their assignments on-line. Berge and Schrum (1998:31) contends that “it is important to recognize that on-campus programs and courses may often use the same resources and infrastructure as those delivered to students at a distance”..
The synergy that networked education brings is that both local and distance students can participate in the processes of the same course occurrence in a real and meaningful way through synchronous and asynchronous on-line communications (Bates, 1984a; Lundin, 1993). This convergence of learning modes which traditionally have been referred to as “distance education”, "extra-mural education", “on-campus education” or "face-to-face" education means that both learning control as well as on-line learning and teaching materials are distributed to both local and distance students using the same interface that is a Web browser. Dhanarajan (1998) and Lundin (1993) questions in the context of open and flexible learning whether it still make sense to draw a distinction between distance and conventional education. Networked educational management through its networking dimension addresses this convergence and makes the virtual class “mode-independent”. Networked education therefore creates the possibility for conventional tertiary education to realise the benefits of dual-mode institutions like flexibility and an extended range of courses (Evans and Nation, 1993).
The convergence on macro- and micro-level does not necessarily mean conformity. Networked educational management is based on a distributed or networked model (described in 9.1 above) and can therefore couple centralised (strengthening conformity) and decentralised (encouraging divergence) management approaches. Networked educational management can ensure conformity to central principles and standards as Evans and Nation (1993) contend, and simultaneously encourage diversity (Frederick, 1993; Negroponte, 1997 June).
9.11 Boundary Orientation
Networked education opens the boundaries of an organisation and make it more vulnerable to the external environment (Middlehurst, 1993). The external environment for conventional tertiary education includes its customers, its competitors and beneficiaries. Networked educational management therefore needs to address the expanded need for effective boundary management. An emphasis on boundary management correlates with the organization of the future proposed by Peters (1988a), Tapscott (1996) and Daft (1989). It also correlates with the importance to develop boundary roles as an essential element of effective network management (Limerick and Cunningham, 1993), as well as the notion that the learning organisation is boundaryless (Marquardt, 1996).
The extensive use of the Internet in networked education further leads to an extension of the boundaries of an organisation’s academic and administrative systems. Networking now often transcends national boundaries (see 9.3 and 9.9 above) so that the Global Alliance for Transnational Education (GATE, 1999) describes the current educational environment as the “…new borderless educational arena”.
A major boundary management issue in networked education is to provide adequate access to courses. Spender (1996, August) asserts that the borderless information environment is not open to all the peoples of the world because of access and equity issues. Terms often used in regard to equity of access are those who are "information rich" and those who are "information poor" - which often leads to social and financial impoverishment (Hope, 1998). Not only is access to the virtual class limited through inadequate access to appropriate ICT and Internet costs, but also through computer illiteracy which needs to be addressed through training and support systems (discussed in Chapter 8).
The ongoing changes in ICT have been creating a seemingly unending spiral of regular upgrades to software and hardware, which leaves many students wanting when they desire to access networked education. There are initiatives to address these issues like Cybercafes, Internet access in public spaces like libraries, arranging adequate on-campus computer access, collaboration with other educational institutes to provide access to remote student as well as Telecentres which are widely used in Australia (WA Telecentres, 1995) and Europe and growing in Africa (Naidoo and Schutte, 1999:90). "Drop-in" computer labs can be provided for on-campus students participating in networked education via the intranet and computers can be placed in public access areas like the library. The cost of access to networked education also needs to be addressed. The institute can endeavour to negotiate favourable contracts for Internet access and ICT on behalf of their students.
Networked courses further need to be designed with the lowest possible "footprint", which is the required technology on the student's side. This includes designing networked education so that students in networked education can stay off-line for most of their study time, while naturally have to be on-line for communications. This can be achieved through compressing a course into a single file for the student to download. Even with the smallest “footprint” on the students’ side, it might still be necessary to be able to provide a hardcopy or off-line softcopy of the course materials.
With increased access and extended boundaries comes an increase in the possibility of abuse, which highlights another boundary management issue: ensuring security of the ICT systems in networked education (discussed in Chapter 8). Addressing accreditation and certification across national and academic status barriers however, is a prominent issue in boundary management of the virtual class (described in Chapter 8).
The boundaries in administrative systems supporting networked education can also be transcended in networked educational management through on-line applications and on-line enrolments that use the asynchronous mechanisms of networked education like electronic mail and on-line forms. It can remove the typical bottlenecks and physical queuing that frequently occur during the application and enrolment periods in conventional tertiary education.
9.12 Information based
management in networked education is critical because the virtual class deals
with the movement of bits of information rather than atoms (Negroponte, 1995).
The virtual class is further interconnected with the
information or knowledge society as it can be seen as the educational response
to the needs of the information society.
Managing real information overload in the virtual class has become a serious challenge for both students and teachers (Gundry and Metes, 1997; Marquardt, 1996). This dimension of networked educational management is closely linked to Drucker’s (1995) concept of the information-based organisation. The vast resources on the World Wide Web, on-line databases, newsgroups, threaded message boards with evolving discussions, discussion lists (like Listservs), and increasing volumes of electronic mail creates information overload and stress, if not managed properly. Developing critical analysis skills and increased information literacy (as discussed in Chapter 8) will become increasingly important as the information or knowledge society and networked education, as the corresponding educational paradigm grows. Victor (1999, July) further asserts that information overload can be addressed through the effective use of information architecture while Gundry and Metes (1997) points to the positive role that communication protocols and filtering devices can play.
Part of effective information architecture is the use of relational or object-oriented database approaches for data management in networked education (Gibson and Hughes, 1994; Lobodzinski and Williams, 1996 June; Lennon and Maurer, 1996 June; Schultheis, and Sumner, 1989) of which Hyperwave 1998) is an example. Many networked education software packages take the notion for granted that course elements ("course objects") are to be stored in flat directory structures as a series of files. HTML files as well as media elements and scripts are stored on servers in an organised flat directory structure which is reminiscent of how data was stored before the emergence of databases. Using a series of files can be an effective initial strategy to rapidly engage in networked education, but does not in the long run constitute effective data management. Relational databases and object-oriented databases have emerged as effective, sound and popular ways of storing data in computer systems (Schultheis, and Sumner, 1989; Stair, 1992). It reduces data redundancy (duplication), increases data sharing while improving data consistency, data independence (data are separate from its definition) and data administration and control (Schultheis, and Sumner, 1989:224).
The need for self-discipline and continuity of motivation of student is amplified in the virtual class due to its virtual nature, being information-based. The traditional prompts such as physical materials on a desk, or scheduled class times are often absent. Networked educational management includes effective instructional design using appropriate multi-media, effective monitoring of participation through computerised or manual tracking, asynchronous and in particular synchronous communications (Mason, 1999 July). These mechanisms can play a positive role in enabling the student to successfully address the virtuality of the information dimension in networked education.
Networked educational management as it relates to the library has to address the largely electronic information base of the new library. The fact that the library as physical device is not required in the virtual class has huge implications for conventional tertiary education regarding their mobility, flexibility, capital costs and competitiveness.
The information base of the virtual class also underlines the solemn management issues of ensuring privacy of personal information and security of ICT systems underlying the virtual class (as discussed in Chapter 8).
Networked education is based on information exchanges. Drucker (1998) describes the shift from the command-and-control organisation to the information-based organisation as the third major evolution in the concept and structure of organisations since modern business enterprise first arose. Networked educational management aligns itself to this evolution and exercises control through information and communication and not through bureaucracy (Garrison, 1989).