Other papers and publications by the writer are available from his personal website


Uys, P.M. (1998, April). Managing Tertiary Education in a Global Virtual Environment: Networked Educational Management. Proceedings of Towards the Global University II: Redefining Excellence in the Third Millennium Conference. Cape Town: University of Central Lancashire.





Managing Tertiary Education in a Global Virtual Environment: Networked Educational Management

Dr Philip Uys

Senior Lecturer and Director: hydi Educational New Media Centre

Massey University, Private Box 756, Wellington, New Zealand

Tel: +64-4-8012794 ext 8926 Fax: +64-4-8012692

E-mail: philip.uys@globe-online.com

Personal homepage: http://www.globe-online.com/philip.uys




If you need assistance in the strategic implementation of e-Learning (networked education/distributed learning) in your institute, you are welcome to contact philip.uys@globe-online.com to discuss your needs.




Many conventional tertiary educational institutions have been incorporating Internet and intranet-based (networked) education. Entirely virtual universities are emerging. Networked education naturally leads to participation in the global educational arena as it is based on the Internet. What are the implications for academic, administrative and student management when embracing networked education? Some argue that networked education is essentially an alternative delivery mode and its management is thus no different than that of other modes. Others posit that networked education is a new educational paradigm and a response to the educational needs of the emerging information society, in the same way as the traditional class was a response to the educational needs of the industrial society. Management of networked education is therefore fundamentally different from conventional educational management particularly in a global environment. This view correlates with new forms of private enterprise management including management of the learning organisation, the information-based organisation and the networked organisation. The writer proposes a new form of tertiary educational management for the operations of networked education in a global environment: networked educational management. The following dimensions of networked educational management are discussed: networking, globalisation, its flexibility and boundary orientation.


Table of Contents



1. Introduction

"… as soon as a company takes the first tentative steps from data to information, its decision processes, management structure, and even the way it gets its work done begin to be transformed."

Peter Drucker (1998, p. 100).

The widespread implementation of Internet and intranet-based education (networked education) in tertiary education globally necessitates a careful consideration of appropriate corresponding academic, administrative and student management approaches. Networked education are being implemented on an exponential scale due to its flexibility, its links to the emerging culture of post-modernism (Hartley, 1995), potential to increase the cost-effectiveness of delivery (Romiszowski, 1993, June) and quality of learning (Uys, 1998) and its pertinence as an appropriate educational response to globalisation and in addressing the increase in the world demand for tertiary education (Daniel, 1998). Tiffin (1996b, November) believes that the "...concept of the virtual class is the kernel of a new educational paradigm that matches the needs of an information society" (p. 1). Tiffin further states that the "... networked education is an information technology system for education and training which could become to an information society what the conventional classroom is to an industrial society, the core communication system for preparing people for the society they live in" (Tiffin, 1996 February, p. 2).

A fundamental difference between networked education and conventional face-to-face or distance education is that it relies on a telecommunication infrastructure rather than a transport infrastructure to bring together the essential elements of education (Tiffin, 199b November) and provide a new level of connectivity within the educational process. Networked education therefore deal primarily with the movement of bits of information rather than with the movement of atoms (Negroponte, 1995).

The term "management" is used in a broad sense to describe planning, organising, leading and control (Boone and Kurtz, 1984); Newman, Warren and McGill, 1987; Schultheis and Sumner, 1989) on all levels of a tertiary educational institute. There has been a clear and consistent call from prominent writers on management and organisational design like Drucker (1985, 1989, 1995), Senge (1990), Peters (1988), Marquard (1996), Tapscott (1996), Limerick and Cunnington (1993) that these functions of management are to be practiced in an entirely new way in the context of the emerging global information or knowledge society.

Tapscott (1996) states that "It is fairly widely accepted that the developed world is changing from an industrial economy based on steel, automobiles, and roads to a new economy built on silicon, computers and networks. Many people talk of shift in economic relationships that’s as significant as the previous displacement of the agricultural age by the industrial age" (p. 43). Peters (1993) contends that "the definite shifts described indicate that the organisation of the learning process in the post-industrial society might become entirely different in many ways" (p. 53).

Rayport and Sviokla (1995) argue that every organisation (including educational organisations) "...today competes in two worlds: a physical world of resources that managers can see and touch [the "place"] and a virtual world made of information [the "space"]" (p. 75). They illustrate and argue that these "...two value adding processes are fundamentally different" and that "...a company’s executives must embrace an updated set of guiding principles because in the marketspace many of the business axioms that have guided managers no longer apply" (p.83).

Paul (1990) posits that an institution that is dedicated to the values and practice of open learning needs to have an "open management style" (p. 72). Thomas, Carswell, Price and Petre (1998) argues for the "…transformation of practices (both teaching and administrative) to take advantage of technology in order to provide needed functions, rather than superficial translation of existing practices". Bates (1999) contends that the introduction of networked education "…will mean a thorough re-examination of the core practices of the organisation, from advertizing to registration to design and delivery of materials to student support to assessment of students, in order to analyse the most effective way of providing these services in a networked, multimedia environment."

Drucker (1989) constructs an analogy between the introduction of computers in education and that of the book, and argues that a revolution in education based on the underlying technologies is occurring: "The printed book, fiercely resisted by the schoolmasters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, did not triumph until the Jesuits and Comenius created schools based on it in the late seventeenth century. From the beginning the printed book forced the schools however to change drastically how they were teaching…. We are in the early stages of a similar technological revolution, and perhaps an even bigger one" (p. 243).

This paper argues that the management of networked education is fundamentally different from conventional educational management particularly in a global environment. A new kind of educational management is required in tertiary education for managing the operations of networked education on the strategic (long terms issues), tactical (dealing with allocation of resources) and operational (day to day operations) levels of management.

This paper is based on the action research findings of the hydi Educational New Media Centre (Uys, April 1998; Uys, July 1999) in implementing networked education since September 1995 at Massey University, and on case studies in other countries. This paper presents some aspect s of the writer's doctorate research of the last four years (Uys, 2000).


2. Conventional educational management

"The historic continuity of the institution is unbroken, and many of the medieval university’s unique features remain characteristic of today’s universities: features, for example, such as … structures of governance, such as the division of major branches of learning into faculties, and the hierarchical positions such as deans, chancellor and rector"

G. Patterson (1997, p. 7)

Garrison (1989) points to higher education when contending that as "…formal education grew in size and complexity, bureaucracies became the controlling mechanism" (p. 38). In contrast to the institutional management structures, the teaching and research functions of academic staff as professionals are typically more client oriented, less formal and less concerned with hierarchy (Paul, 1990). While institutional conventional educational management operates on a largely bureaucratic model, academic staff operate on a "collegial model" (Paul, 1990. p. 32). The anarchic model (Cohen and March, 1974) depicts the modern university as an organised anarchy which, according to Paul (1990) illustrates such ambiguities and uncertainties that it renders the traditional forms of management meaningless or inept (p. 37). It seems however that the bureaucratic elements of conventional tertiary education are pre-eminent and also in constant conflict to the self-management ideals and processes of academic staff.

This description of management in conventional tertiary education aligns itself clearly to what Burns and Stalker (1961) call a mechanistic control process in contrast to an organic control process. The mechanistic management structure links with a stable external environment. According to Daft (1989, p.61) in this structure tasks are broken down in specialized, separate parts; tasks are rigidly defined; there is a strict hierarchy of authority and control, and there are many rules; knowledge and control of tasks are centralized at the top of organization and communication is vertical.

The management model on organisational level in conventional tertiary education is one of tension between a centralised administrative approach and a decentralised academic approach in which the centralised, bureaucratic and hierarchical dimensions seem to be pre-eminent.

The generic conventional management paradigm in tertiary education can be described as being largely mechanistic, formal, centralised, focussing predominantly on the local environment, insular, inflexible, rigid, bureaucratised, with strong institutional control and segmented, with a high degree of division of labour, variable participation, and often politicised.


3. New forms of educational management

In view of the new technologies and the emergence of the information age, education

"…is experiencing a shift from formal, centralised, and segmented operations to increasingly complex, decentralised, and integrated levels of organisation"

D.R. Garrison (1989, p. 38).

Rumble (1992) refers to the operations of distance education as a "highly distributed system" which "looks very different to the residential or non-residential campus-based university" (p. 95). Garrison points to the potential of computer based distance education to transcend the barrier to "…both decentralise education and individualise or personalise it at the same time" (p. 88). Peters (1993) contends that in the post-industrial society there will be in distance teaching institutions a "departure from a highly centralized organisation of the teaching-learning process and a move to small decentralized units which can be made transparent by the means of new technology" (p. 53). Forsythe (1984) contends: "…. the use of such communication systems is seen as part of a large learning system that may well be a network of institutions" (p. 60).

Paul (1990) suggests that a value-driven leadership approach can address the different models of educational management and that in this approach, leadership is committed to ensure that people find meaning in life through their work by creating things of value (p. 68). Paul argues that an institution that is dedicated to the values and practice of open learning needs to have an "open management style" (p. 72) and that "those responsible for the leadership and management of these institutions must emulate the principles they espouse in the performance of their day-to-day activities" (p.22).


4. New forms of private enterprise management

"Networks of networks along the Internet model are beginning to break down walls among companies — suppliers, customers, affinity groups, and competitors. We will see the rise of internetworked business, internetworked government, internetworked learning, and internetworked health care…"

Don Tapscott (1996, p. 55).

Aspects like the globalisation of education, the role of private enterprise in tertiary education and pressures on the funding base impel tertiary institutes to increasingly operate in ways that closely resemble private enterprise. At the same time private enterprise is concerned with, and heavily involved in education (Drucker, 1989, p. 243; Garrision, 1989, p. 38). Drucker (1998) asserts that the "…need to organize for change also requires a high degree of decentralization" in the structure of the "new society of organisations" (p. 117). Beare and Slaughter (1993) contend that "… a business which operates on bureaucratic lines cannot compete in a post-industrial economy…" (p. 35). Peters (1988a) highlight the importance of boundary management in the organisation of the future in which the boundaries are described as wavy, thin and transparent. Marquardt (1996) describes the learning organisation as being "boundaryless" (p. 83).

Burns and Stalker (1961) indicate that an organic control process, in contrast to a mechanistic control process, is coupled with an unstable external environment. According to Daft (1989, p.61) in this structure, which is appropriate for the modern organisation operating in a turbulent environment, employees contribute to the common tasks of the department; tasks are adjusted and redefined through employee interactions; there is less hierarchy of authority and control, and there are few rules; knowledge and control of tasks are located anywhere in the organisation; communication is horizontal. Two major transformations (or megatrends) in society are a transformation from centralisation to decentralisation (in effect distribution) and from hierarchies to networking (Naisbitt, 1982, p. 1).

Marquardt (1996) contends that in this "…faster, information-thick atmosphere of the new millennium… ‘old’ companies [cannot] compete with more agile and creative learning organisations" (p. xv). A learning organisation has a streamlined, flat hierarchy and is seamless and boundaryless (p. 83). It is further built on networking and "…realize the need to collaborate, share, and synergize with resources both inside and outside the company… they provide a company with a form and style that is fluid, flexible, and adaptable" (p. 84).

The characteristics of the management required in tertiary education to match the educational needs of the information or knowledge society include being complex, decentralised or distributed, networking of peers, personalised delivery, deals with networking and collaboration internally and with other institutes, increased boundary management, and an integration of on- and off-campus learning and is highly adaptive and flexible in a volatile external environment.

Conventional management of tertiary education struggles between the desperate need to reform its management because of the external and internal environment but is often ineffective to do this because of its current management approaches. It seems from the above that the inefficiency of the current models of managing conventional tertiary education calls for a meta-model or a new management paradigm to transcend the discrepancies between these management models.


5. Networked educational management

The writer proposes a new educational management paradigm for managing the operations of networked education: networked educational management. Networked educational management incorporates the key elements of the new forms of private enterprise and educational management. This term is chosen since a central aspect of education in networked education and the management thereof seems to be the connectivity or networking that it facilitates often across the boundaries of space and time. This term correlates with "network management" (Limerick and Cunningham, 1993) and terms that writers like Tapscott (1996) ("internetworked organisation"), Beare and Slaughter (1993) ("network organisation"), " Limerick and Cunningham (1993), ("network organisation"), and Tapscott and Caston (1993) ("open networked organisation") use when describing the organisational model for the emerging information age. Drucker (1995) calls the society in which tertiary education currently operates the "networked society" (p.65) because of the centrality of networking with other organisations through alliances, partnerships and outsourcing.

Networked educational management has twelve dimensions: networking, student focussed, globalisation, transitory, adaptability, transcending time, market orientation, computer mediation, collaboration, convergence, boundary orientation and being information based. The dimensions of networking, globalisation, its flexibility and boundary orientation are discussed in this paper.


6. Networking

Networked educational management postulates that a distributed model of management is appropriate for networked education on both learning and institutional level. Networking is therefore 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.

Networked educational management has its control, power and resources distributed throughout the organisation. It links to an organic control process (Burns and Stalker, 1961) in contrast to a mechanistic control process, in which "knowledge and control of tasks are located anywhere in the organisation" (Daft, 1989, p. 61).

Managing the connectivity that networked education facilitates is a key difference between managing the conventional class and managing the operations of networked education. 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. The learning control as well as on-line learning and teaching materials are distributed to both local and distance students using the same interface (ie a Web browser) because of the convergence of learning modes which traditionally have been called "distance education" and "on-campus education" through networked education. This implies that the management of learning is no longer linked to physical locality (on-campus/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).

Bates (2000) acknowledges the challenge to create a congruity between centralised and decentralised management aspirations in tertiary education: "When it comes to organisational structures, the challenge is to develop a system that encourages teaching units to be innovative and able to respond quickly to changes in subject matter, student needs, and technology. At the same time, redundancy and conflicting standards and policies across the institution must be avoided" (p. 181). A similar tension within the organisation of information systems activities and communications has been transcended in computer and communication systems using distributed approaches. Networked educational management will ensure conformity to central principles and values and simultaneously encourage diversity. Active progression towards networked education opens an institute to the impact of the distributed nature of the new educational technologies (specifically the Internet and Intranets).

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 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 that also addresses "…the need to interact on learning highways across borders…. all nations, in future, will have to design their educational systems in such a way that they not only have internal coherence but also have an open architecture - that they can network with other educational and learning systems" (Morrison, 1995, p. 199).


7. Globalisation

"...if the virtual class was going to be distance independent then like the information society it was going to be global rather than national"

John Tiffin (1996, February)

The global nature of networked education is possible because the new educational technologies facilitate and lead naturally to the globalisation of education since the central technology in networked education, is the Internet. Networked education is accessible from anywhere in the world where access to the Internet is possible (Uys, 1998 April) and is further information-based (Drucker, 1989, p. 258). The global nature of networked education means that institutes in tertiary education can project themselves into a global educational market of providers and students, which places new demands on management.

Networked educational management through its global nature also includes the management of relationships with collaboration and consortium partners and needs to address cultural differences in an international educational arena.


8. Flexibility

"The emerging consensus is that successful Universities of the next millennium will be those that embrace continuous change as an education paradigm. Such Universities will be able both to adapt to changes in the social market for their students and to lead this market in directions optimal to the society’s goals by continually adapting their education plans, methods and strategies of teaching, and educational infrastructures to changes in the environment"

Esquer, G. N. & Sheremetov, L. (1999, July, p. 1607).

Control is an integral part of management (Newman, Warren, McGill, 1987) that is hugely impacted by the transitory nature of the operations of networked education. Tapscott (1996, p. xv) holds that "Far more than the old western frontier, the digital frontier is a place of recklessness, confusion, uncertainty, calamity and danger." The controlling position of the student in networked education and the changing nature of the student body contribute to an uncontrollability of huge proportions, which challenges the essence of conventional educational management. 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, p. 157). Networked education is further unbound in space and time and provides students with an enormous flexibility.

The environment in which networked education in tertiary education occurs at the beginning of the millennium is exceptionally dynamic and volatile. This can be attributed largely to the emergence of a global information or knowledge society which many view to be "… as significant as the previous displacement of the agricultural age by the industrial age" (Tapscott, 1996, p. 43). Drucker (1989) draws an analogy between the introduction of computers in education and that of the book, and contends that a revolution of similar or even greater proportions in education is occurring. Even the nature of the change process from conventional to networked education itself is not stable; Morrison (1995) describes the "process of evolution in terms of dislocations, dilemmas and uncertainties rather than projections from 'what is' to 'what is needed'." 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.

In the emerging information or knowledge society, education has to contend with an exponential growth of the amount of information available for use by organisations, governments, businesses and people. There are estimations that "today information is doubling every eighteen months and that by the year 2012 it will be doubling every" (Nugent, 1996, p. 264).

Managing the dynamic nature of on-line materials require tight change control and quality assurance systems (NOT documentation systems!) while at the same time addresses the flexibility of on-line materials that can be changed continuously and immediately which is clearly different from using other publishing mediums like paper or CD-ROM.

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, p. 154; Marquard, 1996, p. 177; Mason, 1998, p. 158) calls for the management of teaching to be particularly adaptive.

The factors above point to a high level of adaptability that is required in the administrative, academic and technological management of networked education.


9. Boundary orientation

"Competitive industries are clustered … are linked as customers and suppliers, through people, research institutions, university programmes and related diversification. This is typical. It is how a competitive industry is created and sustained"

Michael Porter (Caulkin, 1990, p. 53)

Boundary management within the university environment has become more relevant as "… the external environment has impinged more directly on university operations..." (Middlehurst, 1993, p. 56). An emphasis on boundary management correlates with the organisation of the future proposed by Peters (1988a), Tapscott (1996) and Daft (1989). It also correlates with an "essential element of effective network management" which is to "develop your boundary roles" (Limerick and Cunningham, 1993, p. 89).

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 so that the Global Alliance for Transnational Education (GATE, 1999) describes the current educational environment as the "…new borderless educational arena". This correlates to one of Fullan’s (1991) six themes of educational change namely "From going it alone to alliances".

A major boundary management issue in networked education is to provide adequate access to courses. There are initiatives to address this 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 and Europe and growing in Africa (Naidoo and Schutte, 1999, p. 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.

With increased access and extended boundaries comes an increase in the possibility of abuse, which highlights another boundary management issue that is ensuring security of the ICT systems in networked education. Addressing accreditation and certification across national and academic status barriers is a further prominent issue in boundary management of networked education.


10. Conclusion

"…the medium of print, so long our almost exclusive means for preserving knowledge, has yielded significant ground to the remarkable storage and retrieval capacities of the computer; and that, further, this loosening of the keystone of the modern educational past allows us to glimpse, and demands that we define, a new educational future no longer constrained and shaped by the exigencies of print/textbook-based education"

Chou, L. , McClintock, R. , Moretti, F. , Nix, D. H. (1993).

"…the widespread use of new technologies in an organisation does constitute a major cultural change. Furthermore, for such change to be successful, leadership of the highest quality is required"

Tony Bates (2000, p. 42)

"… a successful innovation aims at leadership… if it does not aim at leadership from the beginning, it is unlikely to be innovative enough, and therefore unlikely to be capable of establishing itself"

Peter Drucker (1985)

Conventional tertiary educational management has struggled with a dichotomy, which led to some describing it as organised anarchy. The administration is often characterised by bureaucratic, hierarchical management approaches with a preference for centralisation. In contrast, the teaching and research functions of academic staff as professionals are typically more client oriented, less formal and less concerned with hierarchy with a preference for decentralisation. Networked educational management can ensure conformity to central principles and standards while it simultaneously encourages diversity and may contribute to transcending this tension and to facilitate harmony in the management of tertiary education.

Lack of funding is often touted as a key stumbling block in the implementation of networked education in conventional tertiary education. More important though from a management perspective is to create an enduring vision and a strategic implementation framework for the effective implementation of technological innovations like networked education. Berge and Schrum (1998) contends that "The most important function of institutional leadership may be to create a shared vision that includes widespread input and support from the faculty and administration, articulates a clear educational purpose, has validity for stakeholders, and reflects the broader mission of the institution" (p. 35). "Passive stewardship as a concept of management … is no longer a useful option when the continued viability of the institution over which stewardship is being executed is threatened..[it] demands enlightened, innovative, and aggressive leadership" (Karol and Ginsburg, 1980, p. 246).

The extensive management and wider implications for a conventional tertiary educational institute when implementing networked education might further be pointing to the emergence of a new kind of educational institute. Networked educational management needs to occur on all levels of an institute that seriously engages in networked education. It follows that the kind of institute that fully adopts networked education will display fundamentally different characteristics than that of a conventional tertiary educational institute. In terms of an overall organisational structure it seems possible therefore that networked educational institutes might emerge which will actualise networked education and use networked educational management to its fullest extent.

"There is no alternative but to face the inevitability of a profound impact of new technology on teaching and learning and to work to establish a rich educational environment within that framework…"

Rita Johnston (1997, p. 120)

"In a time of drastic change it is the learners who survive;

the ‘learned’ find themselves fully equipped

to live in a world that no longer exists"

Eric Hoffer




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