Networked Educational Management:

Transforming Educational Management in a Networked Institute

Dr Philip Uys

Deputy Director: Educational Technology

University of Botswana, Private Bag UB 0022, Gaborone, Botswana

Tel:  +267- 3552799 Fax:  +267-302884


Personal homepage:

(Formerly Senior Lecturer and Director: hydi Educational New Media Centre

Massey University at Wellington, New Zealand)


Other On-line Papers



Networked Educational Management: Transforming Educational Management in a Networked Institute


Managing Technological Transformation In Higher Education: A Southern African Perspective


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


Towards the Virtual Class: Technology Issues from a Fractal Management Perspective


New Educational Technology And The Global Village: Key Management Issues In Higher Education


The hydi Educational New Media Centre: Findings In Distributed On-line Education


Towards the Virtual Class: Trends in Cyberspace Education


Supporting Cyber Students Over the Web: The On-Line Campus of Massey University at Wellington


Managing a Hypermedia Courseware Development Project: Dynamics and Conclusions



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



ABSTRACT: Transformation of academic, student and administrative management are key elements in the institutionalisation of Internet/intranet-based (networked) education in higher education. The distributed nature of networked education demands distributed models of academic, student and administrative management. This precept is based on the writer's doctorate research, implementation of networked education at Massey University, New Zealand as well as on consulting assignments over the last six years including a five-month consulting engagement at Cape Technikon, South Africa. 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 and correlates with new forms of private enterprise management including management of the learning organization, the information-based organisation and the networked organisation. The writer proposes a new form of higher educational management for the operations of networked education: networked educational management. The following dimensions of networked educational management are discussed: its distributed nature, managing convergence, its adaptability and transitory character.




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. Drucker (1998, p. 100) argues that “… 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.

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 (1996, 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).

This paper presents some aspect s of the writer's doctorate research of the last four years (Uys, 2000). It is primarily 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, New Zealand. It also draws on case studies in other countries including a five-month consultancy in 2000 at the Cape Technikon, South Africa to start the wide implementation of e-Learning.

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 (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.

A networked institute is one in which networked education has been implemented widely and strategically. 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."

Conventional educational management

The management structures of universities has remained largely similar through the ages as Patterson (1997, p. 7) points out     “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”. Over the years

Higher education grew in size and complexity and "...bureaucracies became the controlling mechanism” (Garrison, 1989, 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).

The management model on organisational level in conventional tertiary education is therefore 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 therefore be described as being often 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.


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” (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). 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).


New forms of private enterprise management

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). Organizational structures in private enterprise are becoming increasingly distributed. 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). Marquardt (1996) describes the learning organisation as being “boundaryless” (p. 83). 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).


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.

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. Its distributed nature and the dimensions of convergence, its adaptability and transitory character are discussed in this paper.

Distributed nature

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

Managing the connectivity that networked education facilitates is a key difference between managing the conventional class and managing the operations of networked education. 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 can ensure conformity to central principles and standards as Evans and Nation (1993) contends, and simultaneously encourages diversity (Frederick, 1993; Negroponte, 1997 June).


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 occurring 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. 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”. 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. 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 convergence on macro- and micro-level does not necessarily mean conformity. Networked educational management is based on a distributed or networked model and can therefore couple centralised (strengthening conformity) and decentralised (encouraging divergence) management approaches.


The turbulent and dynamic internal and external environment 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).

There is also a requirement for flexibility within the software and hardware for developing on-line materials itself due to the inherent flexibility of web based materials. 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.

JIT teaching 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.


Control is an integral part of management (Newman, Warren, McGill, 1987) that is directly 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 risk in the management of digitised education (Tapscott, 1996). The central position of the student 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. Networked education further provides students with the flexibility of studying at their own pace and also at their choice of place. Networked education also 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.

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 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).

Web-based materials are further especially fluid due to the ease of publication and the state of continuity of Web-based materials. In networked education the materials and teaching process is in a state of continuity which is 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.



Transformation has become a key descriptor for the environment in which educational institutes operate. Conventional tertiary educational management has struggled with a dichotomy between its centralised administrative processes and its more fluid academic processes and has been criticised for its bureaucratic and unresponsive management structures. Institutes wishing to widely implement networked education will encounter the need to also transform its management processes. Networked educational management is proposed as an appropriate objective for this transformation.

“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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