Flying under the Radar: The Importance of Small Scale E-Learning Innovation within Large-Scale Institutional E-Learning Implementation

Flying under the Radar: The Importance of Small Scale E-Learning Innovation within Large-Scale Institutional E-Learning Implementation

Gill Kirkup (Open University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-358-6.ch006
OnDemand PDF Download:


This chapter argues that e-learning innovation is best done in an environment that allows for small scale experimentation and development and that this can be made more difficult in an environment that prioritises large scale e-learning systems (i.e., virtual learning environments and content management systems). These larger systems tend to function more as systems for the control and regulation of knowledge production and management, as well as being very resource hungry. The chapter discusses e-learning activities in the Open University (UK), in particular those of the MA in Online and Distance Education programme in the Institute of Educational Technology. This is a case study of e-learning innovation in what has been described as an industrial production model of university education.
Chapter Preview

Performativity, Universities And E-Learning

The title of this collection implies that e-learning is a key driver for the transformation of universities. However, it is only one driver: e-learning often appears to be adopted as a tool for other drivers, and in particular the driver of performativity. Performativity has been a concept applied to universities since Lyotard (Lyotard, 1984) argued in the 1980s that, in post-modern societies, knowledge had become commodified, and universities were part of this commodification process. Universities may once have seen themselves as semi-autonomous bodies (collegial organisations) that aimed to pursue knowledge and scholarship for its own good; places where the academic workforce could call on the concept of ‘academic freedom’ to justify their personal authority to decide what they researched and what they taught. Students joined this community as ‘novices’ and left as ‘masters’. However, argued Lyotard, in post-modern societies students are reconceived as customers and knowledge is a commodity (‘goods’) purchased by them and the State; the operation and control of this he called ‘ performativity’. This analysis is generally accepted as accurate, whether one supports it or not. David Kirp sums up very well this changing role of universities in the twentieth century in the two quotations he puts in the introduction to his book on the marketing of higher education:

The University is a community of scholars and students engaged in the task of seeking the truth. – Karl Jaspers, The Idea of the University (1946)

Knowledge is a form of venture capital – Michael Crow, Chronicle of HigherEducation (2000). (Kirp, 2003, p. 1)

Economies, organisations and individuals depend on commodified knowledge and universities are a vital link in the commodity exchange chain. Consequently those who fund universities want to measure the performance of the institution in its creation and exchange of knowledge, and look for ways to increase institutional efficiency. The rise in the use of performance indicators such as retention data, student satisfaction surveys, and research assessment exercises as the tools of performativity is an indication of this change (Barnett, 1992; Cowen, 1996). Some have challenged the idea that universities really are post-modern institutions, arguing that the tools used for performativity measures are ‘a symptom of an excessive belief in rational systems, in objective knowledge and decisionism’ (Barnett, 2000, p. 320) and therefore part of late, industrial modernism (advanced Fordism); but there is wide consensus, however you model universities, that performativity has been the main driver of higher education since the 1980s. E-learning and knowledge media are now part of the processes of knowledge commodification; and also, through their ability to track users and measure and control user activity, part of the systems and tools of university performance management.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Markku Markkula
Mark Stansfield, Thomas Connolly
Chapter 1
Lalita Rajasingham
This chapter contributes to the ongoing discussion on current best practice and trends in e-learning and virtual classes in higher education. With... Sample PDF
The E-Learning Phenomenon: A New University Paradigm?
Chapter 2
Yukiko Inoue
An important task of higher education is to assist students in participating in an increasingly global economy. This global economy is transforming... Sample PDF
Linking Self-Directed Lifelong Learning and E-Learning: Priorities for Institutions of Higher Education
Chapter 3
Lars-Erik Jonsson, Roger Säljö
The academic seminar can be seen as the core of university culture. In a seminar, claims to knowledge – presented in an essay and/or orally – are... Sample PDF
The Online Seminar as Enacted Practice
Chapter 4
Stefan Hrastinski, Christina Keller, Jörgen Lindh
The transition from learning on campus to e-learning presents many challenges. One of the key challenges is the organisational culture, which may... Sample PDF
Is E-Learning Used for Enhancing Administration or Learning? On the Implications of Organisational Culture
Chapter 5
Dawn Birch, Bruce Burnett
Tertiary education is increasingly a contested space where advances in Information Communications Technologies and their application to... Sample PDF
Advancing E-Learning Policy and Practice: Influences on Academics' Adoption, Integration and Development of Multimodal E-Learning Courses
Chapter 6
Gill Kirkup
This chapter argues that e-learning innovation is best done in an environment that allows for small scale experimentation and development and that... Sample PDF
Flying under the Radar: The Importance of Small Scale E-Learning Innovation within Large-Scale Institutional E-Learning Implementation
Chapter 7
Albert Sangrà, Lourdes Guàrdia, Pedro Fernández-Michels
This chapter presents the findings of an in-depth analysis through several qualitative research studies, pointing out the key issues in relation to... Sample PDF
Matching Technology, Organisation and Pedagogy in E-Learning: Looking for the Appropriate Balance Leading to Sustainability and Effectiveness
Chapter 8
Irene le Roux, Karen Lazenby, Dolf Jordaan
The University of Pretoria (UP) implemented a virtual campus in 1999. The measure in which and rate at which the virtual campus environment was... Sample PDF
E-Learning and Virtual Campus Development: From Innovation to Sustainability
Chapter 9
Morten Flate Paulsen
This chapter presents an analysis of 26 European megaproviders of e-learning which had more than 100 courses or 5000 course enrolments in 2005. The... Sample PDF
An Analysis of European Megaproviders of E-Learning: Recommendations for Robustness and Sustainability
Chapter 10
Mark Stansfield, Thomas Connolly
This chapter will outline a set of guiding principles underpinning key issues in the promotion of best practice in virtual campuses. The work was... Sample PDF
Guiding Principles for Identifying and Promoting Best Practice in Virtual Campuses
Chapter 11
Helena Bijnens, Ilse Op de Beeck, Johannes De Gruyter, Wim Van Petegem, Sally Reynolds, Paul Bacsich, Theo Bastiaens
The chapter first describes the concepts of virtual campus and virtual mobility and refers to several past and present projects and initiatives in... Sample PDF
Reviewing Traces of Virtual Campuses: From a Fully Online Virtual Campus to a Blended Model
Chapter 12
Ron Cörvers, Joop de Kraker
The main objective of this chapter is to highlight the importance of subsidiarity in the development of a virtual campus. Subsidiarity is the... Sample PDF
Virtual Campus Development on the Basis of Subsidiarity: The EVS Approach
Chapter 13
George Ubachs, Christina Brey
In higher education, international student mobility has become increasingly important for learners as well as for institutions. But today’s mobility... Sample PDF
From Virtual Mobility to Virtual Erasmus: Offering Students Courses and Services without Boundaries
Chapter 14
Yuri Kazepov, Giovanni Torris
Starting from the increasingly widespread need to develop effective teaching in complex transnational settings, this chapter presents an innovative... Sample PDF
Blending Virtual Campuses Managing Differences through Web 2.0 Experiences in Transnational Cooperation Projects
Chapter 15
François Fulconis, Thierry Garrot
In the restructuring and reforming of European education, e-learning has become one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education, Higher Education... Sample PDF
Network Organisation to Improve Virtual Campus Management: Key Factors from a French Experience
Chapter 16
Luca Botturi, Lorenzo Cantoni, Benedetto Lepori, Stefano Tardini
This chapter presents a successful Swiss experience in developing and effectively managing virtual campus projects: eLab, the eLearning Laboratory... Sample PDF
Developing and Managing an Effective Virtual Campus: The eLab Experience in the Swiss Higher Education Context
Chapter 17
Christoph Brox
In three projects funded by the European Commission (EC), European and Latin-American project partners have developed, improved, and successfully... Sample PDF
A Business Model for the Exchange of E-Learning Courses in an International Network
About the Contributors