An Integrated Management Approach in a Higher Education Technology Support Unit

An Integrated Management Approach in a Higher Education Technology Support Unit

Lesley G. Boyd (Independent Consultant, UK) and Jill W. Fresen (University of Oxford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4237-9.ch012

Abstract

This case study is located in the Department for Education Innovation (EI), a teaching and learning support unit at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The initial problem was the need to apply project management and quality management principles to the services offered by the department to faculty members. The authors describe the implementation of a formal, online, process-based Quality Management System (QMS) designed to self evaluate, document, and improve the Instructional Design (ID) process that guides the development of educational technology solutions in EI. The project was completed in 2005 and was included in a CEN (European Committee for Standardization) Good Practice Guide for outstanding implementations of quality approaches in e-learning. The QMS provides a mechanism to support a consistent project management approach, and the case illustrates successful integration between three cycles: Project Management (PM), Quality Management (QM), and the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) instructional design process.
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Setting The Stage

The Department for EI offers a team approach to the instructional design of electronic learning materials delivered via the institutional learning management system (Blackboard ™, 2012). Instructional Design (ID) may be defined as “a process involving the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to enhance the quality of teaching and learning” (www.heacademy.ac.uk). The Instructional Design (ID) process requires the contribution and co-ordination of a variety of experts, each with their own professional discipline, language and working methods, and they are frequently located in different sections or departments of the university (Fresen & Boyd, 2005; Jara & Mellar, 2009; Stephenson, 2005).

Although the Department for EI had already depicted the ID process diagrammatically and called it the “Project Timeline,” it was not well understood by the various people involved. For example, faculty staff or subject matter experts in academic departments had little understanding of the required stages or timescales of the ID process. This meant that after supplying their content and requirements, they frequently expected an urgent turnaround time, in a climate of the university-wide strategic imperative to support course modules with the appropriate use of technology. The departmental senior management team expressed the need for a formal system of control to manage the interactions between faculties and EI, with a view to better management of resources, scheduling and workloads. A second reason for the project was to be able to measure client and student satisfaction with technology interventions, so as to provide evidence of departmental effectiveness and impact. A third reason was to demonstrate accountability to external auditors conducting institutional audits, in the form of an established, documented management system. Finally, although the department had depicted the ID process diagrammatically, with various forms and checklists reflecting an intuitive attempt to assure quality, the approach was not sufficiently well established or consistently operated internally.

The management team decided to explore the specialism of quality management in order to address the problems detailed previously. As quality management was not one of the core competencies of the department, they contracted an independent Quality Assurance (QA) consultant to provide staff training and to facilitate the implementation of a formal, online, process-based Quality Management System (QMS).

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