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George Roberts :: Blog :: eLearning Benchmarking, ALT-C 2007

September 05, 2007

Where are institutions going with e-learning? Terry Mayes asked the "Exocet questions" and tried to marshall answers from the panel and the floor.

1) Do sectoral enhancement agencies encourage a dependency culture?

Of course they do: this is one way that people with an interest in the direction of Higher Education attempt to exert steering force. Derek Morrisson suggests (here) in fact the relationship is co-dependent.

So, I scurried for a definition and found: "Symptoms of codependence are controlling behavior, distrust, perfectionism, avoidance of feelings, problems with intimacy, excessive caretaking, hypervigilance or physical illness related to stress. Codependence is often accompanied by depression, as the codependent person succumbs to feelings of frustration or sadness over his or her inability to improve the situation." (Wikipedia, 5 September 2007)

For example, Gilly Salmon suggested that academics can not be "sold" initiatives that improve student learning; they want things that save them time.

2) Is UK HE environment so fragmented that it makes no sense to speak about "the sector"?
3) Should education development (in re e-learning, particularly) be devolved to the discipline level?

It depends on where you look from. Inside the sector we will see all our differences. From a shoe repair buisness in Buenas Aires It may well make sense to speak of European Universities in one breath. Indeed you need not go so far away. From a manufacturing firm in Bolton, mutterings about universities suggest there are more similarities between "us" than we, in HE, might like to think.

I do not want to slip into a usual posture of cynicism. There is something very positive about recognising that things move in cycles and that personalities - individuals - are important.

There are many cycles: electoral, fiscal, disciplinary research, academic year, career. These cycles operate to different tempos. In one institution an initiative might be attached to a periodic review cycle, while in another it may be driven by discipline-based teaching in a semester structure, while in another it might be linked to a bigger shift, say from terms to semesters. I suggest that all of these will be attached to one or a few individual's career cycle.

People wanting to make a difference will find a cycle at the right point for them to jump on in order to make that difference. This is true for people working in institutions as well as working in educational change agencies.

4) Should institutions focus on more on empowerment of users rather than development of content and environments?

Yes. Of course. But this is the real, hard part, going to the institutional heart: what is the "purpose of higher education?" This is the exocet question we have to really answer if we are to get an honest discussion going about e-learning.

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