Guide Planning and Management in Distance Education (Open and Flexible Learning Series)

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Quality also needs to be ensured in the provision of open and flexible learning. Institutions and programmes will be judged by such performance indicators as:. Ironically, the very professionals who accredit graduates to engage in professional practice have no formal training or accreditation for their own work in this area.


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Furthermore, as Paul observes, the majority of staff who become involved with open learning and responsible for its governance are typically more familiar with conventional face-to-face methods of teaching than the theory and practice of such alternative forms of learning. Researching the work roles of over 2, academics in 15 Australian universities, McInnis found that 66 percent of these teachers were engaged in developing ICT courseware, 72 percent were involved with computer-based learning, and 46 percent were working in distance education contexts.

Few had received any training for this work and yet two-thirds of these staff reported that this work accounted for half their working week and was having a major impact on their other duties. These are the very staff who are expected to bring about change. This can easily occur whenever politicians, planners and senior managers become carried away by success stories of open and learning and fail to appreciate the professionalism, commitment, energy, time and resources demanded by such work. They will lack experience and not understand which are the relevant facts, features, procedures and so on.

At this stage, they can only play a marginal role in the change process. It not only needs to build knowledge and skills but change mindsets, for this is what brings about enduring change. It needs to be embedded in the institutional policies, procedures and priorities and it needs to be linked to:. Resistance to change must be anticipated and planned for. Different strategies are needed for what Scott and Jaffe define as the four stages of transition: The first of these stages, denial, involves rejection of the external imperatives and need for change.

The orientation is to the traditionally accepted values and practices. This requires a raising of staff awareness of the need for change and a demonstration of the benefits to be gained. Here the training has to not only to be concerned with knowledge and skills building but inspiring the staff, acknowledging their doubts and concerns, and promoting the positive values of the change. At the exploration stage, the staff need to be helped to recognise that things do not always work out right or meet with instant success and that professional and peer support is available to help them in risktaking experiential learning.

In the final stage, commitment, the staff orientation is now to the future, not the past. They are empowered and capable of supporting change and envisioning and implementing further change. Bennis, Benne and Chin suggest that change is achieved through a careful mix of:. The ultimate goal rather than external motivation, both at the group and individual level. Some degree of external motivation may be needed, but behavioural and attitudinal change that comes from within is the more likely to be long lasting.

The paradigm shift into open and flexible learning requires staff development provision to address system-wide complexities and points of inertia. Abdullah found that there were three broad categories of staff need when introducing distance education into Institut Teknologi MARA in Malaysia, each requiring a different strategy:. Such consultation processes can also be useful in identifying and overcoming any problems of time and workloads — the reasons most commonly cited by staff for not participating in staff development. In distance teaching and multi-campus institutions, staff development must also be provided for those who are not working on the main campus.

Staff development must be budgeted for. But such expenditure must be weighed against the advantages of having a workforce with the commitment and capacity for change based upon accumulated knowledge and experience. These factors too need to be taken into account in planning professional development programmes. Without research and evaluation to inform it, open and flexible learning will lack quality and relevance. And yet, as Anderson and Bates show, research findings, theories, tools and techniques generated by academic-based researchers on behalf of others rarely trickle down through the normal channels of academic publication and dissemination.

He suggests that education systems and institutions should be looked upon as a huge research laboratory ripe for generating both basic and applied knowledge and that the practitioners themselves should be engaged in identifying real problems, discovering new knowledge and finding appropriate solutions. It is concerned with asking fundamental questions and contributing to the stock of knowledge and intellectual climate of the university.

In the open and flexible learning context, it could take the form of fundamental research into e. The scholarship of integration focuses on the meanings of these discoveries. The research and development is carried out where disciplinary boundaries meet, where things need to be put into context, where isolated findings need to be given meaning and where new connections need to be made.

In the open and flexible learning context, it is the kind of work that helps to, e. The scholarship of application is concerned with applying this new knowledge to real-life problems. Here, theory and practice interact, inform and renew each other and new understandings arise in the very act of implementation. In the case of open and flexible learning, this work could take the form of, e. The scholarship of teaching embodies the idea that teaching should be far more than a routine activity and that teachers should continually be exploring ways of improving performance and outcomes and making connections with the other forms of scholarship.

The idea of the scholarship should be integral to institutional transformation into open and flexible learning and:. Lines of communication need to be open and inclusive, ideas and concerns need to be shared through top-down and bottom-up processes, and mutual understandings and obligations need to be negotiated. Professional development occurs through all of these processes.

In any change process, the role, stance and energies of the institutional leaders and managers are critical. Bottom-up change is always something to be encouraged but is rarely sustainable without support from above. They also need to ensure that the requisite resources are provided, the most important of which is time - staff must be granted time release if they are to change in their attitudes and work practices.

The system as a whole must be well informed about the reasons for and nature and ramifications of the changes. The students, the staff and the wider community need to be enabled to share the same understandings of, and commitment to, the value, nature and expectations of open and flexible learning. This too requires a conversational framework. One of the strategic decisions that universities need to take is about the type of support system that might best drive and gain support for the professional development agenda. Its creation was deliberately managerial and interventionist Bradley, In practice, it is usually found that staff development needs to be both centralised and devolved or networked.

Such a strategy reflects the extent of the change needed, the range of disciplines and academic cultures involved, and the greater readiness of lecturers to take advice from their peers and receive training, mentoring and support within their actual work settings. They need to operate in accordance with the old dictum: In other words, they should empower, inform and skill staff so that they only require occasional higher level instructional design or technological support from the centre.

Otherwise, the task will be endless and the universal implementation of open and flexible learning will be an impossible dream. Ultimately, one person must provide the leadership and be accountable for the centre and its staff development programme. This person needs to be fully conversant with open and flexible learning and organisational change. Staff may be widely distributed, staff turnover may be high, workloads may be heavy, and staff may be expected to do more with less time and fewer resources.

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An increasing number of tertiary teaching staff are on limited-term contracts or employed on a part-time basis. Some are recruited locally to work in off-campus centres rather than on the main campuses. They are not normally paid or enabled to take part in the induction and other staff development programmes available to the full-time, on-campus staff and they have little or no opportunities to experience the culture of the workplace.

It therefore follows that staff development needs to be ongoing and available for all staff at all times, not simply the minority who are willing and able to participate in on-campus events. Staff need to be able access staff development resources, support and advice quickly, easily, whenever they need it. They can also use the Internet to interact and collaborate with their peers, staff developers, and with other institutions and internationally.

The VLE approach exemplifies the idea of a conversational framework for change. It can also offer formal study opportunities to a greater number of staff more equitably and flexibly.

Staff Development for Open and Flexible Learning | LTiA Issue 7 | CeLT | MMU

So the first step in establishing any VLE is to identify and provide links to these existing materials and services and then move on to adding the institution-specific information and training resources, exemplary materials, etc. The first key element in systemic staff development is induction for all managers, lecturers, administrators and support staff new to the institution and open and flexible learning.

One or two day events at the start of each semester or term will provide a conversational framework for understanding the changes and role-changes involved in realising the vision and goals of open and flexible learning. At such events, senior managers can explain the institutional vision and strategic plan and the centrality of open and flexible delivery in the policies and procedures, describe the nature and implications of the new educational paradigm, outline the available support services, and discuss these issues with the newcomers.

Teaching, library, administrative and technical support staff who will be directly and immediately involved in open and flexible learning can also visit the support services and look at and discuss some exemplary courses and materials. They can also be invited to attend voluntary reflective practice sessions at the centre over the following weeks in which they can share their discoveries, concerns and viewpoints. Staff at other campuses and centres can be exposed to this induction process synchronously through audio- or video-conferencing or video broadcast or asynchronously through the VLE.

Reflective practice sessions should also be provided at the other sites. As noted earlier, most staff will be most familiar and most comfortable with the kinds of teaching they themselves have experienced, that is to say, classroom-based, teacher-centred and with the traditional kinds of student. Training resources that could be made available through the VLE. Universities are faced with increasing competition and demands for enhanced quality, reduced costs and new ways of thinking and behaving. Where open and distance learning are new or the way ahead is uncertain, it is vitally important that there are people who can lead the way, be role models for those working under them, work with staff to identify priorities and the best ways of going about things, help staff set realistic short term and long term goals, provide incentives, monitor progress and provide recognition and reward for effort and excellence.

Institutional leaders and managers need to master these practices as well as the educational agendas. In higher education, leadership and management development are rarely seen in terms of career development and they usually take the form of short courses concerned with raising awareness of issues and developments rather than transference of new learning back into the workplace Middlehurst, ; Davies, Sadler suggests that leadership training cannot itself develop leadership potential.

Le Grew and Calvert suggest that non-formal development activities and problem-based programmes in work settings have far greater value than short courses in enabling chief executives and other key decision-makers to develop and manage new forms of higher education. Brown-Parker shows that this can be done through mentoring, shadowing, special projects, job exchanges, structured placements, networks and action groups. Senior executives also learn a great deal from their peers who are often the only people to understand the issues well enough to discuss them in depth.

Organisations get the leaders they deserve. The prevailing culture can nurture the right leadership behaviour in staff or stultify it. Leadership succession decisions are also critical to the renewal process. For change to be maintained, any new leadership must truly personify it.

Professional development also needs to include future orientation. There need to be opportunities for managers and staff to learn about trends and developments; identify and anticipate external opportunities and threats and internal capabilities and weaknesses; and envision and prepare for change. Staff should therefore be given every encouragement to reflect upon their work and the consequences.

Here staff can reflect upon and share their concerns, ideas and discoveries with their peers and the staff developers. Where staff cannot meet face-to-face, reflective practice sessions can be conducted synchronously by means of audio-and video-conferencing or asynchronously by online discussion groups or chat rooms. Such collaborative learning may be captured digitally and disseminated for reuse by other groups.

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Some of these communities of practice can be inter-institutional, international and virtual. This is how the Teaching and Learning Forums began but they are now a collaborative undertaking by the five universities in Perth. Responsibility for funding modest registration fees cover most of the costs and hosting these two-day events rotates through the institutions.

The planning committees are cross-institutional. Such forums make minimal use of plenary sessions. They mainly comprise parallel sessions — presentations, case studies or workshops by the teachers themselves. Their prime aim is to encourage the widest possible range of teachers to reflect and report on their teaching experiences and share their concerns, innovations and findings with their peers. With all the participating institutions in one city, any ideas generated in these forums are easily followed up on. The papers are published in proceedings which provide a unique record of what is being done locally to enhance teaching and an invaluable resource and springboard for further development.

To be leading practitioners of open and flexible learning, universities also need to be leading researchers in the field.

Open and Flexible Learning Series

Action research and other forms of research are needed to fill the gaps in understanding how best to provide courses and programmes in different contexts. Kember argues the case for action research as a form of staff development. He bases his argument on his experience of the Action Learning Project which has supported many new developments in Hong Kong universities.

The aim of action research is to empower staff to reflect upon, monitor and take responsibility for improving their own work. The participants seek to improve those aspects of their teaching that are of interest and concern.

The projects are undertaken by teams and proceed through cycles of planning, action, observation and reflection. Data are gathered to provide evidence to guide and inform future practice. The Hong Kong Action Learning Projects are regarded as akin to research projects so staff can qualify for the traditional rewards of scholarly activity. Action research findings can be used to try to persuade colleagues that they too could change and the lessons learned can be more widely disseminated through publications, conferences, the Web, etc.

For example Andresen suggests that staff developers need to combine the roles of:. It can never be assumed that staff developers or teaching staff can perform well or comfortably in all of these roles. Self-development is always something to be encouraged, but all of those engaged in staff development need to be helped to re-think their roles and review and re-engineer their services and work schedules. This needs to be constantly monitored and updated. Again, online and flexible learning can be used to develop the capacities of the staff developers. There is no automatic guarantee that any staff development strategy will succeed.

Robinson suggests that evaluating staff development involves considering the context, process and outcomes and asking the following questions:. There is increasing emphasis on the need to evidence quality and cost-effectiveness in educational performance. There is therefore need for formative and summative evaluation and objective quantified outputs and qualitative findings to evidence the impact of staff development on the institution, the staff, and the students. A high profile and high priority need to be given to staff development in the institutional policies, procedures and priorities.

Recruitment, position descriptions and appointments and promotion criteria need to evidence the institutional commitment to open and flexible learning, the competencies these require in the staff, and the importance of the staff learning, unlearning and re-learning to stay at the cutting edge of change. Unfortunately, there is often a wide gulf between the myth and reality of recognition and reward in academia. As Boyer op cit. In the universities, it is usually the case that research is more highly valued than teaching and scant attention is paid to evaluating or formally rewarding staff effort, innovation and achievement in open and flexible learning.

It is critically important that universities ensure that achievements in teaching and open learning are given due weight in confirmations of tenure, accelerated incremental progression and promotion. He argues for institutions to fight this battle early. Such time-honoured budget-based systems make it difficult to abandon unproductive and obsolete practices. Those responsible for reviewing recognition and reward systems need to draw up criteria for performance and excellence in open and flexible learning. Excellence in teaching awards schemes enable staff to evidence their particular open and flexible learning philosophies, goals, activities and achievements.

Teaching portfolios are useful in applying for tenure, promotion, etc. Partnering and forming strategic alliances with other open and flexible learning providers is another way of supporting professional development through further study, visits, secondments, exchanges, etc. Developing an inter-institutional staff development network or consortium can be useful in regions where there is little support infrastructure for staff development.

Confronted with a bewildering myriad of new policies and demands to change virtually every teaching practice they felt confident and comfortable with, and with only their own resources to fall back on, the teaching staff in these institutions established this Network to cooperate on staff development projects and activities and exchange ideas and share materials on staff development. Through this network, they were able to achieve:.

Some staff will not only wish to deepen their knowledge and skills in open and flexible learning but do so through some form of formal study. Further information about these courses is available through the Commonwealth of Learning www. Open and flexible learning calls for many new capacities in managers, administrators, teachers, curriculum, course and materials developers, tutors, technology support staff and librarians.

It requires roles to be re-engineered and multiple specialists to collaborate in developing new learning, systems, environments and programmes. Most of these staff are busy people who have never had much time to learn about new teaching methods or technology. It is therefore extremely important for institutions to help all of their staff face up to their changed responsibilities. The extent of staff development needed for such transformation is often seriously under-estimated.

Far more is needed than the occasional, short-term, self-contained and voluntary workshop. Supporting moves into open and flexible learning requires a clear vision and strategic plan, total and public commitment by senior and middle managers and strong alignment between the strategic plan, human resource management systems and staff development systems. The institution has to become a learning organisation, acquiring new understandings through a conversational framework and basing its actions upon well-informed reflective practice and action research.

Staff development needs to be linked to quality assurance and continuous performance improvement. A scholarly approach is needed and there should be commensurate recognition, status, release time, reward and support for staff. And the overall culture should be one that encourages risk, innovation and collaboration within and between institutions. The most successful open and flexible learning institutions will be those that thus place prime focus on empowering and developing their staff. The latter number for Semester 3 entails study from November to February, a semester that is never as popular as the 'mainstream' semesters.

To date, the highest number of students operating solely online was 2, in Semester 1 Further, almost without exception the response of these students to the e-learning experience has been universally positive. Since embarking on dual mode operations in , the resource allocation model at USQ has enabled the Distance Education Centre DEC to emerge as a major cost centre, currently receiving more funding than all but one of the six faculties.

An overview of the DEC infrastructure is provided in Figure 2. Although a detailed description of the role of the various DEC sections is beyond the scope of the present paper for more detail, see Taylor, , the essence of the USQ approach is encapsulated in the overview of the multi-disciplinary team model to courseware design and development presented in Figure 3.

In the initial phase of the multi-disciplinary unit team process, the content specialists work with an instructional designer on the development of an instructional blueprint for the courseware. Upon completion of the sample module, the pedagogical approach is reviewed and possibly revised. The refined sample module then acts as a model for the development of the remaining courseware. While this process is systematic and leads to an efficient use of time and resources, it accommodates a wide range of pedagogical approaches appropriate to different disciplines and various student target audiences.

The systemic management of the courseware design, development, production, and distribution of the courseware has been incorporated into a quality assurance initiative. It was also stimulated by an emerging trend whereby an increasing number of business organizations and government departments require ISO accreditation as a prerequisite to any business partnership.

Fortunately, its size, ethos, and history mean that USQ does not face some of the potentially insurmountable challenges to change of some of the long established traditional universities. Nevertheless, the effective integration and management of online delivery is the greatest organisational development challenge facing USQ. Subsequently, it was selected for a showcase of best practice in leading edge educational technologies at the 13th Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers in Gaborone, Botswana, The success of the initial online program, and the gradual expansion of the development of other online programs, including the Master of Professional Accounting, led to a major strategic, organisational development initiative.

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In , recognising that the rate of development was being somewhat stymied by lack of resources, the USQ senior management executive team, with University Council approval, opted to change the liquidity ratio of University operations in order to commit AUS. Through the business arm of the University, the USQ Online initiative includes a major investment in a Hong Kong based company, NextEd , that provides a virtual campus service, not only to USQ, but also to other institutions throughout the world.

USQ not only became a foundation shareholder of NextEd , but also became a major customer of the company. Such a strategy not only enabled USQ to gain access to more resources, but also to a wider range of technical and business expertise. For example, a major article appeared recently in Forbes Global Johnstone, The Online Teaching Management Committee OTMC is essentially concerned with implementing the online teaching programs and ensuring the appropriate professional development of staff. This latter team involves staff from the DEC, the Library, Student Services, the Office of Preparatory and Continuing Studies, and Information Technology Services, who were previously involved only in various forms of discrete staff training programs.

Such coordination and integration of previously relatively discrete activities is indicative of the emerging more fluid organisational structure of USQ. The addition of the online mode of delivery of courses previously offered only on-campus and through 'traditional' distance education approaches was managed through the well-established unit team process see Figure 3. In many ways, it was a natural step for USQ based on a team teaching ethos established over the past 20 years.

Planning and Management in Distance Education (CH_32)

It was, of course, not without its pedagogical and logistical challenges, with the standard unit-based team approach being supplemented by a series of pedagogically focussed workshops offered to each discipline group, and a series of hands on training sessions to familiarise staff with the features of the delivery platform. A detailed account of the pedagogical issues arising in the addition of the online mode has been published Postle and Sturman, Given course accreditation considerations and the legacy of Government legislation and reporting requirements, this task is far from simple.

As well as academic and legislative considerations, the work of the OSMC incorporates the establishment of effective technical interfaces between the outsourced virtual campus platform and existing student record systems, electronic library services, and financial systems.

The OSMC is essentially working within the existing policy and regulatory structures of the University, but with the ultimate goal of enhancing student choice and flexibility. To date, however, the only major initiative that has emanated from the OSMC is a review of financial issues, including course fees and associated refund policies. The Online Marketing Management Committee OMMC challenged the conventional role of academic staff by involving the teaching staff in decisions about marketing through the establishment of an approach based on product managers.

With the guidance of the OMMC, which consisted of marketing specialists from the Faculty of Business, the Director of Marketing and Public Affairs, the Marketing Manager of the International Education Centre, the Corporate Relations Manager, and the Commercial Planning Officer a new position , product managers nominated by the faculties began working on the creation of business plans for each online program.

Decisions emanating from the OMMC and endorsed by VCC have since led to the establishment of the USQ Online Support Centre, aimed at engendering effective and timely responsiveness to enquiries from prospective students and monitoring the efficacy of particular marketing activities. The involvement of staff in the commercial aspects of the online initiative is further reflected in the endorsement of another OMMC proposal to establish an incentive scheme, with 2 percent of gross revenue being distributed as follows: Such initiatives are a further indication of the more fluid organizational structure and flexible management processes that are emerging to support USQ Online.

The need for a more co-ordinated corporate approach to marketing was recognised by the OMMC, which generated a proposal subsequently endorsed by VCC for the establishment of the new Committee, which includes the dean of each faculty. This new initiative is aimed at promoting a corporate approach to the projection of the USQ brand name. Further evidence of such a commitment was the establishment at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor of a new executive management position Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global Learning Services in June This new position, which entails oversight of the Distance Education Centre, the Library and Information Technology Services, highlights the growing importance of the need to generate an effective synergy between information, pedagogy and technology in the increasingly competitive environment of global higher education.

The organisational development process, however, is not simply a matter of creating new committees and working groups, but entails leadership at all levels — not least from the senior management. In laying the foundation for the USQ Online initiative, the Vice-Chancellor and other senior managers addressed a series of University Assemblies and subsequently, a series of meetings were held with each of the faculties and major cost centres to promote the potential strategic benefits to the University.

The Deans of the Faculties and other managers of the major cost centres are supporting developments at faculty board meetings and thereby enabling all staff to be associated with the strategic planning process and ultimately the ownership of USQ Online.

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While the USQ approach is clearly a function of the specific institutional characteristics and unique personalities that contribute to the ethos of a particular institution, as an exemplary case study it is primarily significant in highlighting the fact that to effect the qualitative change necessary to accommodate the online teaching-learning process, it is also necessary to generate qualitatively different organisational infrastructures.

In many universities the development of online initiatives are not systemic, but are often random acts of innovation, initiated by risk-taking individuals. In contrast, the implementation of Web-based applications at USQ is strategically planned, systematically integrated and institutionally comprehensive.

The USQ case study demonstrates that technology alone is not sufficient to engender much needed organisational development. The opportunity for institutional leaders is to adopt a proactive stance, and to generate an organisational development strategy appropriate to the ethos of their particular institution, which will lead to the new technologies becoming a structurally integrated part of practically every aspect of institutional operations. If the power of the increasing array of new technologies is to be exploited in higher education, an appropriate organisational development strategy needs to de devised and implemented to bring about necessary institutional reconstruction.

Such reconstruction is difficult; learning to use new technology effectively is difficult, both take time and considerable human and physical resources, and both demand sustained human intervention.