© Paul Stacey, 2010

Stacey, P. (2010) Archtecting EdTech Musings on the edtech frontier, June 7

Paul Stacey gave a fascinating presentation at the ETUG conference in Victoria last week, based on the blog above. Paul ‘thought it might be interesting to map out some of the major structural components, differentiate between elements of the architecture that are the responsibility of the institution vs. those that (potentially) are not, and assess the pros and cons of hosting in-house vs sourcing elsewhere.’

He presents a ‘macro view of educational technology with all of the major structural components shown together as a comprehensive and complementary suite of technologies’. In particular he focuses on:

  • what technologies learners bring within their personal learning environments,
  • what the institution might provide (such as learning management and student information systems),
  • what might be provided on a state or provincial wide basis (such as student admission systems or state-wide software licenses)
  • what might be provided through cloud computing (such as e-mail systems).

Although this was not the main purpose of Paul’s musings, they raise some critical questions about the governance of educational technology. Governance of IT generally is gaining a lot of attention recently, particularly regarding responsibilities for security and privacy of data. However, there are other equally important reasons for institutions to have a clear governance structure for educational technology.

In our recent study of eleven institutions, Albert Sangra and I found that the organizational management of learning technologies in most of the institutions was – what’s the kindest word? – loose. There was overlap of responsibilities between different units, and responsibilities and mandates were often vague and inconsistent. Just think of responsibilities for your LMS – who makes the decisions about choice, purchase, maintenance, technical support, access, and security?

Or take another example. If a professor wants his students to do a project in a virtual world such as ‘Second Life’, what protections would there be to ensure student data is secure, that students are not harassed (as the space is public), and so on, especially since the virtual world software may well be on a server in a country with different privacy laws? Some institutions have indeed banned the use of web 2.0 technologies that operate on servers outside the control of the institution. Others have preferred to educate faculty in the risks, and how to reduce risk. Who should decide such policies and how should they be enforced? How can decisions be made without killing any form of innovation or experimentation with new technologies? These are the kinds of question a technology governance structure would deal with.

The old way of thinking about this is that this is something for the IT department to worry about. However, information and communications technologies are now integral components of all core activities of a modern university or college. Therefore the ‘traditional’ model of decision-making, of leaving it to the techies, is not going to work in organizations where everyone is making decisions about technology.

Paul’s musings raise key questions as to where different technologies belong, in terms of management: the student, the institution, the province or state, or out there in the cloud? A governance structure would help by ensuring that all those who should be involved in decision-making are ‘at the table’ and responsible for implementing and following policies regarding the use of technology – or at least are educated to know where responsibilities lie. Paul’s musings provide very useful tools for thinking about governance.

I believe that a clear and coherent governance structure for technology is required in every institution. Although this will be a continually evolving structure, it needs to be codified in some way, with responsibilities clearly defined against the committees or individuals responsible for implementation and compliance. Education about issues will be more useful than a long list of bureaucratic rules and procedures, but someone needs to be responsible for ensuring that the education takes place, that the people who need the education receive it, and where policies are needed, they are clear, well communicated, and enforced when necessary.

Michelle Lamberson and Kele Fleming at UBC have also written a paper that could form the basis of a formal governance structure:

Lamberson, M. and Fleming, K. (2008) Aligning institutional culture and practice: The University of British Columbia’s e-Learning Framework Tokyo: NIME International Symposium

I don’t think this paper is available online, but if you would like a copy contact Kele Fleming or Michelle Lamberson

Lastly, some questions for you:

  • Does your institution have a clearly codified/written-down governance structure for technology management? Does it work?
  • Do you think it is necessary to have a technology governance structure?


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