Friday, August 06, 2004

Tear Down The Walls 

Have you ever wondered why we often keep working the same way but with new tools? Just think of a new technology, no matter which one (Customer Relationship Management, Object Oriented Language Programming, LMS/LCMS, handhelds, transactional websites…). It is usually built around the need to be better at something. Then, when it’s mature enough, people start adopting it and using it. They almost always use it without changing the way they used to work before its introduction. Then, after a while, they realize they are not fully taking advantage of available features and start adapting their work processes. This is where the gains become reality. The use of ITC (e-learning) in educational contexts has not yet been through the last phase…

Management of educational institutions has always been designed around the notion of physical site (be it a building or a campus). We are used to having principals, directors, teachers and support staff being assigned functions within such well-defined physical sites. The walls are then not only serving as protection against elements, but also as organizational boundaries.

E-learning, by allowing distributed collaboration in course design, offers the promise of making physical constraints irrelevant in education. Distributed workflow and project management are now common features in most advanced LMS. Have educational institutions gained from these new features? Not significantly. We are still working between walls. The new features are being used, but people still have to use them within existing wall-derived management structures. Workflow and project management is indeed distributed, within the same building. Great gain: people can now spend a bit less time in meetings and more time in front of the computer.

Walls are in some way comforting, a workplace golden prison. Physical walls have less importance now than they used to, but educational institutions have replaced them with virtual ones. Today I want to send a message to the managers of institutions involved in or considering e-learning: Tear down the walls. There is no need for me today to sell you the advantages of distributed collaborative work. Software representatives have already done that. Just really challenge your organization to use e-learning to its full potential.

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Let's just say that I'm trying to make a new project start off on the right foot... ;-)
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