Re-arranging Deck Chairs

I spent most of last week in Coolongatta at the CAUDIT-Educause Institute 2009. For those unfamiliar with the terms, CAUDIT is the Council of Australian Universities Directors of Information Technology and  Educause is the peak body promoting intelligent use of information technology in higher education. The Institute has run annually in Australia since 2002 and is based on a similar institute that runs twice a year in the US. It is ‘designed as a professional development program for those who manage some aspect of information technology and resources in higher education, whether within their department or for the entire institution‘.

I have to say up front that I enjoyed it immensely. It was great to meet people from universities across Australia and New Zealand to meet the Faculty all of whom hold senior positions at universities in Australia, New Zealand and the US. The content was well presented and and it was extremely well organised. What struck me though was the discussion with other attendees about the problems facing their institutions. Now maybe it’s me but they generally seemed focussed on short term issues. There was little consideration of the medium to long term by which I mean three to ten years. Now I know it’s a challenge to be thinking about issues that far out out, particularly given the fluid nature of the economic, technical and legislative environments but it seems to me that some pretty big things are happening at the moment. These issues could well mean that it is not ‘business as usual’ in a few years time. There was very little mention of the challenge of open education, I was the only one that mentioned changing the delivery model and I had to explain the concept of edupunk even though this has been around for a while now (although maybe not known by that term) and is only going to grow. As it does it will be a big issue (maybe a blessing) for University IT Departments.

So I’m left with the question; is it me? I tend to follow the blogs and tweets of people with similar view points to me but these represent a small segment of the continuum. It’s a little bit unnerving meeting people who, while maybe not expressing an opposing point of view, haven’t thought it important enough to consider at all. I’m often left wondering who, if anyone, is considering these things at our universities or is everybody bogged down in the messy lowlands of practice as Donald Schön might have described it. Are we just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic at the moment?

2 thoughts on “Re-arranging Deck Chairs”

  1. Yes.

    Obviously it is more complex than that, but generally I think folk – particularly folk from IT divisions – are re-arranging deck chairs. In my experience, many, surprising for they are intelligent folk, are not engaging with the potential paradigm changes that are coming by either not being aware of them or by not be allowed to consider them as they bring into question existing unspoken assumptions.

    For example, during the selection of a new LMS the question of Web 2.0, PLEs and how these might influence the appropriateness of the LMS model where the institution must provide and manage all technology. It was rejected as “just an opinion” and this from an organisation that had a project on PLEs being externally funded for something well into 6 figures.

  2. Thanks for the comment David.

    Often central IT organisations at Australian universities have adopted a very servile approach and haven’t necessarily provided strong strategic leadership with regard to teaching and learning with technology unlike the leadership and direction that they may offer with regard to administration systems. There are lots of reasons for this and I will blog about them if I can find a way of being diplomatic enough.
    I guess what I am saying is that central IT services do what the university requests of them (even if many academic and other staff don’t believe this). I spoke to one academic who was flabbergasted when told that central IT did not select the LMS or any other edtech at the university.
    So if there is rearranging of deck chairs then I suspect that other areas of universities are the ones responsible.

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