dalek saucer pilotDoes your university have a minimum online presence policy (MOPP)? Is it successful?

I have a bit of a problem with MOPPs. I don’t think they work and, in fact, I think they are counterproductive. Here are my reasons:

1. Command and control

Let’s face it universities aren’t corporations and never have been despite what proponents of university corporatisation would have us believe. Universities are based on a collegiate model in which command and control does not work very well. Simply put, the academy don’t like being told what to do and many will passively resist in reaction. This includes being told that they must use the institution LMS as part of a MOPP.

2. Ineffective at mainstreaming innovation

For an innovation to be successfully mainstreamed within a population it must offer significant advantages to the majority of the members of that population. This us particularly true for what Everett Rogers1 describes as the early and late majorities which typically these make up almost 70% of a population.

Incidentally, it may not be possible at all to mainstream the use of the innovation across the 16% that Rogers describes as laggards. I would suggest that it would take generational change and fundamental organisational cultural change for the laggard group to adopt the innovation.

What I am saying is that MOPPs focus on the stick rather than the carrot. This is not a good model of innovation adoption in any population let alone one that does not respond well to command and control.

3. We already have a MOPP for courses and programs

Most universities already have a MOPP by default. Go to any university web site and it is possible to search through the course offerings. You will find the curriculum outline, pre-requisites, teaching staff and the reading list. This is generally tightly quality controlled as the information will have come from the course accreditation documents.

So if it already exists then why implement MOPPs? The answer is that it is seen as a way of driving adoption of the university LMS. Which brings us on to…

4. Inappropriate focus on the institution LMS

The policing of MOPPs focuses on the institutional LMS (I won’t use the term  VLE because most  usage is focussed on management rather than learning) in an attempt to increase the usage of the LMS. This is problematic for many in the academy.

Early adopters and innovators may have their own preference for LMS/VLE that may not coincide with the institutionally selected LMS. Furthermore they may not like the restrictions placed on the level of control that they have within the LMS. Restrictions which are inevitable in deploying an institution wide application.

Some of these academics will become edupunks who will actively seek out deinstitutionalised educational technologies that offer them the level of service they require.

The LMS may not be capable of delivering the functionality that is required from the academic. For example many creative and visual courses use virtual environments such as Second Life for learning. Similarly writing and journalism courses may prefer to use public facing blogs. Both of these technologies are completely outside of the LMS and do not get counted when LMS usage is analysed as part of reporting on MOPPs. Academics using these technologies may be frustrated that their innovations and their adoption of digital learning technologies are not recognised under a MOPP.

In fact some academics are reluctant to use such technologies in the first place as they do not get counted when schools and departments are audited under simplistic MOPPs. This dissuades academics from innovating outside of the LMS. This would seem to run counter to the overall aim of increasing the use of online learning technologies.

Summary

I think MOPPs are an overly simplistic tool used to drive an increase in usage of expensive institutional LMSs. If they are going to be used then should be used as just one policy along with a number of others designed to motivate staff to increase the use of online learning. Unfortunately this is almost never the case. At least I don’t know of any.

I do note (thanks to @cathellis13) that some universities such as the University of York have almost the opposite policy which is that courses will only be given sites in the institution LMS if they can show that will actively use the site for teaching and learning. This seems eminently more sensible to me. Such a policy does not drive adoption in itself so I would compliment it with other measures to drive adoption. I will cover those in another post.

In the meantime, let me know what you think.

1. Rogers, Everett. 1995. Diffusion of Innovations. 4th ed. New York: The Free Press.

Image information:

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by  Johnson Cameraface

5 thoughts on “The Problem with MOPPs

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Problem with MOPPs | Mark Smithers -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: Should academics manually create course websites? « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

  3. G’day Mark,

    Wondering about the definition and implementation of MOPPs. As you point out, a basic MOPP already exists with a range of existing information.

    So, what exactly is a MOPP.

    From the above, I believe you are thinking of the type of practice my current institution has just implemented. Something along the lines of

    A minimum standard is identified by a group of important folk.
    Academics of their helpers are required to ensure that their LMS-based course website matches that standard.
    There is some form of QA to ensure standards are met.

    Is this what you had in mind?

    What I’m wondering, are there any institutions that are automating this? i.e. automatically creating the MOPP (as defined above) within the LMS?

    David.

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Ostensibly that is what I am thinking about although the question of QA for minimum standards is interesting as I’m not sure that anywhere is doing that. As for automating this, at RMIT course shells are automatically created for every course offering within the student management system automatically before the start of every teaching period. If the course offering has run previously then content from the previous course shell is rolled over into the new one. If the course shell has not run previously then a new, empty course shell is created using a standard template with very basic generic content (library links etc). All of this sounds very good in practice but in my opinion it is a double edged sword. While we relieve some manual processes from the academic staff I also think we decrease their sense of ownership of the course shell as a learning space. I also find that many staff do understand (and maybe don’t want to understand) the rollover process and the timings involved with allowing them and their students access to the space.

      Cheers

      Mark

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Default course sites and wizards – version 2.0 « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

Leave a reply

required

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>