The second phase saw an emphasis on networking led by the major projects at Brown - IRIS, MIT - Aethena, and Camegie Mellon - Project Andrew. It also saw the influential consortium EDUCOM enter the arena to assist in investigating planning processes for new computer environments in tertiary institutions.
The third phase towards reaching an electronic campus is what Gardner terms the 'information' phase, and is signified by particular styles which campuses have chosen to manage information. Investment in computer and communication technologies has seen the 'convergence' of libraries and computing centres, also, the appointment of 'information managers'. But what is also emerging is the need to look beyond the technical aspects of an electronic campus to issues related to changes demanded in administrative, organisational, and educational structures and practices, as well as to the social and political environment in which these changes are to occur.
It might well be asked, is this progression one which Australian Universities will go through. It appears so. The absence of large, powerful and lucrative computer companies in Australia simply means that our universities will not be afforded the same opportunities of hand in hand leading edge development work between corporation and campus. And, unlike the leading universities in the US, Australian institutions are in the main, public institutions, dependent on government funding and the conservatism which that imposes. Hence we are doomed to become followers of general trends rather than leaders setting the pace and direction of the electronic campus.
On first appearances perhaps the shift in focus can be attributed to the impact of fast changing technology offered in the desktop computer. Microcomputers are dynamic, their configurations literally change overnight, and with each morning there are more choices available, more decisions to make. Often the plaintive cry emerges from an academic, 'I do wish they'd stop bringing out new things!', or we witness a major research project focusing on 'currently available' technology. These are signs of difficulties being experienced and perhaps many of us have actually sat google eyed, unable to cope with the speed of change. Literature on change processes indicates that often those affected will take a fall back position, doing the 'easy thing' first. In fact this is exactly what has happened in private enterprise.
In the Harvard Business Review, July-August 1990, the following article by Michael Hamer appeared indicating the pitfalls of doing the 'easy thing' first:
...heavy investments in information technology have delivered disappointing results - largely because companies tend to use technology to mechanise old ways of doing business. They leave the existing processes intact and use computers simply to speed them up.This form of computer implementation caused businesses to fall behind, to even close as the going got tough and we entered the recession of the 1990s. And the response:
...Instead of imbedding outdated processes in silicon and software, we should obliterate them and start over. We should 're-engineer' our businesses: use the power of modem information technology to radically redesign our business.The process of 're-engineering' is cutting costs to businesses by as much as 80%. The same process needs to apply to the management and organisational structures of our universities, but more importantly and more easily accomplished, is to apply the process of 're-engineering' to every course on offer on every campus.
Recognition of the change processes associated with the uptake of microcomputer and communications technology is clearly an issue. It is evident in the documentation of the progress made by US universities who by necessity must be competitive. Having a competitive edge means developing unique offerings. One example of a prominent campus who has progressed through Gardner's phases (Yendt 1990) and is now rethinking its course offerings, is Stanford University in California. It has, by Australian standards, superb resources including a division devoted to assisting academics implement computers in teaching, even a development team to produce interactive multimedia courseware. Yet in 1990 they could cite only twelve such projects completed. But, it is a heartening start!
Taking the funding issue first. Unfortunately non of the major players in the computer industry call Australia home. 'Me implications of this are extensive, the most important of which is that the big companies cannot be looked to as major sources of funding for development as they are to our USA counterparts. Funding from commercial interests is limited and usually targeted at research and development activities so that Offsets obligations may be met. Even government funding from outside the university is usually attracted for the purposes of research. This is also currently true of internal decisions being made where an emphasis is being placed on funding research activities and not teaching activities, as indicated in the popular press in Australia during 1990. Hence both external sources and internal sources of funding emphasise 'rewards' for research and development, not 'rewards' for teaching. If the learner is to be the focus of our computer applications, both rewards by funding and rewards by recognition have to change and recognise that the microcomputer is as much a tool for teaching as it is for research.
The issue of change is perhaps the key issue, for the structures developed within universities to deal with it will provide the much needed solution. Computer technology will go on changing. This is not a bad thing, we simply have to devise solutions to capitalise on it by changing funding structures and purchasing patterns, by becoming informed decision makers, by creating a vision, by producing policy and developing strategies that will move each campus in a focused direction. In other words, provide a management framework in which academics can grow and focus their attention on 're-engineering' their courses and enhancing learning. This can be summed up by Gardner in the following way:
Just as industry and commerce has realised that information technology is, first and foremost, a boardroom issue rather than a technical one so universities in Britain, the USA, and elsewhere are appreciating that campus computing policy may underpin the whole future strategic direction of an institution, and its ability to survive in a more competitive environment (Gardner, 1989:347).The combination of changing academic reward structures along with the provision of clear direction through university policy will actually bring about an environment which is conducive to course 're-engineering' enabling unique relationships to be developed between the learner and the technology. However, this cannot be done in isolation from the market forces, trend patterns and future projections. To ignore development projections from the computer industry would be to put ones head in the sand and be left behind. At this conference alone, we will see a shift from the concept of 'multimedia' to 'integrated media'. And that projection was made in the middle of the last decade.
Gardner, N. (1989). The Electronic Campus: The First Decade. Higher Education Quarterly, 43(4), 332-350.
Hawkins, B. L. (Ed.) (1990). Organising and Managing Information Resources on Campus. EDUCOM Academic Publications Inc. USA.
Henderson-Lancett, L. (1984). Year 6 Learn to Write Using the Word Processor. In A. D. Salvas (Ed.), Computing and Education - 1984 and Beyond. Computer Education Group of Victoria.
|Please cite as: Henderson-Lancett, L. (1992). Identifying directions for interactive multimedia: A university dilemma. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 599-602. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/henderson-lancett.html|