Transformational change without control?

Update from Innovating e-Learning 2008

The closing days of JISC online conference saw some deep discussion. The session we were facilitating asked whether we should free the maniacs (or students!). Prof Mark Stiles was interested in the reasons education tended to be "controlling". He saw a downward spiral where embedding innovation led to regulation, which could act as a barrier to further innovation. Mark felt a philosophy of "minimum control" within institutions was the way forward.

Various examples of control (and concerns over relinquishing it) were cited, with the inference that we need to 'unpick' what is meant by control. Mark offered a spectrum of control to act as a guide:
  • Control - to exercise restraint or direction over; to hold in check
  • Manage - to take charge or care of; to govern, or control in action or use
  • Facilitate - to make easier; help forward (an action, a process, etc.)
  • Enable - to give power, means, competence, or ability to; to make possible or easy
  • Recognise - to identify from knowledge of appearance or characteristics
He highlighted that "as [organisations] move up from merely 'recognising' something happens to having a fully 'controlled' institutional approach that we stop at the LOWEST level needed". Peter Bullen (Mark's co-presenter) reminded us that while controls are normally introduced for a good reason, they can become embedded and later, as organisations change, the original reason can be forgotten and the control can become unnecessary. A clear example of why process improvement or continual review is essential.

Both presenters had outlined the change processes introduced within their organisations. With particular emphasis at the University of Hertfordshire of involving students in this process. This process is called CABLE (Change Academy for Blended Learning Enhancement) and is described in detail in 'CABLE: an approach to embedding blended learning in the curricula and across the institution'.

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