Putting the University Online: a learning Organization Model for Electronic Transformation




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НазваниеPutting the University Online: a learning Organization Model for Electronic Transformation
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Putting the University Online: A Learning Organization Model for Electronic Transformation


Kam Hou VAT

University of Macau, Macau

Ave. Padre Tomas Pereira S.J., Taipa, Macau

fstkhv@umac.mo


Abstract: This paper investigates the process of electronic transformation from the perspective of a learning organization. Specifically, we shall discuss the context of a virtual learning university, in the process of educational renewal led by the new roles of both teachers and students, to be collaborators and active participants in the renewed educational setting. We also describe our philosophy in designing the virtual university (VU), covering such areas as the VU’s emerging new roles as educational services providers, some techno-pedagogic scenarios, the renewed mindset for university education, and the underlying challenges in learning management. The paper further presents a formulation of the learning organization model for electronic transformation in terms of such important architectures as: the transformation architecture, and the knowledge architecture. Essentially, this paper serves as an expression of the author’s ongoing action research to document the efforts in blending the bricks-and-mortar campus university with the technical enhancement of its clicks-and-mortar counterpart, the virtual university.


Introduction



With the rapid advances in networking technologies and the commercialization of the Internet today (Vat 2001; Hamalainen, Whinston, & Vishik, 1996), universities are well poised to deliver customized educational services worldwide for life-long learners. In order to take advantage of such new technologies and opportunities, it is often required that an electronic infrastructure within the physical university be conceived and established. We hereby call this digital counterpart of the campus-based university, the virtual university (VU) (Chellappa, Barua, & Whinston 1997), which is an electronic entity constructed to enable a re-engineered vision of the university’s educational process. In practice, the design of the VU, according to Mowshowitz (1994, 1997), could be expressed as a set of principles for managing goal-oriented activity based on a categorical split between task requirements and their satisfaction (Harrington, 1991; Mowshowitz, 1997). In this formulation, the electronic transformation from the bricks-and-mortar university to its clicks-and-mortar counterpart can be conceived as an approach to management that explicitly recognizes the conceptual distinction between functional requirements and the means for their realization in practice, as well as providing a framework for accommodating dynamic changes in both requirements and available services. In a dynamically changing organizational and technological environment, it is essential that we can logically separate the requirements from the means for their satisfaction. That way, management could create an environment in which the means for reaching a goal are continually and routinely evaluated in relation to explicit criteria. Such a management structure ensures that requirements are satisfied as appropriately as possible. It is believed that this idea could be adopted in a variety of settings to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the underlying information systems (IS) support and to motivate the participants involved to reflect on organizational goals. Practically, we have often managed to experiment with the incremental realization of the VU in the form of numerous Web-based information systems (Isakowitz, Bieber, & Vitali, 1998) for different functional requirements including those related to the activities of collaborative learning over the Internet. Specifically, the VU can be characterized by focusing on identifying the requirements needed to realize the IS applications, while at the same time, investigating and specifying the current technological means for satisfying the same requirements. It is often the VU’s ability to switch systematically available IS services to requests based on explicit formulation of goals, that allows for a high degree of flexibility and responsiveness in improving resource utilization, achieving better quality products, strengthening managerial control, and providing cost-effective services. Indeed, the VU, being an innovative form of organization, requires a learning framework for exploring requirements, satisfiers, assignment methods and criteria, to assess and improve the organizational performance. In this paper, we attribute such a framework to the learning organization model for electronic transformation, comprising such components as the transformation architecture, and the knowledge architecture.


The Connotations of a Learning Organization


Nowadays, enterprises including educational institutes are challenged to do things faster, better and more cost-effectively in order to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy. There is a strong need to share knowledge in a way that makes it easier for individuals, teams, and enterprises to work together to effectively contribute to an organization’s success. This idea of knowledge sharing has been well discussed in the notion of a learning organization (LO) (Garvin, 1993; King, 1996; Levine, 2001; Senge, 1990). Basically, a learning organization could be considered as an organization, which focuses on developing and using its information and knowledge capabilities in order to create higher-value information and knowledge, to modify behaviors to reflect new knowledge and insights, and to improve bottom-line results. Based on this characterization of LO, there are many possible information system (IS) instances that could be incorporated into a learning organization. The acronym “LOIS” (Learning Organization Information System) (Williamson & Lliopoulos, 2001) as applied to an organization is often used as a collective term representing the conglomeration of various information systems, each of which, being a functionally defined subsystem of the enterprise LOIS, is distinguished through the services it renders. For example, if a LOIS could support structured and unstructured dialogue and negotiation among the organizational members, then the LOIS subsystems might need to support reflection and creative synthesis of information and knowledge and thus integrate working and learning. They should also help document information and knowledge as it builds up, say, by electronic journals. Or, they have to make recorded information and knowledge retrievable, and individuals with information and knowledge accessible. Collectively, a LOIS can be considered as a scheme to improve the organization’s chances for success and survival by continuously adapting to the external environment. Consequently, we stand a better chance of increasing social participation and shared understanding within the enterprise, and thus foster better learning. Although we believe that this positioning of LOIS represents a significant vision of a future generation of information systems, there are serious questions to be addressed in connection with knowledge capture and transformation, as well as intellectual asset management within the enterprise. All these have consequences for organization transformation in such areas as strategies, structures, processes, systems and people. More importantly, the philosophy underlying the LOIS design should recognize that our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds and the LOIS helps capture and reuse those experiences and insights in the enterprise. The notion that emerges resembles strongly the classical history paradigm of learning from past events, necessitating the collection of data and repeated re-interpretation of its meaning, significance and impact for next generations. That is also the idea of organizational learning (Kim, 1995), supported by an organizational memory (Conklin, 1996) – the means by which knowledge from the past is continuously brought to bear on present activities. It should possibly result in higher or lower levels of organizational effectiveness in terms of the decision-making, organizing, leading, designing, controlling, communicating, planning and motivating functions of the management process. The cultivation of a communal knowledge space based on the organizational memory, is fundamental to any enterprises that intend to establish, grow and nurture a digital learning organization (Hackbarth & Grover, 1999), where individuals grow intellectually and expand their knowledge by unlearning inaccurate information and relearning new information. Oftentimes, there is the essential difference between doing it the way we always did it (single-loop learning) and arriving at an innovative solution that establishes new patterns and relationships (double-loop learning) (Argyris, 1992; Kim, 1995). Consequently, the idea of the learning organization, and thus the subsequent LOIS support, has tremendous implications for the development of the virtual learning university.


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