Minimum course presence and the tension between centralisation and de-centralisation

Am finding this HBR article to have an interesting take on the centralisation verse de-centralisation argument. However, still reading through it.

It particularly resonates with me at the moment because of the discussions I’ve had/seen this week around individual universities implementing minimum course presence policies. Essentially, it seems the next big fad for universities to be able to ensure that every course has a standard minimum course website.

This seems to me to be a prime example of a move to centralisation, and thus suffers from all of the problems associated with centralisation. In particular, how it removes the ability for the “person on the spot” (the teaching academic) to respond to the local context. I believe this to be an important factor in university learning and teaching because of the diversity of learning.

The tension here is that there are at least three separate requirements around a minimum course presence:

  1. An institutional quality assurance requirement;
    i.e. to ensure that all courses have some minimum standard, that all students can be assured at least this minimal level of service. Perhaps the most important requirement is that senior management need to be certain that this is the case.
  2. The learning within the course; and
    A key characteristic of each course, its teachers, and students is diversity. They are all different. They need to learn in a different way. An online course presence has to be able to engage with this diversity.
  3. The learning of the teaching staff and the organisation.
    It’s my argument that in order for an institution to improve the quality of its learning and teaching, the delivery of teaching must include a focus on learning about that delivery. i.e. when I use a minimum course site in a course for the first time, I am going to gain insights into what works and what doesn’t. I am going to learn. The minimum course presence needs to be able to change based on that learning. Not to mention that because of the diversity of teaching staff, courses and students, that learning is going to be very different.

Am wondering if the minimum course presence movement has been ruined by an over-focus on the first requirement and too little of a focus on the other two. Is there any evidence of approaches to a minimum course presence that recognises the other two requirements?

Amplify’d from hbr.org
Therefore, individuals who have on-the-spot knowledge must be allowed to figure out what to do.
Discerning the appropriate balance between top-down command and control, on the one hand, and individual initiative and judgment, on the other, will always be a challenge for our society and our organizations.Read more at hbr.org
 

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