Everything old is new again

I have this growing sense of deja vu. I’m beginning to think that my current experience with the institutional policies and processes around Australian university enterprise e-learning is essentially a repeat of my experience with the institutional policies and processes around Australian university print-based distance education systems of the mid-1990s. Almost twenty years on its deja vu all over again?

Some of this arises from an on-going conversation between @cj13, @timklapdor (I must start reading his blog more), and myself. A conversation about how innovation might arise within existing university structures (or more likely not arise).

As it happens, I’ve also been reading a bit about Morozov’s “To Save Everything, Click Here” book and its intellectual links. Through which I came to this in which Morozov has a short piece (linked to his book and other writings) where innovation and how we consider it is questioned. It included this on the history of innovation

According to historian Benoit Godin, for more than 2,500 years, the innovator was “a heretic, a revolutionary, a cheater.” Innovators brought little but trouble: They challenged the status quo and undermined the stability of the state. As late as the 1940s, innovation was seen as a form of deviant behavior — like crime or delinquency.

The idea of the notion of innovation being innovated and the view of the innovator as a heretic made some interesting connections for me. For example, back in 1994 I was asked to formally apologise to the entire staff of the Division of Distance and Continuing Education (DDCE) at a University because I gave a presentation about the World-Wide Web. The abstract for the presentation asked the question “Is this the death of DDCE?”. Most of my work with web-based learning over the following 5 years arose from battling against the limitations of the formal institutional mechanisms for distance education. Now, in 2013, I find myself battling against the limitations of the formal institutional mechanisms for e-learning. Perhaps the “innovator” – at least the one outside the formal institutional innovation framework – is still a role of a heretic?

All of which gives further weight/credence to the argument of @cj13 about the need for skunk works. It also connects to one of the central ideas of Morozov’s book about solutionism. i.e. that University learning and teaching has fallen for solutionism and the on-going search for “imperfections soon to be overcome by applying the right method” (Ven Den Eede, 2013) and ignoring broader problems. Suggesting that the current bandwagons of MOOCs, Learning Analytics etc. are likely to result in internally driven changes within Australian universities, but only the type of internally driven changes that have arisen from earlier bandwagons such as web-based learning, online learning, or blended learning. In 20 years time, I suspect it’s not entirely impossible that I will be struggling against the constraints put in place by a system relying on the local use of a MOOC from the USA and the support provided by IBM’s latest learning analytics with inbuilt learner and teacher nudge-based interventions?

4 thoughts on “Everything old is new again

  1. Innovators who can relate the ideas to practice are always a challenge to the status quo. The Internet based distance education ‘industry’ is now as established and set in its ways as was the correspondence-based one that saw its long-lingering death in the nineties. The fact is, though, that if you don’t push ahead opportunities will be lost and, in the end, students will miss out. That makes it worth it, yes, but it does not lessen the amount of ‘push back’ you can expect.

  2. Lots of little, affordable experiments, preferably skunk works-style. The status quo are annoying etc. but of no consequence. When did the last status quo make you say “wow!” ? To pinnch a bit of Taleb, those who keep the status quo have no skin in the game. The game they learned to play is the one that is a plague on all the good folk like you who actually take the responsibility of helping the young make some sense of the world seriously. Only one question. Point to one, just one thing that corporate managers have done that improves the lot of students or the good folk who try to look after them? Easy to point to the things they have done that advances their house of cards.

  3. Pingback: One Free Shot | Tim Klapdor

  4. Pingback: Change comes in cycles & Innovation in waves | Tim Klapdor

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