Type of work: Article (academic)
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore technology strategies and policies in the areas of standards, repositioning of technology, and service-oriented architecture that focus on enabling innovation while retaining coherence and viability.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses the concepts of shearing layers and Personal Learning Environments to define appropriate boundaries between individual, departmental, institutional, national, and global network control.
Findings – Education systems today can be characterised as a recursive metasystem of separate systems. Each system uses innovation as part of strategic planning to try to realise its potential and release its latency. However, these strategic activities generate friction with the metasystem, which puts the brakes on innovation in its subsystems. The architectural concepts of shearing layers and flexible couplings provide a model for reducing this friction. One way of enabling shearing layers in educational technology is to offer polymodal access to services.
Research limitations/implications – In managing technology, institutions should actively consider relocating functions to other layers of the education system, including technologies owned by individual learners and teachers. They should think of technology in terms of supporting flexible shearing layers between rapidly changing organisational structures. The concept of polymodal access should be used when looking to deploy services at any level of the organisation. Critical cross-cutting issues of privacy, identity, and business intelligence need to be designed into the institutional and departmental service infrastructure. Institutions should develop innovation-oriented technology policies. At the department or course level, policies should also reflect the position of the organisation with regard to the equitable experience of education.
Originality/value – The approach outlined demonstrates that institutions have the capacity to reinvent their technology strategies and policies in such a way as to unlock innovation at the departmental and personal level, without creating a crisis in IT service management. On the other hand, it also shows that the PLE perspective needs to be balanced with a broader view of student disposition and institutional goals to become recognised as part of the institutional technology strategy and policies.