Integrating on-line learning technologies into higher education
This dissertation presents an in-depth, qualitative case study that documents the efforts of two UK universities to integrate on-line learning technologies into their teaching practices and course design. It has been claimed that on-line learning technologies have the capacity to transform the provision of higher education. In order to address such claims, participant / observer research was conducted at two institutions, simultaneously, over a period of 18 months. Using ideas from the sociology of association, the organisational, pedagogic and technological activities surrounding the case study institutions' purchase and integration of two leading on-line learning technologies are described. Distinctions between different areas of activity both in and around the university are represented as they emerged 'in practice', allowing ostentive divisions between, for example, 'the education', 'the technological' and 'the organisation' to be temporarily, placed to one side. Building on these empirically grounded findings, this thesis considers the question of 'educational values'. Powerful discourses relating to knowledge, learning and the 'market for education' currently compete for primacy over pedagogic, epistemic and educational interests. By rejecting normative ascriptions of value, in either economic or moral terms, this thesis considers 'values-in-practice', or 'valence' as the enacted priorities that are set as part of organisational work. Through this analysis, values are understood as the basis upon which lines of reason or 'ways of reckoning' are constructed. This analytical approach is shown to be particularly relevant to the study of complex, integration work, where totalising or dichotomous conceptions of knowledge prove insufficient to capture or inform processes of negotiation. Together, the concepts of valence and ways of reckoning serve to support critical reflection on how educational values are constructed in the case of on-line learning. It is argued that only by understanding education as a collective endeavour, capable of promoting and supporting substantive diversity, can educational priorities be properly assessed and asserted.