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Thanks Martin for raising again these issues which not only continue to dog us, but dog us even more than ever in the light of changing practices and tools.
We wrote about this recently too (see http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/ourwork/learningandtech/Transforming-08.pdf) and noted that "The central challenge is to manage what seem to be competing imperatives:
the creation of consistency, the maintenance of standards, formal explicit processes
and procedures on the one hand, with ad hoc, flexible on-the-ground activities
on the other hand. Taken together, our case study and the wider literature argue
persuasively that top-down policies, understood as coercive in corporate cultures,
are least effective for varied responsive pedagogical change. At the same time,
fragmented, on-the-ground activities cannot be scaled up to larger success without
systemic support. This leads to the crucial role of the middle layer in universities; to
what has been termed ‘middle-out’ approaches."

Implications are important for middle layers of universities, it seems.

Phil Greaney

I agree in principle with the notion that individual tools are better; but I'm not always sure better is best. For example - the OU VLE wiki is not as 'good' as, say, Mediawiki (in that it doesn't have the flexibility, sophistication, and so on), but then it doesn't need the additional functionality of Mediawiki.

Tutors might not know or want to know how to use it given its relative sophistication; and students might not want to, either (they might not like markup, say; in that case, perhaps something WYSIWYG like Wetpaint will do the trick?)

There's no reason, given the modular and open quality of something like Moodle that a wiki couldn't - theoretically - be as 'good' as an external tool. Or more specifically, more 'fit for purpose' (hate that term, but it seems to fit). Writing all this seems a bit churlish, though, when I tend to agree with you.

Mark Smithers

I agree with what your thoughts about centralisation and control. It seems to me that a highly centralised approach for a VLE is more about control than anything else these days. It is often dressed up in arguments about consistency and usability but I remain to be convinced that these are crucial issues for students who are increaslingly used to working in multiple web based UIs. My experience with a highly centralised VLE is that it doesn't meet the requirements of a large and highly diverse dual sector university and that the controls enforced by centralisation demotivate early adopters who want more control themselves. These are exactly the people that you don't want to put offside.
I think that there will be a desire for the next generation of VLE to be essentially centralised with third party applications as you say but I wonder whether they might be superceded by open, cloud based VLEs. Who knows.

Jorge Apel

Estimado Profesor
Es muy interesante su artículo. Abre para mí un nuevo frente de discusión al pensar en la incorporación de las ntics.
No solo en términos macro sino también al interior del control de cada institución donde se realicen las prácticas.
Jorge Apel

p.d. Disculpas por el castellano, pero mi inglés no da para la escritura

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