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Accessible e-learning – identefying issues, actions and problems using an Activity System
Fig.1 Annotations to an Activity System from Open University module H810 : Accessible Online Learning
Activity Systems are particularly good at showing how a collection of problems can together be instrumental in stagnation when it comes to bringing down barriers to online learning. Engestrom how one weakness can jeopardise the desired outcome – the reality is that there are many ‘ruptures’ and ‘conflicts’.
Why learning in business is becoming fluid and lively – the relationship between the academic and the student has flipped.
Fig.1. Henry Mintzberg
Drawing on a business model, the development of a more organic structure that is less hierarchical, as envisaged by Mintzberg (1994), seems appropriate; it complements what authors such as John Seely Brown say about ‘learning from the periphery’ too.
Fig.2. Part of a mind-map created while preparing for a written exam on ‘Creativitiy, Innovation and Change’
Characteristics of an adhocracy (Waterman, 1990; Mintzberg, 1994; Travica, 1999):
- highly organic structure
- little formalization of behavior
- job specialization based on formal training
- a tendency to group the specialists in functional units for housekeeping purposes but to deploy them in small, market-based project teams to do their work
- a reliance on liaison devices to encourage mutual adjustment within and between these teams
- low standardization of procedures
- roles not clearly defined
- selective decentralization
- work organization rests on specialized teams
- power-shifts to specialized teams
- horizontal job specialization
- high cost of communication (dramatically reduced in the networked age)
- culture based on non-bureaucratic work
Fig. 3. Handy’s Shamrock (1989)
The advantage of a flexible organisation is that it can react quickly to a change in its external environment.
Since the 1990s, firms have examined their value chain and tried to reduce their workforce to a multi-skilled core, which is concerned with the creation or delivery of a product or service. All other supporting, non-central functions are outsourced wherever possible to the periphery.
Charles Handy suggested, however, that organisations do not consist of just the Core and the Periphery, since the periphery can be subdivided.
He calls this a shamrock organisation:
The first leaf of the shamrock represents the multi-skilled core of professional technicians and managers, essential to the continuity of the business
The second leaf Handy calls the contractual fringe, because non central activities are contracted out to firms specialising in activities such as marketing, computing, communications and research
The third leaf consists of a flexible workforce made up of part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.
Brown, John Seely (2007) Exploring the potential of Web 2.0 techniques and applications in higher and distance education, informal and lifelong learning
Handy, C (1989) The Age of Unreason
Mintzberg, H (1994), The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning: Reconceiving the Roles for Planning, Plans, Planners, Free Press, pp. 458, ISBN 0-02-921605-2
Travica, B (1999) New Organizational Designs: Information Aspects, Ablex/Greenwood, ISBN 1-56750-403-5, Google Print, p.7
Waterman, R. H. (1990). Adhocracy: The power to change. The Larger agenda series. Knoxville, Tenn: Whittle Direct Books.
- Thoughts on Gestalt Product Strategy (onproductmanagement.net)
- Thesis Chapter 1 – Organizational Change On managerial Roles In Petroleum Development Of Oman (PDO). (thinkingbookworm.typepad.com)
- “The Structure of ‘Unstructured’ Decision Processes” is a fascinating 1976 paper by Henry Mintzberg,…” (caterpillarcowboy.com)
- Characteristics of Work Organisations (prmarketingcommunication.com)
From a team perspective Bill Gates is an adaptor and Steve Jobs an innovator
Re-reading the Steve Jobs biography with four months in hand before another MAODE module I am struck by what it tells you about Gates and Jobs and how self-evidently one is an adaptor ‘doing things better’ while the other is an innovator ‘doing things differently’.
This drawn from doing a KAI personality innoventory and all the reading around these tests for B822.
I came out at 144 on a scale of 160; I’d envisage Jobs as somwhere on the outer edges of 150 while Gates gets a 20 or 30, neither would be in the 60-130 zone for two thirds of respondents.
If they ever did one ofthese are the results known?
As most managers do observation and experience of a person’s behaviour and responses must suffice.
I feel a desire to revisit H807 ‘Innovations in E-learning’ while mixing it up with B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’.
I can do this through the 1000+ entries I have here and by refreshing my mind from the current and archived blogs of others blogging here currently (though few if any blog there way through the MBA programme and I am yet to find anyone blogging about B822).
B822 Techniques : Human Sculpture & Timeline
‘Human Sculpture’ isn’t one of the 168 techniques in the ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’ Handbook, though it could be. Indeed the facilitator/tutor said he had 200 activities in his toolkit (or was it 500). I saw this as representing what could be achieved with ‘Timeline’ and related it to an activity I did with 40 Youth Theatre actors age 11-16 trying to plot and thinking out a careers advice video.
(These are not the original participants though it may be interesting to introduce a fun version of ‘human sculpture’ as a Christmas Entertainment. As a team creating a tableau from a movie or some such?)
The Human Sculpture
We were invited to offer a personal problem; it was made quite clear that we had to be comfortable with this. Without saying what the problem was and with the facilitator’s help a ‘human sculpture’ was made to represent the problem. In this instance there were forces pulling him in two directions (partner and ego) with this person’s current/former employer behind and his future employment/employer in front.
There were therefore FIVE participants who made up the ‘sculpture’.
It was fascinating to have each factor comment on how they felt, even if this ‘factor’ was an entity, psyche or ‘unknown’ future.
This was recognised as a way to see the problem for what it is, for the problem owner to see it as others see it, to get the sentence that an entity, played out as a person, can have feelings.
I particularly liked the idea of being able to talk to the desired or possible outcome in a kind of role play.
The technique from the B822 Technique Library where you do something similar is with ‘Timeline’ placing people at points now and in the future. In a way I did this years ago to visualise a careers advice video using members of a Youth Theatre who had to be someone 1, 5 and 10 years along a career path based on different decisions they took at 14/16 about school, a job, training or university.
From the B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’ Residential School
P.S. The image above might offer part of our conclusion, that all the factors should be brought into consideration. What is more, where the problem isn’t too sensitive or the individual/participants want an aide memoire then a series of pictures could be taken.