A recent post summarised a paper that was taking some insights from the information systems discipline and applied it to the implementation of a LMS/VLE. This post draws on some insights from Alavi and Leidner (2001), an influential paper (208 citations on Google Scholar) from the information systems discipline. A paper that calls for IS researchers to focus more on technology-mediated learning – i.e. e-learning.

Of the many ways the paper suggests IS researchers can make a contribution the following is the focus of this post.

Lastly, at the organizational level of analysis, IS scholars might have insights to provide to the question of how to encourage instructors (in the role of end-users) to incorporate IT tools to improve their instructional design, development, and delivery.

Based on a review of the literature the authors suggest a simple matrix – the figure below – to summarise four common approaches universities take to the coordination, support and knowledge sharing around e-learning at the organisational level.

Coordination, support and knowledge sharing

The four quadrants can be described as:

  1. Acquisition of technology and their support is uncoordinated. Sharing of knowledge is random – generally limited to ad hoc social networks.
  2. Technology acquisition and support remains uncoordinated, but some facilitation of knowledge sharing occurs.
  3. Technology acquisition and support is now coordinated across the institution, however, knowledge sharing is random.
  4. Technology acquisition and support is coordinated and knowledge sharing is facilitated.

Alavi and Leidner suggest that most universities are in quadrant #1. That may have been true in North America in 2000/2001. It might continue to be true in that country. At this point in time, in Australia, I believe most universities could probably be said to be in quadrants 3 and 4. Though, in reality, there are probably aspects of practice that dip into the other quadrants. Where is your university?

The quadrant I’m most familiar with is probably quadrant 3 though at times we might have touched on 4. Facilitation of knowledge sharing is by far the most difficult of the three tasks. One I’m not sure anyone has really grappled with effectively. Especially because facilitation of knowledge sharing is not separate from acquisition and support. Though it is often treated as separate.

Acquisition and support can easily be allocated to the information technology folk. Which means that facilitation of knowledge sharing can occur about how to use the technology. But leveraging the knowledge sharing to inform the modification of existing or adoption of new technology has to battle across the disciplinary gulf that separates learning and teaching from IT. Not only that, it also has to battle the problem of resource starvation where funding/resourcing for L&T IT gets starved of attention due to the “size” of the problem outside of L&T.


Alavi, M. and D. E. Leidner (2001). “Research commentary: technology-mediated learning – a call for greater depth and breadth of research.” Information Systems Research 12(1): 1-10.