The following is the introduction to a section of Chapter 2 of my thesis. It introduces the examination of the Place component of the Ps Framework. Hopefully, the remaining sections of the section will be posted over the coming day or so.

This isn’t much of a post on its own, but posting it does provide a small sense of achievement that is much needed in the frustration that has been the last week or so in trying to get this section completed.


The “Place” component of the Ps Framework seeks to understand the context within which university-based e-learning occurs. The assumption is that the practice of e-learning will be influenced by and needs to respond appropriately to factors arising from the context. Knight and Trowler (2000) report on the Rand Change Agent Study (1974-78) that identified mutual adaptation of the innovation and the context as an essential component of successful innovations. Gonzalez (2009), writing in the context of improving teaching, describes how factors arising form the context have proved to influence the characteristics of the approach finally adopted. Contextual factors shape the decision making process and may amplify, moderate or suppress certain factors (Jamieson, Hyland et al. 2007). In the modern, knowledge-based economy, how a university identifies, classifies and establishes relationships with its various constituencies, stakeholders or communities will have important implications for the institution’s chances for survival (Jongbloed, Enders et al. 2008).

This section examines the context within which e-learning occurs at three levels: society, sector and institutional. It recognises that the interactions between the factors within these levels is complex and that the space available here not sufficient to capture that complexity completely. The intent then is to provide an overview of those factors perhaps most directly related to the implementation of e-learning within universities. In particular, the aim is to illustrate just how complex and turbulent this environment is and suggest this must be a consideration into the design of e-learning.

First, the factors and changes observable from the fields of economics, technology, culture, government and other aspects of society (section 2.1.1) are covered. Next, the impact of these societal factors onto the higher education sector (section 2.1.2) and other related factors are examined. The next level down, the institution (section 2.1.3) then looks at the characteristics and nature of individual institutions of higher education and how that may impact e-learning. Section 2.1.4 – Types of systems – provides a brief overview of the different types of system abstractions that have been used and suggests that more recent abstractions from complex adaptive systems are a good match for universities and their context. Finally, Section 2.1.5 draws a number of lessons from the “Place” component of the Ps Framework for the practice of e-learning within universities.