Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Pondering a new position – request for help

After a period of uncertainty, it appears likely that at some stage during May 2009 I may be starting a new position at my current institution. The position goes under the title – “eLearning and Innovation Specialist”. It is a academic position, I will retain my current appointment as a Level C Academic but rather than teaching will have to achieve the following position purpose

You are the person who consults effectively and broadly with key stakeholders and provides strategic advice and leadership in learning and teaching innovation, primarily in the area of e-learning. Your primary purpose is to promote strategic e-learning development, in conjunction with all major stakeholders, to ensure CQUniversity achieves it ongoing e-learning goals.

Some of the above and a list of the accountabilities for the position are available on the eLearning and innovation page on this blog. This page will serve as a central point for discussion this blog about the position.

Given the nature of the position, the organisation and recent history I intend to use this blog to reflect on the position. I believe strongly in the value of open and transparent discussion as a way to increase distributed cognition and consequently increase the spread and effectiveness of innovation around learning and teaching. So a major aim of the discussion of the job here is to engage in, or at least spark discussion on the position, what it does and how successful it is. In fact, I believe that using the blog in this way is a good way to fulfill some of the position accountabilities including: relationships, communicate and publish, continuous improvement and SoTL and the teaching/research nexus.

Current task

Next week I will be meeting with the position’s supervisor to engage in a planning process for what the role incumbent should be doing over the next year. My current task is to develop my ideas for what that should be a starting point for negotiation with my supervisor. Until those plans are discussed and signed off by the supervisor, they are simply potential ideas, not actual aims or projects.

My aim today is to reading literature around innovation, especially in learning and teaching, to inform that planning. My initial list of questions which I’d like to ask of the literature are:

  • What is innovation? Revolution, evolution, disruptive etc.?
  • How to measure successful innovation? What are the barriers and enablers towards innovation?
  • What models exist for encouraging innovation? Which work, which don’t?

Literature I know of

The following is a list of literature I’m aware of and currently intend to look at and/or revisit. Some of the literature is innovation oriented, some of it is specific to learning and teaching.

  • Innovate and integrate (Jasinski, 2007)
    Commisioned research from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework into the processes of embedding innovative practices.
  • Accountability and innovation in higher education: a disabling tension? (Findlow, 2008)
    A paper that empirically explores the tension between accountability and innovation within UK higher education (very closely related to the Australian context). The link above is to a previous post that draws on some of the ideas from the paper.
  • The work of Clayton Christensen – especially disruptive innovation
  • Perspectives on innovation from the complex adaptive systems literature (Carlisle and McMillan, 2006; Webb, Lettice & Lemon, 2006)
    I believe CAS and associated concepts provide a much more useful model for understanding of concepts such as universities and innovation. Consequently, I believe they provide a better foundation for acting.
  • Postman, Papert and others, particularly those examining why innovation in learning and teaching hasn’t been all that successful.
  • The current death of university meme should probably also be looked at.

Would seem obvious that, since I’m using a blog for this discussion, I should also list some associated blogs. I haven’t done that, yet, as it’s not yet 100% certain I’ll continue in the position.

What can you do to help?

I’d value any suggestions you have on the following questions, or just about anything else that is vaguely related to this. Please leave your comment here, or if you’d like your comments kept private email me (gmail has better spam protection, so I’m using it, not my institutional email account)

I’m particularly keen on hearing about:

  • Any additional questions I should consider about the nature of innovation and the role.
  • Any suggestions for additional literature that might be useful.
  • Pointers to people or units at other universities that have similar roles.
  • What are the prejudices or blindspots that exist in the above?


Carlisle, Y. and E. McMillan (2006). “Innovation in organisations from a complex adaptive systems perspective.” Emergence: Complexity and Organization 8(1): 2-9.

Findlow, S. (2008). “Accountability and innovation in higher education: a disabling tension?” Studies in Higher Education 33(3): 313-329.

Jasinski, M. (2007). Innovate and integrate: embedding innovative practices. Brisbane, Australian Flexible Learning Framework: 243.

Webb, C., F. Lettice, et al. (2006). “Facilitating learning and innovation in organisations using complexity science principles.” Emergence: Complexity and Organization 8(1): 30-41.


University – change or die: and another problem with the LMS model


Society – an aspect of Place impacting on e-learning


    • G’day Jocene,

      The movie does illustrate perhaps the biggest problem. It’s the sort of thing talked about in Findlow (2008). How can you be accountable for innovation? When accountable means identifying up-front what will happen and also at the same time minimise any risk.

      Findlow makes the point that, from one perspective, that innovation is about being problematic, taking risk. In her experience the result of “task corruption”. People felt pressure to “talk the accountability talk” while still “walking the innovation walk”.

      I feel this will almost certainly be one of the strategies that will have to be used. The question is how far will this type of thing corrupt the underlying innovation through being demonstrably unauthentic.

      The need for this sort of corruption is one of the main reservations I have about the position.


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