The twentieth century saw much technological advancement in many social spheres ranging from the discovery of the radio, the aeroplane, the atomic bomb and the apex was the going to the moon. All these technological advancements had adverse impacts on the life style of the communities around the world. However, most importantly, is the invention of the Internet and the intranet which historic achievement has greatly impacted on the academic life of many universities around the world. The period of the 1990s ushered in a new world order; the beginnings of the idea of globalisation and its immediate impacts on higher education developments. Globalisation represents the international system that is shaping most societies today including university programs. It is a process that is “super charging” the interaction and integration of cultures, politics, business and intellectual elements around the world.
This paper examines the effects of globalization in terms of technological transformations on the development of universities. The pursuit of technological transformation in higher education has become widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa with the extensive pervasiveness of global networks like the Internet and Intranet as institutions struggle to prepare students for effective participation in the emerging global knowledge economy. Technologically based education is further seen as a way to address the increase in the world demand for tertiary education. The one new university per week is required to keep pace with world population growth but the resources necessary are not available. For instance, since the time of the overwhelmingly increased student enrolments in many public universities in Uganda from the 1990s and onwards, existing resources and infrastructure have not increased commensurate to the same increase in the student capacity. Lecture theatres and libraries are flooding and infrastructure and instructional materials and staff are all constrained with the alarmingly increased student populations. Higher education must develop more cost-effective methods so that public resources can be increased and effectively utilized. A lecture theatre in a public university that sits over 300 students attending an economics class will not be effective if more public address systems are not installed to enable each and every learner benefit from the lecture.
Likewise, if a university lacks internet facility to serve its ever increasing student population then it would be quite hard to ensure quality learning and research. By using technology for teaching, universities can serve the public more cost-effectively and in particular can prepare students better for a technologically based society. In view of the growing globalisation and transnational exchanges in many fields. In these circumstances politicians, policy-makers, and citizens should make demands upon education systems to reform. Open learning and distance education are at the forefront of educational responses to the changes that are taking place locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Information technological transformation in universities, however, has major systemic implications and needs to be carefully managed. As soon as an organization takes the first tentative steps from data to information, its decision processes, management structure, and even the way it gets its work done begin to be transformed. Attempts to introduce any significant reform will impact on all of its sub-systems. The advent of information technology in any big university will wholly impact tremendously on the internal and external operations of that university. It implies that with information technological advancement, universities have to prepare themselves to welcome such crucial developments. It systematically relates to the fact that university management has to train or hire manpower to operate the technology; and the same universities should change the teaching approaches to cope with the demands of the new information technology.
Using technology to extend the campus on a global basis will affect all aspects of a university or college, but particularly administrative systems. Similarly when he refers to the necessity of looking at innovations within the framework of institutional development. The introduction of e-Learning will prompt a thorough re-examination of the core practices of an university organization, whether advertising, or registration, or design and delivery of materials, or student support or assessment of students and research, in order to arrive at the most effective way of providing these services in a networked, multimedia environment.
Involving academics in technological reform in Universities
Educational institutions exist to open minds and challenge established doctrine, but at the same time, the manpower that occupies these institutions is extremely resistant to change. Higher education can be described as largely bureaucratic and bureaucracies, by definition, resist change. I recall an incidence during my university life when my old professor hated something called a computer and a projector used in teaching. Whenever I told him that my research analysis was based on computer packages he retorted negatively “ you are bound to fail research, please use the formulas I gave you in class”. Such an expression and reaction depicts an “old fashioned academic” who is not ready to accept recent global changes in the area of academics in universities. Many other students, in recent times, face the same wrath of such unsighted professors. Because of the wide resistance to change in most education institutions, technological innovation has often been implemented as an isolated, top-down initiative of university managers for efficiency purposes. In this scenario, the wider systems within tertiary education are often not considered and neither affected by the innovation.
Technological innovations have also experienced difficulty-taking precedence in top offices in university educatio. Higher education, similar to other sectors of society, has often responded to new ICT applications on the basis of efficiencies rather than the use of more strategic considerations. Some staff have resisted IT advocating remaining in use of the old systems of processing student papers. They type writer and old record keeping methods are still in use creating managerial inefficiencies in the “transcript office” and at the departmental examinations office. This traditional criterion of record management tends to stifle operational effectiveness. Most changes in education in the twentieth and twenty first centuries had been first order changes, which aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness of current practices. One of such first order changes is the introduction of the Internet and the computer in management work and teaching methodology. Therefore, attempts to oppose such lucrative developments in any global institution are a path in the wrong direction because technology is here to stay.
To ensure ownership of sound educational quality in ICT and e-Learning, it is important that educators and educational policy drive and direct technological transformation of higher education. Therefore, the structures supporting technology-based education have to ensure an educational focus and pre-eminence of educational principles and policy grounded on administrative desires and attitudinal change. The literature on non-traditional modes of delivery in higher education using state-of-the-art technologies, indicates that the extensive use of ICT in education poses previously unencountered problems in pedagogy and andragogy, which are attitudinal. In addition, these problems are primarily to do with conservativeness of those who fear technological change. Technological decisions need to be preceded by policy and educational decisions and highlighting the importance of bottom-up and more organic approaches during technological transformation in higher education in the developing world.
Engaging academics to appreciate ICT is a significant management issue in higher educational reform and such reform has to be based on the development of ‘learning communities’. That means that the actual process of reform must engage academics in actual learning of how to use the new technologies and seeing that this technology is further promoted creating self-initiative so as to build self-confidence and sharing. In most cases, ICT training should be made compulsory to every academic and don. This requires serious bottom-up approaches to encourage and implement the reforms. Top down attempts to achieve educational reforms in technological outlook have failed and will be doomed to failure until they confront the cultural and pedagogical traditions and beliefs that underlie current practices and organizational arrangement. In technological transformation in higher education, it seems necessary to address the concerns and perceptions of academic staff in the light of the need for changing their attitudes and to ensure ownership by academic staff.
Ownership of the technological transformation by academic staff is critical as it requires major changes in professional roles. This points to the need for specialised roles and the need for academics to gain the skills and knowledge for effective use of the new technologies, and the requirement for extensive training. University staff needs to change attitude towards technological advancement and need a more complex training session in how to use such technologies and come to appreciate them. The new technologies in global education point to a new role for the teacher, for the student and for course material. It centres on the construction of knowledge by the student. A lecturer becomes a facilitator and promoter and information becomes something to work with, think with, discuss, negotiate and debate with partners.
The specialized skills needed to develop technology based learning materials further point to the rationale for using development teams. Producing good quality technology based learning materials will require people who can combine good pedagogic practice with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different media and technologies. Course design teams are the accepted model in distance education and that the Open University uses course development teams extensively. The predominant course-team model in distance education and the main advantage of this model is that it operates on high professional standards.
Technological transformation in higher education, implementation and innovation is based on new approaches to organizational processes. An innovation can be described as an idea or behavior that is new to the organization adopting it. Implementing and adopting some thing new to a culture requires commitment, patience and acceptance of change. In this way, a bottom-up innovation process in the development of ICT is important because it fosters the development of the will among members and generates collective participation of lower cadres in decision making leading to consensus building. It is difficult to resist change that comes from the bottom from among the users. The importance of a bottom-up process for a successful innovation aims at spreading leadership. If it does not aim at shared leadership right from the outset, therefore such technology is unlikely to be capable of establishing itself in the university system.
In addition, there is need to ensure strong innovation diffusion into higher education systems. The innovation diffusion theory provides a general explanation for the manner in which new entities and ideas like IT and technology based education over time, disseminate through social systems, in higher education. The innovation diffusion theory is essentially a bottom-up approach based on individual responses that can be used as a starting point to depict technological transformation in higher education. Initially, there is a take-off stage during which an innovation is introduced into a social system. An entrepreneurial group called the innovators often then adopts it. During the next phase of maturation the “early adopters”, who are change agents or opinion leaders among the social system, will enter the process thereby legitimizing the innovation and opening the potential for adoption to all members of the system. The final saturation stage in an innovation’s adoption is characterized by widespread adoption. The innovation saturates the social system and growth tapers off. This process can be plotted as an S-shaped growth curve.
We have seen that technology cannot be separated from development of the university because it is transient with globalisation and its intentions. Hence, there is need to overcome any resistance from staff and management that hinder technology to take root especially where the computer and internet age is resisted in most main stream teaching, planning and record keeping. In order to cause a vibrant attempt to allowing the ICT age and e-learning to take root, there are several policy directions that should be taken first hand and these are:
To promote top-down and bottom-up strategies that promote ICT development and utilization in universities through innovation diffusion. The level of resources made available to promote ICT usage would not have been possible without senior management and staff support. When typical political problems like irrational resistance to change are encountered, senior management is able to step in and direct matters. Middle management and staff, that is, heads of academic and administrative departments and lecturers, play an important role in controlling resources and running the support. The diffusion can be sustained through the use of a distributed implementation structure. A Centre for e-Learning, for example, should be established to provide central support and to coordinate the progress of the technological promotion project in the universities. Even learning should strictly adapt to these technologies where teaching methodologies should acquire ICT strategies and course work should be conducted using ICT facility. Universities should take time to ensure staff ownership of technologies even the most rigid type and conservative staff should see the benefits of e-learning and ICT in higher education development. Ensuring ownership by academic staff is essential in the diffusion of e-Learning strategies that promote effective teaching and learning. In order to ensure ownership of e-learning in universities by academic staff, it is important for educators and educational policies to drive the technological transformation. Staff development can be used as an important strategy to advance the transformation of higher education. The implementation of educational technology into the curriculum requires the introduction of a very robust technology infrastructure. Every staff should have a Pentium computer, printer or access to a printer, access to the Internet and e-mail with power failures and network shutdowns minimal. The library should also create a technology rich learning environment.
In conclusion, creating an enduring vision and a strategic implementation framework for the effective implementation of technological innovations seems critical. However, it requires institutional leadership in order to promote technology use in university education. The most important function of institutional leadership may be to create a shared vision that includes widespread input and support from the faculty and administration, articulates a clear educational purpose, has validity for stakeholders, and reflects the broader mission of the institution. If African universities cannot take advantage of the information revolution and surf this great wave of technological change, they may be crushed by it. Catching this wave will require visionary leadership in most universities on the continent.
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