I wrote an article for a new journal, the International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments (IJVPLE). My piece was entitled ‘The centralisation dilemma in educational IT’. I argued that we have a centralisation – decentralisation cycle in educational IT, so we had distributed versions of VLE, which moved to a central VLE, and we are now seeing a shift back to decentralised cloud services.
The arguments for a centralised VLE are:
- Uniformity of student experience
- Centralised support
- Quality assurance
- Integration of different tools
- Staff development
- Platform for expanding elearning offerings
Whereas the arguments for a decentralised model can be summarised as:
- Quality: The individual components of an integrated system will not be as good as specialist tools performing any one of these functions
- Pedagogic suitability
- Educator control
I then look at some of the issues around both the centralised and decentralised models before coming to this (maybe woolly) conclusion:
“Having looked at some of the issues surrounding centralised and decentralised educational IT services, we can see that there is dissatisfaction with the current centralised model, but also problems with the implementation of a decentralised model. What this may signify is that we are in a transition point as educational IT services evolve from a tightly controlled and deployed set of systems to a broader continuum of tools…
This next succession of IT services is likely to see an attempt to retain some of the benefits of a centralised system with the diversity of a decentralised one. This will see the easy, open integration of third party applications into an existing hub of central, core services.
However, this approach is still unlikely to satisfy those in the decentralisation camp, because the implementation of educational technology can also be seen as a metaphor for how the institution itself operates. The primary benefit of a centralised system is that it facilitates control – this enables universities to perform their duty of care, both pastoral and educational, to their students by controlling the environment. In order to realise a decentralised model it would necessitate a good deal of relinquishing control. But for those who favour a decentralised model, this control is both restrictive in terms of the technologies they use, but also what they do with them.”
Because it’s the first edition the journal is freely available so you can access a PDF of the full article here.
OU chum Niall Sclater also has an article in the same journal, entitled ‘elearning in the cloud’, which you can also access.