Using the Web to provide context: management development for 'sectors'

Edwards, Charles and Mordaunt, Jill (2001). Using the Web to provide context: management development for 'sectors'. In: 8th Annual EDINEB International Conference: Technology, Pedagogy and Innovation, 20-22 Jun 2001, Nice, France.



The Open University Business School (OUBS) is the major provider of distance learning based management education in Europe and is at the forefront of technological developments in this area. As a mass provider of management development, OUBS has had the problem of generating a standard assessed product together with opportunities to adapt or develop courses and programmes for discrete market segments with distinctive management development needs. In the 1980's and 1990's, OUBS met the needs of the voluntary and public sectors managers through the production of separate fixed component courses for voluntary and health and social service managers (Cornforth et al. 1998). At that time this approach was deemed necessary because of the fixed nature of the materials and the perceived gap between the commercial conceptions of management ideas and commonly accepted ideas about management in these sectors. Since then there has been a profound shift in thinking and managers in these sectors are more likely to wish to engage with a much wider range of management ideas drawing on commercial sector experience. This has made feasible the development of a single coherent curriculum. Within the Open University the course that has emerged, is on the leading edge of its development of teaching materials and is innovative in both pedagogy and technology.
This paper adds to knowledge about the contextualisation of management development for students from the Voluntary, Public and Health and Social Care sectors. It describes the rationale and practice for developing a new flexible course using the web and describes and evaluates our learning in adopting this approach to date. It outlines the underpinning philosophical and pedagogical ideas on which the approach is predicated and the main features of the learning experience. We explain the approach to versioning of material which includes a vision of a coherent curriculum for all managers whatever their context. This contextualises the material so that it appears directly relevant to their own experience. In part this stems from the reflective practitioner approach (Schon, 1984) which is inherent in our pedagogy. However, in our new course we have also pioneered making available additional contextual material using web technology.
All students enrolling on the course are required to be online and all communication is via e-mail and the Internet. In addition to face to face tutorials a significant element of the course is delivered online. This includes discussion around the preparation of assignments and the submission of assignments. For students from the Public and Nonprofit sectors they, in addition, have some versioned materials, a tutor who is from their context and a set of web-based context pages and conference areas. This paper focuses in particular on the challenges we have faced in developing and maintaining these online features and gives some initial assessment of student and tutor responses to the area. The paper will be illustrated by samples of the pages developed and show some of the pedagogical and technological challenges.

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