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Leading entrepreneurial e-learning development in legal education: A longitudinal case study of “universities as learning organisations”

Chris Trevitt (ANU College of Law, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Aliya Steed (ANU Online, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Lynn Du Moulin (ANU College of Law, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Tony Foley (ANU College of Law, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 10 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The study aims to review the entrepreneurial and educational innovations in technology-enabled distance education in practical legal education (PLE) accomplished by a unit “on the periphery” of a strong research-led university. It also aims to examine the learning organisation (LO) attributes associated with this initiative.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a longitudinal case study based on interviews and reflective analysis, and reviewed using three “models” drawn from the literature: breaking the “iron triangle” (containing costs; widening access; enhancing quality); a tailored version of distance education appropriate for research-intensive universities; a strategy for successful adoption of disruptive technologies in higher education.

Findings

Entrepreneurialism yielded growth (PLE student numbers went from 150 to 2,000 in 15 years) and diversification (two new programmes established). The PLE programme advanced in two “waves”: the first centred on widening access and the second, on enhancing quality. Costs were contained. Both the presence and absence of LO attributes are identified at three different organisational levels.

Research limitations/implications

Challenges to academic identity may act to inhibit educational change, especially in research-strong settings.

Practical/implications

Business logic, and the creation and institutionalisation of educational development support – an “internal networking” group, were keys to success. “Organisational learning” in complex institutional environments such as universities involves understandably lengthy timescales (e.g. decades or more).

Practical/implications

Technology-enabled disruption in higher education appears relentless. While institutional and individual performance metrics favour research, proven cases of “how to do things differently” in education may well not get exploited, thus opening the market to alternative providers.

Originality/value

This is the only empirical example of a tailored version of distance education appropriate for research-intensive universities that we know about.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Gary Tamsitt for kindly agreeing to be available for interview, and for his many stimulating interactions over the years.

Citation

Trevitt, C., Steed, A., Du Moulin, L. and Foley, T. (2017), "Leading entrepreneurial e-learning development in legal education: A longitudinal case study of “universities as learning organisations”", The Learning Organization, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 298-311. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-03-2017-0027

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited