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.
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.
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.
Challenges to academic identity may act to inhibit educational change, especially in research-strong settings.
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).
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.
This is the only empirical example of a tailored version of distance education appropriate for research-intensive universities that we know about.
The authors are grateful to Gary Tamsitt for kindly agreeing to be available for interview, and for his many stimulating interactions over the years.
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
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