This is a very difficult decision to make and one I’ve been thinking about the last week. Here’s the story.
As many of you know I’m employed by a University, which shall remain nameless (and if anyone does know which Uni it is I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention that at the moment, will become more clear soon), and that in my academic role I do a lot of consulting with faculty staff who are teaching or considering teaching online. I’m a bit like a pedagogical consultant in that sense… although much more of the facilitator really… everything that comes about from what I do is already well established in the people I work with, believe me!
Anyway, the University I work for employs one of the two big ‘Courseware Management Systems’ as it’s central teaching and learning technology. It may surprise some people that I’m actually pretty cool with this. Over the last few weeks I’ve interviewed over 90 students and they love it, it’s great for lecture notes, talking to the lecturer / tutors and getting extra information & links.
However, there are lots of things I believe it doesn’t do so well, such as facilitate effective communication (see my paper of a bit back) . And several that it doesn’t do at all, such as allow people to collaboratively create documents, chat using IM, email etc. So, as part of my research interests, working entirely through 3rd party software & hosting providers and mostly on my own time I’ve been working with several academics investigating the uses of wikis, weblogs and other technologies in educational contexts. With this CMS as the main, focal, authenticated important area which leads to these.
Last Tuesday I received a memorandum from a manager cc’d by am exec. director instructing me to cease supporting and promoting weblogging, wikis or any other technology not officially supported by the University. The basic reason given being that I have, anecdotally, not used the CMS (this isn’t true, I always use it) and that ‘commentary’ on the issue of CMSs (quoted I think from this blog or another I set up for a course) is unacceptable. A set-up for disciplinary action should I not follow instructions.
So I’m gutted. I’m not going to go into the arguments here, I guess that’s not appropriate at the moment, but I am going to reply internally and in essence beg that as part of my academic research agenda and in the best interests of the University I be allowed to continue my work.
The difficult decision has been whether to write about it here or not. I’ve done so because you’re my professional community, my support and in many ways my friends & I don’t think I could keep up what I do here without being totally down the line with where I’m coming from.
I hope I haven’t broken any labour laws or done anything that’ll damage my position here, I’ve tried to keep this as anonymous as possible and will be making every effort to eradicate any indication of who I work for in this weblog (I don’t think there’s any there yet & again, I’d appreciate it if no mention of them was made by anyone else). I’d also like to make the point that my employer is actually a fantastic University and has done and continues to do some amazing things in teaching and learning. If anyone would like me to take this post down or edit it please get in touch, I’ve said my piece.