Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Phelps, R, Ledgerwood, T & Bartlett, L 2000, 'Managing the transition to online teaching: the role of project management methodology in the learning organisation', in Moving online: a conference to explore the challenges of workplaces, colleges and universities, Gold Coast, Qld., 18-19 August, School of Social and Workplace Development, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, pp. 203-216.


This paper examines the application of project management methodology to the development and delivery of online units within University environments. While project management is acknowledged as having advantages as a methodology in certain circumstances, it can be argued that it is culturally and ideologically inappropriate for managing academic development. Online development which occurs within an institution-wide context presents significant challenges in terms of cultural change and staff development. Furthermore it is argued that online units should not be viewed as a "product" - there is no beginning or end to the process of online unit development and the pedagogical and technical goal posts are continually shifting. If online development is to be successful then it must be embraced as an integral aspect of the everyday work of academics and general staff alike. It is argued that that "management", per se, is antithetical with academic work and that academic environments are more appropriately approached as "learning organisations". The experiences of three individuals who have acted in the role of "project managers" within one institution are used to illustrate the perceived advantages and shortcomings of project management methodology. It is proposed that a more appropriate central approach rests with action learning where learning is intrinsic to the process and there is no expectation of a beginning and end to the product. Staff development is integral, as are processes of evaluation, documentation and shared growth towards improved practice. It is acknowledged that there is an important coordination role to be played in initial and ongoing online development but that this process should be viewed as one of facilitation and coordination rather than management.