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Infrastucture is still an issue for learning in organisations

March 18th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I caused some amusement on Twitter yesterday, tweeting out “Anyone know of closed group microblogging service which will run on windows 2000 / IE6?.” Lets provide some background to this.

I am helping run an on-line course for a large education provider.

The management is keen on professional development to update staff on how to use Web 2.0 and social software as part of their professional practice.

Cutting a long story short, the difficulties started when we found they were unable to access Elluminate from some of their computers. Things got worse when we discovered they were unable to access most to the sites we wished the learners to use e.g youtube, slideshare, Facebook due to a corporate Firewall.

We worked around the problem with the IT department taking down the firewall for nominated users, using a special log in.

We decided to use Edmodo for communication between the participants. Then, yesterday, we discovered that  many of the organisations computers are using Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 2000 operating system. Edmodo will not work on this set up. Hence the flurry of last minute searching for a solution. Thanks to advice from @wollepb we looked at the free cloud hosted service of Laconia from StatusNet. This is an impressive service, through in the end we decided to throw caution to the wind and go with Twitter.

Now for some lessons. If education organisations wish to use Web 2.0 and social software, they have to ensure proper access, both through the Internet and through appropriate up to date hardware and software. Indeed, there is little justification for using Internet Explorer 6 in this day and age. And corporate firewalls are hindering the productivity of organisations and even more so the ability of staff for informal learning in the workplace.

But, in this case at least, the managers are keen for learning to take place. I suspect they simply did not know of their organisation’s IT policies or understand the implications. Equally I am sure the IT department has been acting as they see it in the best interests of users in delivering a service with an ageing infrastructure. And I also fear this situation is not so uncommon in education organisations around the world.

The answers? I think managers and IT departments have to understand that the provision of computers and internet access is not just a technical issue. It effects the ability of staff to deliver services. It inhibits the development innovative pedagogies and services. Our pre-course questionnaire suggests most of the participants are familiar and have used many social software services, presumably from home. Lack of work access can only lead them to conclude that such services are not part of their professional practice but are limited to social use. Maybe we could devise some kind of model policies or better still policy discourse to allow organisations to explore these issues.

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One Response to “Infrastucture is still an issue for learning in organisations”

  1. Steve says:

    There are many reasons why a corporate SOE or MOE may use a particular version of software, and (again) many reasons for the implementation of a corporate firewall. These things are put in place in order to support the business, not to put an impediment in place.

    There are many older corporate applications that require older versions of browsers for many reasons; while this may be seen as an IT decision, you may also find that the there are business reasons why such a restriction is in place. At my organisation quite a bit of work has been put into trying to bring certain applications up-to-date in order to remove such dependencies (because it restricts the innovation that you are talking about).

    Additionally, the corporate firewall is there in order to ensure that certain undesirable traffic does not enter the network. Again, my organisation has a corporate firewall of the type that you mention. The firewall has increased the availability of network devices and computers throughout the network since it has been put in place.

    Your premise that IT doesn’t take these things into consideration may not be correct; I believe that it is more correct that there is a broader perspective being taken by IT, and sometimes that makes it appear that they are ‘blocking’ where in fact there are blocks elsewhere.

    Work with your IT group and include them early and you’ll find that the SOE/MOE/firewall and other standards that are in place can be made to work with you.

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