Can learning organisation maturity be interpreted as a predictor of ICT integration levels. A recent empirical study in a higher education setting in Ireland.
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This study is set in an era when higher education institutions, similar to private business organisations are required to adapt and change at an increasingly frenetic rate to ever more intrusive environmental stimuli which require rapid cultural shifts. These adaptations are being driven by factors such as globalization, increasing competition, ubiquitous technology and communications and the emergence of the post industrial society where the required graduate will be a knowledge worker employed in a knowledge economy. This is particularly true of Ireland a small open economy on the periphery of Europe which is currently haemorrhaging its traditional manufacturing base to less costly eastern European and Asian states. The current mantra of the Irish Government and all its agencies is to transform Ireland to a leading knowledge economy as soon as possible. Therefore, the question is what type of higher education institution is required to produce new knowledge workers and / or transform traditional workers to knowledge workers? The answer suggests a higher education institution which, somehow itself operates similarly to what is expected of any new knowledge economy entity. Marquardt(2000), Senge(1990) and others advise that knowledge economy entities are ones that embrace the learning organisation phenomenon. While the learning organisation phenomenon is supported by many in the literature the writer acknowledges that it has it’s detractors also such as Brown and Keep(2003). There is a lack of empirical evidence of successful deployments of the learning organisation concept in many studies. This fact must also contribute to the view that the phenomenon, like many other yet to be proven management theories, must be employed with a certain amount of scepticism. Sennet(1998), adds to this theme from the perspective of the learning organisation approach being adopted in higher education, in that is should be rejected because it too close to student management theories pertaining to private sector for profit organisations. The writer would disagree with these views however from both a theory and a praxis dimension. From the theory perspective the writer is convinced that the learning organisation approach is suitable as a model for the higher education setting. From the praxis side, the actual parallels seen in the recent partnership projects in the institute of technology sector in Ireland and those of a learning organisation approach are compatible. Higher education institutions are required to respond in ever shorter life cycles in adapting to new pedagogical cultures, driven by environmental change. In this climate there is a need to at least investigate frameworks such as those espoused in learning organisation theory. It is salutary in exploratory research in this area to look at a model like the learning organisation in that a limited amount of research exits in a higher education setting using such a model and thus more investigation is necessary here. In essence this brief exploratory study fits into this drive towards the knowledge economy currently the strategic focus of Ireland Inc., in that it examines in a small way two important building blocks of the knowledge economy i.e. learning organisation maturity and efficacy in ICT deployment in a higher education setting. In a wider context, this study also can be seen as contributing to the European Union objectives in relation to the development of knowledge economies and in it’s setting of agendas in areas such as life-long learning and e-learning. These aims originated from Lisbon in 2000 when the EU declared that it wished to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”. While a lot has been written about learning organisations and organisational learning in the literature, there appears to be a dearth of work which links the theory to the application or practice.
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