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Orchestrating entangled relations to break the iron triangle: Observations from an LMS migration

Evolved into a poster abstract and submission

See also: [evaluating-orchestration] and poster dev at [[observations-from-an-lms-migration]]


Inevitable cost constraints, the benefits of increased access to higher education, and requirements to maintain quality standards mean that maximising the accessibility, quality, and cost effectiveness of learning and teaching is a key issue for higher education (Ryan et al., 2021). However, the iron triangle literature in higher education (Daniel et al, 2009; Mulder, 2013; Ryan et al, 2021) suggests that maximising all three is difficult, if not impossible. The iron triangle suggests that changes in one quality will negatively impact one or more of the other qualities. For example, increasing accessibility quickly as part of an emergency response to a pandemic required significant additional cost to staff and resulted in a perceived reduction in the quality of learning experiences (Martin, 2020). The iron triangle literature identifies particular strategies that promise to break the iron triangle, including: open and distance eLearning (Daniel et al., 2009); open educational resources (Mulder, 2013); and, high-quality large group pedagogies, alternative curriculum structures, and automation of assessment and feedback (Ryan et al., 2021).

While these strategies differ in intent their implementation almost inevitably draws on the same strategic, planning-by-objectives approaches. Approaches that leverage practices such as stepwise refinement and loose coupling to decompose difficult problems into smaller, more tractable problems before re-assembling like Lego blocks the disparate, smaller solutions to achieve the larger goal. From a distributive or socio-material perspective the naïve atomistic assumptions underpinning such practices are inherently problematic (Dron, 2022; Fawns, 2022; Jones & Clark, 2014). For example, almost two decades ago Parrish (2004) argued that effective use of learning objects – the ultimate decontextualised pedagogical Lego blocks – is impossible without significant additional effort at appropriate re-contextualisation.

This poster explores how this re-contextualisation challenge plagues all institutional attempts to break the iron triangle by examining a Learning Management System (LMS) migration. An LMS migration is an effective exploratory case since it is one of the most labour-intensive and complex projects undertaken by universities (Cottam, 2021). The poster illustrates how three common enterprise Lego blocks used in LMS migration are explicitly designed to disentangle objects from context specific knowledge and design intent and thus require significant manual re-entanglement to produce effective outcomes. The poster demonstrates how an alternate approach of integrating the common Lego blocks into assemblages of contextually aware educational technologies helps people more effectively and efficiently orchestrate the necessary re-entanglement and provides a foundation for on-going improvement and innovation.

Approaches like this are used outside universities for innovation and service development (Bygstad, 2017) and increasingly actively supported at an enterprise level within universities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative processes (Duncan & Lundy, 2019). However, as in this case, application of such approaches to university learning and teaching are limited to small, ad hoc pockets of innovation and not widely recognised or supported institutionally. Experience from this case suggests that while Universities fail to effectively deal with the re-contextualisation challenge, they will struggle to break the iron triangle.

Keywords: iron triangle, entangled pedagogy, LMS migration


Bygstad, B. (2017). Generative Innovation: A Comparison of Lightweight and Heavyweight IT. Journal of Information Technology, 32(2), 180–193. Cottam, M. E. (2021). An Agile Approach to LMS Migration. Journal of Online Learning Research and Practice, 8(1). Daniel, J., Kanwar, A., & Uvalić-Trumbić, S. (2009). Breaking Higher Education’s Iron Triangle: Access, Cost, and Quality. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 41(2), 30–35. Dron, J. (2022). Educational technology: What it is and how it works. AI & SOCIETY, 37, 155–166. Duncan, B., & Lundy, K. (n.d.). How universities are using robotic process automation. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from Fawns, T. (2022). An Entangled Pedagogy: Looking Beyond the Pedagogy—Technology Dichotomy. Postdigital Science and Education. Jones, D., & Clark, D. (2014). Breaking BAD to bridge the reality/rhetoric chasm. In B. Hegarty, J. McDonald, & S. Loke (Eds.), Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings ascilite Dunedin 2014 (pp. 262–272). Martin, L. (2020). The student experience of online learning in Australian higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic (p. 30). TEQSA. Mulder, F. (2013). The LOGIC of National Policies and Strategies for Open Educational Resources. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(2), 96–105. Parrish, P. E. (2004). The Trouble with Learning Objects. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(1), 49–67. Ryan, T., French, S., & Kennedy, G. (2021). Beyond the Iron Triangle: Improving the quality of teaching and learning at scale. Studies in Higher Education, 46(7), 1383–1394.

MISC draft working space


Tie in with Dede’s eating, sleeping, bonding analogy

To do


Breaking the iron triangle - figuring out how to maximise the accessibility, quality, and cost effectiveness of learning and teaching - has been a significant challenge for higher education for some time. A challenge only becoming more difficult and central in these (post-)pandemic times.

Much research and action has been informed by atomistic and deterministic (both pedagogical and technological) perspectives that are …misleading, fail to grasp the true complexity of the entangled nature…

This paper uses a collection of theoretical views that emphasise a relational perspective perhaps put more explicit Fawns language here to examine work done by a third space practitioner during an institutional LMS migration. Perhaps one of the best examples of a strategic project that must deal with the iron triangle.

Focusing on the work done to fill the gaps between a key strategic project and the messy reality of implementation the paper seeks to explore the entangled relationships necessary to maximise accessibility, quality, and cost effectiveness.

we must look beyond isolated ideas of technologies or teaching methods, to the situated, entangled combinations of diverse elements involved in educational activity (Fawns, 2022)


Other scratch work

The intent being to explore answers to the nature and role of different/less traditional relationships in achieving this work and breaking the iron triangle. It suggests that an over reliance on atomistic, linear perspectives (e.g. pedagogy before technology) - embeded in the espoused way institutions and projects like an LMS migration are conceptualised, planned and managed - are overly simplistic and may well struggle to break the iron triangle. Instead educational technology is more entangled and requires greater and more varied attention paid to the relationships within that entanglement. The paper/case uses “Tsing stuff, entangled views, ed tech, emerging technology practices” to highlight a particular type of attention that is oft overlooked but may be essential to successfully breaking the iron triangle.

to reveal observations that suggest institutions will continue to struggle to break the iron triangle whilst they retain practices based on atomist perspectives that fail to pay attention to and harness the full power of all relationships

older stuff

Drawing on experiences from a MLP at a single institution during a LMS migration the paper


Expand on the iron triangle with connections to recent practice

Also include expanded references for why we need to break the iron triangle. e.g. uncertainty about funding, massification and diversification, pandemic, micro-credentials etc.

Hark back to historical connections - what was the early 90s article I used to quote that vaguely had something like this

It has become strategically important for universities to offer better quality learning opportunities to more people in more ways at a cheaper cost. Such attempts must break the Iron Triangle. A long acknowledged project management maxim that there exists “iron” constraints between quality, cost, and access. Changing one constraint inevitably requires change in the other two. Current attempts to break the iron triangle - improving the digital fluency or pedagogical skills of academics; adopting a new LMS or a new curriculum management system; adopting a new pedagogy; developing a new set of course design principles - tend to focus on the objects involved in learning and teaching. An atomist view, rather than a view focused on the relationships between the objects. This exploratory case study seeks to answer the question: “What is the role of relationships in breaking the iron triangle?”

Learning management system (LMS) migration is one of the most complex and labour-intensive initiatives that a university might undertake.” (Cottam, 2021, p. 66) It is impossible to predict challenges accurately in a one- to two-year migration project, given the diversity of courses, instructional formats, and faculty and student preferences. (Cottam, 2021, p. 66)

Dawson, Charman & Kilpatrick (2013) mention the challenge of massification and diversification of students. Long history of multiple pathways

For at least 20+ years it has been argued that digital technologies can help maximise the accessibility, quality, and cost effectiveness of learning experiences (Kanuka, 2008).

What is being done is problematic

a need to revisit the organising principles of the academy, not least to account for the huge shift in focus caused by the Covid19 pandemic and the emergency pivot to blended learning and working. (McIntosh & Nutt, 2022, p. 265)

The media quote about universities struggling to be flexible moving back onto campus post covid because timetabling/room allocation takes too long.

Bring up the precarity of much work

Hannon (2014) also has a lot of literature on the problems with institutional implementation.

It aims to shift from studying the what of organisation to the how of organising and identify the points at which network ties and connections are established and assembled, making visible the objects that put these arrangements into place. (Hannon, 2014, p. 69)

universities know what, not how, perhaps because atomist over emphasis and other issues, diversity

Arguments about digitally illiterate academics, a focus on graduate attributes, selection of individidual technology systems all tending toward atomistics views. This is perhaps where mention of the learning objects literature might be useful as the archteypal example of the call for it. Also modularisation as slightly less refined way of pushing the same agenda.

third space and MLPs, maybe LMS migrations

mlps inherently relational Whitchurch’s definiton of “third space” includes “the pivotal role of relationships”

McIntosh and Nutt (2022, p. 271) which is also the aim here

to make more visible the work that takes place quite invisibly in third spaces and to consider the complexity, challenges, and value of blended working and to highlight the great potential of boundary crossing in contemporary higher education settings.

Research question

During an LMS migration


Supporting literature

Higher Education


Krause (2022)

institutional diversity will be more important than ever to meet the diverse needs of students and the labour market (np) Krause (2022, p12) goes into detail about why this is the case. Work that can be adapted here.

Krause (2022) - may link to the idea that assemblages/activity systems are relationships across silos

To operate ecosystemically requires a boundary-spanning mindset on the part of leaders, policy makers and the broader community if we are to traverse traditional siloes

Third space practitioners

Whitchurch (2008) defines the notion and discusses how its relational, across boundaries etc. Good framing…to make the point perhaps about crossing boundaries with technology and the nature of orchestration. Sharif et al (2019) touch on the nature of third space professional role as moving through functional and organisational boundaries (breaking the hierarical nature of typical relationships) and “negotiate competing interests, identities, and requiremetns associated with the diverse range of their projects…”

White et al (2021, p. 161)

the role of technology in accounts of third space activity remains under-explored

Murray (2022)

One suggestion was the way in which third-space professionals (or whichever term makes most sense to you for these roles) move between different parts of the university community. One definition is that “working in The Third Space involves traversals across the threshold of the established order, challenging and subverting existing practices and hierarchies” (Hawley, McDougall, Potter and Wilkinson, 2019), which suggests a value in moving across spaces, boundaries, and groups…. Possibly most importantly, we bring an ability to ‘translate’ – many of the issues in universities arise from a lack of understanding about the concerns, and priorities, of different groups Perhaps pointing at the idea of assemblage, seeing/building relationships

but third spaces are likely to become even more important post-pandemic and in a fast-changing world; they are creative spaces where responses, actions, and solutions can be explored (McIntosh & Nutt, 2022, p. 274)

At a time when universities were reaching out for e-learning like never before and when big business was indicating the huge investment potential of technology enhanced learning, this advisor reported feeling constrained, rather bored, and demotivated because her time was no longer her own and she was expected to work in a wholly strategic way to ensure that lecturers met the university’s virtual learning environment expectations. Rather than being excited by the opportunities to bring e-learning centre stage, this advisor felt constrained by the strategic imperative, the involvement of senior colleagues, and pressure to drive change at scale. (Hall, 2022, p. 27)


Second, the race to create technologically rich learning environments at speed has prised open the Pandora’s Box of corporate e-learning, leaving universities vulnerable like never before and casting into the shadows any sense of a slow or creeping hegemony of neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, and new managerialism within higher education (Cowden and Singh, 2013; Van Heertum, 2006). from (Hall, 2022, p. 28)

In 2021 marketisation is truly with us, budgets are under greater pressure, metrics are more dominant and layered across these challenges, “third space professionals” or “para-academics” are caught in a web of commodified, commercialised education, often implicated in the use of high-cost tools to track and measure and “deliver” teaching….from (Hall, 2022, p. 30)

The above may provide a link to Tsing and the need to live within the ruins

We have to ask what our universities can become at the same time as recognising or resisting a marketised, digitised future where there is even less control of the curricula and how learning happens, managed by learning platforms and privately created learning packages, monitored through data flows…from (Hall, 2022, p. 30)…..As a DVC of a modern university, education must be about the creation of agency

The above perhaps links to the Macgilchrist optimisitic future

Learning Objects

Parrish (2004) uses situated perspectives of knowledge to critique the early boosterish views of learning objects. Learning objects are a two decade old attempt to break the iron triangle that were also apparently limited by limited views of knowledge and L&T practice. i.e. the need for and value of customisation.

Illustration of how the ed tech sphere has not learned from history.

Could bring in discussions about the modularisation of learning materials as having a similar perspective and similar failings.

Cotter (2022) summarises research around “knowledge of algorithms” and moves on to describe “practial knowledge” of algorithms. The linkage here is what do those involved in the migration project (and thus broader ed tech) know about algorithms and technology? How do they approach it as located by this previous work? What implications does this have for how we work and how we break the iron triangle?

There is also some apparent linkage to the idea of “knowledge located in practices”

Linking at some level with the different knowledge regimes between heavyweight and lightweight IT.

From Cotter (2022)

Through situated encounters, Bucher (2018) suggests, “people learn what they need to know in order to engage meaningfully with and find their way around an algorithmically mediated world” (p. 98). The concept of the algorithmic imaginary, thus, brings together “know that” and “know how,” but further specifies the importance of the specific conditions under which people experience algorithms

There’s a lot more here about different ways of knowing and how it involves knowing how “to be”. There’s an argument to explore here about how inherently most ed designers do not see themselves as technical people. The habitus they work within (more heavyweight IT) is not conducive to the type of activity required to break the iron triangle

Once again, consider the LMS, which offers a very limited palette: most of the important design decisions have already been made by the developers, and these decisions tend to embody particular pedagogies—specifically, those that are readily quantified—and to support and replicate existing hierarchies of knowledge and power within the institution. In short, by the time they come to us, these technologies are far from neutral (Rose, 2017, pp 375)

Conceptual Framework

Fawns (2022) - entangled pedagogy. Dron (2022)

Recent Cradle based paper taking a socio-material approach - description resonates here. Esp. in terms of the emergent activity of the local socio and material. Highlighting the lightweight IT development - the useful idiot - is an unusual but useful local resource that is missing for many. Suggestion more of it could be useful. They also use the idea of arrangement from assoicated literature - How is this related to assemblage??


Winter et al (2014) define and re-examine the socio-technical systems view of Information Systems - which has echoes of Fawns and Dron’s views - and identify some limitations of the assumptions underpinning STS. These may apply here. e.g. that an organisation is not the containter for all, that the purely nested view may not work. This has interesting resonances with the Canvas community

Winter et al (2014) also touch on the digital infrastrcuture idea including mention of generativity…also useful here


  1. Work systems are necessarily encapsulated within one or more, potentially overlapping, sociotechnical systems.
  2. Work systems have interrelated, possibly complementary, redundant, competing, or conflicting, social and technical elements that may co-exist without ever being fully reconcileda (critiquing the idea of alignment etc)
  3. Work systems can derive purpose, meaning, and structure from the multiple contexts in which elements are embedded and they may pass on purpose, meaning and structure to the sociotechnical systems that emerge around them.
  4. Creation and continued existence of work systems involves simultaneous support for both performance of work and ongoing negotiation of goals, values, and meaning. important very relevant here discsses this in depth

Relational view or Relational approach

Hannon (2014, p. 73)

Orlikowski and Scott described this inherent inseparability of the social and material as a relational ontology such that “people and things only exist in relation to each other” (p. 456). Indeed, Law (2009) proposes that “nothing has reality or form outside the enactment of those relations” (p. 141). The notion of objects as actors draws on these sociomaterial perspectives, in particular ANT (Latour, 1987, 2005; Law, 2004), in recognising the role of nonhuman participants in the configurations of everyday life

Bygstad (2017, p. 183) in talking about generativity writes

This calls for a relational approach to the object of study; it is neither the specific attributes of the technology nor the attributes of people and organisations we wish to understand, but the emerging relationships between them. It is clear from this that generativity is an emergent phenomenon (Elder-Vass, 2007); it is not an attribute of an object (such as technology), but rather the potential outcome of the interaction of different entities. That is, the outcome is dependent on, but not reducible to the entities

Fawns - entangled pedagogy

From this tweet thread

The main argument is that pedagogy can’t drive technology because they are inseparably entangled. More than that, technology is part of pedagogy, along with methods, purposes, values and context. Each of these elements shapes the others.

Perhaps my argument is that the methods (in particular) used by MLPs and perhaps instituions is missing something. A point to come out in the case analysis OR perhaps as the bigger finding of the paper (e.g. in the abstract). Because of the simplistic linear goal-drive perspective we’ve chosen methods that are illsuited to breaking the iron triangle. This case highlights one set of methods (light-weight IT development) that provide a different set of capabilities. i.e the ability to better orchestrate and assemble new technologies required to break the iron triangle.

Which links to the following. Outcomes are limited by the paucity of the relationships that currently exist between the actors within higher education.

Education’s always an entangled mix of mutually shaping elements. Outcomes are emergent, depending on relationships betw tech methods purposes values & context. Teacher’s skill is knowing what can be configured & designed in advance, how, + how to respond to emergent activity.

Technology is dancing not with pedagogy but with methods, context, purposes and values…. Pedagogy is the dance.

Entangled pedagogy is distributed, not just done by teachers but also by students, learning technologists, librarians, administrators, IT staff, policymakers and more. Nobody has full control, there must be ongoing negotiation.

Technology is pervasive and inevitable. It’s not just digital platforms but also paper, pens, chairs, desks and much more. Technology is always an assembly of multiple things (thx @jondron) Pedagogy can’t come before technology because technology is always already there.

Technology is relational—it is best understood not by its properties and functions but by how it is situated in social and material context. How people actually use it, integrate it into practices and cultures, make meaning with it.

Tech can’t come before pedagogy either. Even when a technology is imposed on teachers and students, it too must be integrated into what’s already there (inc. infrastructure, other tech, traditions, cultures, methods, purposes, values, other contextual elements).

Pedagogy involves seeing technological possibilities and risks, and reconciling these with established practices, cultures and students’ and teachers’ values and circumstances.

The aspirational view (column 4 of the diagram) shows how we can emphasise purpose, values and context while still recognising that methods and tech are in the mix, each element inevitably shaping the others.

Perhaps connecting to the MacGilchrist (2020) and the purpose of institutions and what those institutions rush to the platform approaches to education and the future that they will create. Whether or not a more punk/bricolage approach is more purposeful, ethical and more effective

We can embrace uncertainty, imperfection, openness and honesty in teaching and learning rather than trying to assert control by closing down possibilities for thinking and acting.

We can see pedagogical knowledge as distributed across stakeholders, responsive to emergent, situated activity, and ethical.

Ethics is “more than following ‘a linear chain of events’ (Barad); it means tracing relations to see where they lead.” We can use distributed knowledge to trace side effects, unintended consequences & complex entanglements of tech-related decisions at course & institutional level

Carvalho and Yeoman 2018

They are focused on developing “creating tangible analytical tools to facilitate the work of educational designers” what I’m doing is orchestrating assemblages of technologies for the purpose of LMS migration > moving between levels of scale.

Fenwick et al. (2011) note that sociomaterial studies of education challenge the centrality of human processes in learning, in favour of the materiality of learning. This claim, they say, does not come at the expense of the personal but seeks to treat the material and the human symmetrically in order to explain how entities, knowledge, other actors and relations of mediation and activity converge in learning….What becomes clear, through the lens of a sociomaterial approach, is that increased connectivity and participation in networked structures gives rise to an increased dependence, which drives the need to understand the relations between constituent parts. (p. 1134)

Core to understanding of this is Hodder’s (2012) theory of entanglement. Which offers a reasonable way of structuring the cases but with additional consideration to the evolmenet. Part of the fixing/selection stuff is about diving down below and back up the scales.

Key aspects of design for learning include the careful alignment of theory and practice, and correspondence across dimensions of design (set, social and epistemic) and scale levels (macro, meso and micro). (p. 1135) _the point about correspondence about scale is important and perhaps gets at some of the issues faced (eg. LTI stuck at the middle level and unable to work at scale, relying on manual work)

As a consequence, the dualisms of agency and structure, human and non-human, knowledge and power, before and after, material and social are no longer taken as given or fixed, but as the effects or outcomes of assemblages. (p. 1128) this is perhaps important summary of the difference - the preceding brings up work from archeology, actor-network theory

Moreover, having untangled our small bit of the world, we should always remember the intention is not to pull things apart but to ‘explore entanglement itself, engaging in thick, rich, contextual analysis’ (Hodder, 2012, p. 218).

That is, many of these relational approaches to materiality work within a shallow or use-value notion of ecological or systems thinking. Rather than networks or meshworks, Hodder (2012) proposes a dialectical tension between enabling dependence and constraining dependency, resulting in what he calls sticky entrapment—a state in which choices, once made, limit the range of subsequent opportunities for future action. (p. 1128) this resontates eith the generative thign?

What is more, deterministic accounts of tools and spaces for learning tend to focus on identifying generic and decontextualised properties of tools or spaces, without considering the qualities of the objects themselves, and how these, in turn, may influence people, their values and purposeful action. (p. 1121)

we argue that those involved in educational design (e.g. teachers, space planners, architects, instructional designers) need analytical tools capable of increasing the correspondence between (a) pedagogy, place and people and (b) theory, design and practice. (p. 1121) this being a nod toward, but not quite the same as the need for educational designers to have CARs to reveal what is embedded within a course site. Becuese we don’t have the analytical tools the authors discuss

First, our work is deeply rooted in material accounts of situated learning activity, which means we are not satisfied by descriptions of learning in which the role of materials is either absent or overly deterministic. (p. 1121)

That is, our focus is on the learning whole (people, place and pedagogy) and our aim is to support the analysis and design of complex networked learning environments. (p. 1122) which is also the aim of migration, courses are not black boxes to easily move, they are complex entangled environments)

Our intention is to support correspondence between dimensions of design (left to right) and scale levels (top to bottom). (p. 1127) perhaps the project (and LMS and SCORM and LTI) fails to effective go from top to bottom, the atomistic tends to stick at the middle layer and fails to effectively represent and detail with the complexity of the lower/micro level. Does my case illustrate that difficulty? Perhaps this is part of the problem with loose coupling, it assumes you don’t need to know the detail or the entanglement

They use Alexander’s definitions of Macro, Meso, and Micro to identify differrent types of scale i.e.

Does that then become

However, reaching consensus about a shared epistemology of learning in these diverse teams is the crucial first step, and failing to do so often results in dissonance across scale levels and/or dimensions of design. A common example of this type of dissonance arises when, instead of clearly articulating epistemologies of learning upfront, project user groups start with aspirational visions of newness (macro-epistemic) that drive design briefs for innovative buildings and technology (macro-set) which, if enacted in the presence of hierarchical organisational forms (macro-social), can result in aesthetically pleasing environments that speak of newness but fail to give rise to the desired quality of learning activity. That is, when working towards coherence, everything is on the table, and a desire for collaboration and a need for compliance are often at the heart of dissonance. We argue that this challenge can be addressed through an exploration of the material properties of the designed environment and the quality of learning activity they support.

Dron and educational technology


Economic, organizational, and political technology is also part of ed tech, as much as the pedagogical and the digital, and it both influences and is reinforced by its parts. Thousands of fixes exist, but cannot find niches in the context of the big, slow containers.


T,P & C are all T, IMHO. Path dependencies shape everything, but mostly to enable or constrain, rarely to entail or prevent. So, yes, deep entanglement hardens, but there’s nothing hard that can’t be softened, at least by assembling it with something else to make something new.


All these replies are true: a paradigm, not a theory. For me, pedagogies are technologies, and all technologies are assemblies. We all participate in them, and they participate in us, so it’s complex, emergent, human, connected, recursive, at every scale.


Yes exactly. We find other ways to understand and use what is already invented, and invent ways to fix what it breaks, always building on and from what exists, not replacing it. Technology, not science.


Griffith detail

other stuff

Perhaps use the assemblage/relational model to analyse? to look at the how it was assembled, what relationships were required

The aim here is to explore the experience, the context, of a particular situation and in particular explore the relational views of ???

Thomas (2011) identifies two elements of a case study

  1. The subject “a practical, historical unity” of the case study - in this case ed designers experience of migration and the challenge of breaking the iron triangle - the aim to illuminate and explicate something interesting
  2. The object of the study “an analytical of theoretical frame” - in this case a relational view broadly defined as situated, entangled, and Dron’s view of ed tech?

I may not correctly understand this distinction, I need more thinking The next para might be closer to the notion of object

Dron’s view of ed tech may provide a way of describing the case - the object. The three “technologies” are orchestration of phenomena for a purpose. Unravel the orchestration of those phenomena may reveal interesting and useful insights about the case. And how, in this case, we broke the iron triangle.

This subject is interesting (me and Griffith migration)

Thomas (2011) uses George and Bennet’s (2005) six types of case study. This might be an example of

  1. Disciplined configurative case studies, where established theories are used to explain a case;
  2. Heuristic case studies wherein new causal paths are identified. Outlier cases may be especially valuable here;

Heuristic case studies “can be about arriving at notions of problems to solve” (Thomas 2011). Align with Yin’s “representative” case study

A snapshot case study - “examined in one defined period of time: a current event…” in this case first and second dev windows for Griffith’s migration.

Tsang (2013) - typology of theorizign from case studies - contextualised explanation (Q4) is seen as strong on contextualising and strong on theory development. Seems a good fit. Tsang uses Ferner et al (2005) as an example of this. The idea is that such a case study offers a good explanation of the observed empirical behaviour, but it is limited to the context. That could be the focus, but then questions asked about how well the theories involved offers explanatory power for other insights.

Wynn and Williams (2020)

Critical Realism has been adopted across the social sciences as a means of providing mechanism-based explanations for phenomena involving human societies and organizations.

Wynn and Williams (2020) most CR-based case studies “coalesce around the search for mechanisms, which implies that there is a corresponding search for structures as well” (p. 54). Which matches the aim here. To explore mechanisms for how the “iron triangle” was broken here. They have more on how ‘structure’ in CR studies is “the relational conditions underlying behaviour”. The composition and interactions within a context result in “an emergent set of possible actions” which contain/enable the outcomes that may occur

Wynn and Williams (2020) also explain various proposed broad methods and then examine CR case study research in IS

Cotter (2022)

I employed an inductive qualitative approach informed by constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2014). That is, while I did not conduct a grounded theory study, I adopted many of its techniques and tenets. This approach served my aim of investigating and giving depth to an underdeveloped domain of empirical inquiry

What data to be used

Explroatory case study?? Three cases

Conceptual Framework

this will go early on - perahps in the research method, section before it, or in the introduction

Moore and Piety (2022)

Most online planning starts with the resources or tools in the form of selecting a learning management system that will serve as the online learning environment. While they are an important element, they are only one component in the online learning ecosystem, and selection of these may be greatly informed by mapping out needs for other components of the system. One key aspect to systemic planning is not only that there are different components but that these components interact with other components Generally, lack of resources or support tools is one of the most commonly cited barriers to performance (Bacow et al., 2012;O’Doherty, 2018);

Anna Tsing “Our first step is to bring back curiosity. Unencumbered by the simplifications of progress narratives, the knots and pulses of patchiness are there to explore” (p6)

The aim here is to explore the pulses of patchiness in a migration

Anna Tsing

Tsing’s (2015) ideas of [mushroom-at-the-end-of-the-world]

Also has the idea of buyers/field agents etc as translators that help with the scaling. The CASA stuff I’m doing here is perhaps an example of that type of translator. Just as Tsing says these are necessary to help scale mushroom picking, perhaps breaking the iron triangle requires higher education to have CASA…. This was particularly evident with the variety of practices in Bb courses sites of the list of CAR requests just before my rec leave. Required new work to “scale” to become numbers

Practice Theory and Sociomaterial perspectives

Fawns et al (2021, p. 361)

In contrast, practice theory and sociomaterial perspectives (Fenwick, Edwards, and Sawchuck 2011) see learning as embedded in, and shaped by, situated relations between people, discourses and materials. These perspectives have helped researchers cast new light on otherwise mundane phenomena (Sedlačko 2017) by attending to ‘the physicality of human doing, the routine aspects of behaviour, the relevance of tacit knowledge, the significance of material artefacts for behaviour and the effects of explicit and implicit rules’ (Jonas, Littig, and Wroblewski 2017, xv)….they differ radically in their conceptualisations of action, foregrounding the challenge of translating practices of learning, knowing and doing, across complex systems and working environments (Mulcahy 2013). They show that learning is not a commodity that can be mobilised or transferred from one setting to another, since new situations always require new learning, and the adaptation and re-contextualisation of previous knowledge (Hager and Hodkinson 2009).

Touching on the atomistic/individualistic approaches the linkage here is that these perspective not just underpin ideas around learning, but also around how organisational work should be done – a particular knowledge regime…setting up the idea of lightweight IT as a different knowledge regime and its connection with what’s required…Fawns et al (2021, p. 363)

Our analysis was underpinned by practice theory and sociomaterial perspectives, outlined in the Introduction, enabling understanding emergent forms of learning in complex, fluid settings, within which possible actions are shaped and constrained (Schatzki, Knorr-Cetina, and Von Savigny 2001; Fenwick, Edwards, and Sawchuck 2011). These perspectives trouble the individualist, cognitivist standpoints that have dominated educational approaches (Mulcahy 2014), instead encompassing the collective and relational practices through which professionals enact learning (Fenwick 2014). This orientation helped us to understand the ongoing negotiation and reconciliation of multiple contexts, and forms of academic and practical knowledge, as participants navigated complex environments.

And definitely echoing the simple/complex and predictable/emergent challenge with IT…Fawns et al (2021, p. 370)

Yet Gough (2013, 1223) warns that constructively aligned curricula will be based on notions of an ‘isolated simple system’. In consequence, what is learned is measured in terms of expected behaviour, rather than in relation to the emergent practices required of unpredictable and complex situations…. We suggest that routinised disciplinary knowledge (e.g. competencies) is still a crucial aspect of academic professional education, and should contribute to professional accountability. Rather than accepting competencies as guarantees of safe or successful performance in complex practice, however, they might be understood as a necessary basis from which learners must diverge, in ways that are attuned to their varied practice contexts. Accountability, in other words, should encompass the contextualised adaptation of routinised knowledge.

Focus on Seams

Fawns et al (2021, p. 363)

we borrowed Vertesi’s (2014) metaphor of seams to represent the messy, often hidden or unarticulated ways of patching together multiple infrastructures and systems. Vertesi (2014) developed her conception of seams from the work of computing design theorists Chalmers and Galani (2004), who proposed that, rather than aiming for seamlessness, in which the different working elements of a system are made invisible (Ratto 2007), exposing the seams between elements could encourage examinations of interdependence, and of ongoing processes of appropriation to suit particular situations. Literature on professional practice and education from sociomaterial and practice theory perspectives (e.g. Fenwick, Edwards, and Sawchuck 2011; Rooney et al. 2015) helped us to relocate Vertesi’s work from a remote context (a space station) to the professional education contexts of our participants…. For us, seams imply a less stable and clear-cut interface than boundaries. They are contingent on the work of people, in conjunction with materials and devices, to align and make sense of multiple contexts (Vertesi 2014). Accordingly, we came to consider the negotiation of academic and professional contexts as ‘less a question of boundary work as…a kind of ad hoc patchwork’ (269). However, as Vertesi observed, people still use seams to construct temporary boundaries via various exclusions and inclusions, achieved through technological and social means. This produces sub-spaces of localised and constrained activity (Vertesi 2014, 276).

Link to bricolage Fawns et al (2021, p. 371)

In using seamfulness as an analytic concept, Vertesi (2014) recommended thinking through the constraints of infrastructures, while observing how people, rather than producing stable and coherent systems, craft ‘fleeting moments of alignment suited to particular tasks with materials ready-to-hand’ (268).

And a possible link to Dron’s view of educational technology

On the other hand, Vertesi suggested that failures to knot systems together successfully can illuminate the otherwise obscured infrastructural elements and relations essential to the task at hand. Jane’s lack of a ‘chair to sit on’ or an accessible computer constitute more than a problem to be solved by finding resources. These challenges are entangled in the wider infrastructural provision of space and resources, social hierarchies, the preparation of professionals and the working environment for the incorporation of new, junior colleagues

Good teaching as subversion of the system - perhaps in the discussion

Fawns tweet about education “an ever-increasingly bureaucratic system of fixes to other fixes (each intervention or change is a response to a problem caused by a previous change)” and subsequent discussion. Position this work - light-weight IT - as an echo of that. Adoption of limited technology (e.g. Canvas, Echo360 etc) is an example

But also echoes of what people within education systems are already doing. With a particular focus on educating the professions and how much of this experience is what they see happening and actually necessary to happen within the professions. Suggesting that universities - in their own practice - also need to demonstrate this, recognise it and integrate it (see below)..Fawns et al (2021, p. 368)

Students, practitioners and educators all spoke of improvisations and uses of technologies as inadvertent learning tools, and how this was caught up in learning and practising as a professional. …and now p 369 Our participants described complex forms of skill or knowledge involved in dealing with available or imposed technologies.

Fawns et al (2021, p. 360)

Somewhere between developing pre-specified, discipline-based skills and knowledge, and adapting to situated, contextualised conditions, there must be a capacity for dynamically developing unpredictable practices

Fawns et al (2021, p. 369) talks about what is required of graduates of professional education

They recognised that this required going beyond competence, to the development of what might be called adaptive capacity. Where competence is a clearly-bound, individualised, prescriptive and demonstrable accomplishment of a performance standard, adaptive capacity is an always-developing potential to integrate into, and shape, teams, systems and settings. It is distinguished from notions of adaptive expertise (e.g. Hatano and Inagak 1986) by its emphasis on collective and relational practice. In adaptive capacity, relational agency is prioritised over performances. It is what allows learners to negotiate new sociomaterial situations, by being accomplished not only in predictable, regular patterns of practice but also in developing emergent practices as required

Case studies

Actual assemblage development


What is in a course site? CARs

Early (& on-going) issue - course and teacher identification

To generate the CARs it’s helpful to know which courses, which course sites and also the relevant teaching staff (perhaps, given already in Blackboard). Early on the list of courses the centre had was not clear or complete. This information also had no connection with course sites e.g. if different offerings had different sites, if they were joined, joined with completely different Courses.

Echo360 embed mapping


But there’s also the question of academic practice (re: naming of videos) and the issues that this creates at scale. e.g. how many videos are calls ‘vocabulary’ or ‘lecture’ or some other name that is meaningful within a specific course context but make it difficult when working across contexts. e.g. Steven’s list

This type of cross context moving goes against the IT approach to dealing with it. Which is all about loose coupling

Migrate to Canvas: CAR and word2canvas

CARs and word2Canvas

Wonder how the local development here of word2Canvas might be a good thing. Get the MLOs/Designers involved.


Refine Canvas - canvas-collections


Discussion and reflections

What about the work on IT enhancing the human - the stuff that the USyd guy wrote about with his OnTask like system?

Another sequence approach

Generativity and malleability

Stuff from Bygstad (2017) about the definition of generativity being the relations and the capability to leverage those. Which starts with the “technical malleability” i.e. the protean nature of digital technology. But it requires the affordance to be seen - itself a relational concept. i.e. I could do this because of my background, but also the history and the “platform” I’d built up for doing this stuff.

Why couldn’t IT do this. They had the technical skill. Quite possibly much better technical skill than I. But the connections/the relationships didn’t allow this

Why didn’t the project do these things? Was it because they could not conceive of this being possible, being plausible, being needed?

Ed design needs a relational view of technology OR Design is technical orchestration?

“design” is often seen as non-technical. Knowing which buttons to press is often looked upon askance by senior designers, academics and institutional leaders. If there must be a hierarchy, then perhaps it is the naive atomistic view that separates pedagogy and technology that should be at the bottom for when it comes to breaking the iron triangle. It is not about how good your pedagogy is, or how good your technology is. Instead, what’s important is how well you can orchestrate these different phenomena into a technology the better serves your specific purpose. If “fit-for-purpose” is the stated goal (c.f. Krause 2022) then it is this orchestration capability that is key to achieving that goal. Especially if you’re looking for diversity, quality and reduced cost.

Emergent/ateleological/contextual??/lightweight - Teaspoon languages

The idea here is perhaps that we need methods that enable this type or orchestration for local/contextual purposes, but which also enable breaking the iron triangle.

Somethign about RPA responding/enabling local agency. It’s not about central control. Teleological processess are not sufficient

Teaspoon languages (Guzdial 2022) might also be useful to mention

Dron’s (2020??) take might also be useful

Tinkering around the edges whilst Rome burns

The LMS and many other practices associated with the contemporay corporate university are seen as highly questionable. Contributing to the “university in ruins”.

Activity Systems

Ellis and Goodyear (2019) quote about a minimal set of ??

But what’s important is the process of creating and maintaing those

Tweet thread on XP

An excellent metaphor to define XP: “Driving is not about getting the car going in the right direction. Driving is about constantly paying attention, making a little correction this way, a little correction that way.” This is the paradigm for XP. Stay aware. Adapt. Change. —- CHANGE, AWARENESS and ADAPTABILITY are the key factors here. Change = always happening Awareness = a trigger Adaptability = an answer to the change Result: “Software…developed at lower cost, with fewer defects, with higher productivity, and with much higher ROI”


Scratch space for the types of major reflections I might want to takes

Technology standards: The paucity of relationships:

Relationships between technologies are typically defined by standards e.g. LTI and SCORM. These are commonly relied upon during tasks such as LMS migration. Illustrations of those limitations

Primitive, manual orchestration - limited insitutional digital fluency

The relationships typically relied upon - e.g. technology standards - end up requiring a lot of manual orchestration.

Educational technology is the ability to orchestrate the different technologies (pedagogy etc) into something that is fit-for-purpose. The cases above illustrate where manual orchestration has led to situations where the resulting technology is somewhat less than fit-for-purpose.

Whereas the ability to use technology to automate orchestration leads to better resulting technology…should make a point in here about technology being hierarchical.

…this is also where RPA could be brought in to illustrate how the digital fluency or organisational L&T is somewhat less than what is observered elsewhere e.g. Griffith’s projects

And also limitations of what the future of universities can be - MacGilchrist and Norgard (2019)

As such, hybridity strives to cut across, fuse, entangle, or circumvent traditional dichotomies within higher education such as online-onsite, digital-physical, formal-unformal, university-society, learning-teaching, study-work, individual-collective, and so forth. To do so, there is a push against the closed ontology and geography framing teaching and learning at the mode 1 and mode 2 university, as processes of indeterminacy, open-endedness, exploration, experimentation, dialogue, and co-creativity are highlighted (p. 76)

Overall, teaching and learning in and through hybrid networks carry the potential to resist and push against the managerialism and standardisation of the commodified competence factory. (p. 76)

hard and soft technologies: a major hold on breaking the iron triangle

Connect with Dron’s identification of hard technologies. In the absence of the ability to orchestrate we see these constraints being put on the quality of what can be achieved. e.g. Canvas collections and findability….and more

Could also bring Zittrains generarative and sterile technologies. And also ?? “Program or be programmed” to explain the direction higher education is taken. This also connects to Macgilchrist et al’s critique embedded in envisioning likely futures. And also this tweet

What’s required? Light-weight orchestration IT development??

Riff on the different knowledge regime. The iterative nature of this. The need to empower.

Nascent scratch space

Laissez-faire relationship

i.e. she’ll be right. No need to work at the relationship. It just happens.

e.g. in edtech: institutions that adopt principles for L&T without any idea of how to achieve them

e.g. Ellis and Goodyear (2019) argument that instituitons can identify the what, but don’t know the how.

I’m not a cat person

i.e. I’m not a technology person, so i can’t possibly do that

All relationships are the same

i.e. lets be consistent


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See also