Abstract -- Electronic Version -- Follow-Up Study

PhD Thesis Abstract

The Impact of the Introduction of Computers into the Faculty of Health Science:
A case study of organisational change

A. C. Lynn Zelmer, B. Ed., M. S., MACE, MACS/PCP
University of Central Queensland

A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Education, The University of Queensland, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy.

September 1993


In 1989 the University of Central Queensland, Faculty of Health Science, committed itself to a major instructional development project for its nursing education program. This thesis is a case study report documenting and analysing the management of the resulting project, funded by both the National Priority Reserve Fund (NPRF) and the University, to develop computer-based learning materials.
    This study examines the project and its management from the perspective of the project participants to demonstrate the motivation for some of the decisions and their consequences. The study highlights some of the deficiencies of the project and its management, how they were resolved, and their consequences.
    Initially the study was seen as simply descriptive, using qualitative techniques that allowed the participants to describe the process and its results. As the project, and this study, progressed it became increasingly obvious that the participants were involved in changing a system where the most obvious challenge was change itself. The changes experienced were not only technological, but included a redefinition of the nursing education program, new roles and directions for the University, and the necessity to adapt to new management techniques and structures.
    This study includes excerpts from interviews with almost all of the staff and project students engaged in the first two years of the Health Science project, selected nursing students from the pre-registration program, staff and administrators from other areas of the University, and individuals involved as computer suppliers and consultants to the Project. Another source of data was the documentation generated by the operation and management of the project. This documentation included formal project papers and reports as well as day-to-day memorandums, electronic mail messages and other correspondence, formal and informal.
    This study was not intended to judge the success of the CAL/CML activities within the faculty of Health Science. Inevitably, however, participants and observers ask whether the activities were a success. The response has been mixed, and may depend upon the respondent's degree of involvement in the CAL/CML activities. From a short term perspective:
    • all of the staff and students use computers regularly,
    • many of the staff are involved in developing computer-based instructional materials, and
    • some staff are using the available tools to develop courseware that is very different
indent from standard Health Science materials.
    As well, from its own budget Health Science funds computer support positions and infrastructure (hardware, software and network) upgrading. It is budgeting for an additional student lab, and has begun investigating multimedia applications. As the CAL/CML Academic Coordinator (1993, personal communication, 23 February) indicated:
        In hindsight, we've done at least two-thirds of what we started out to do--and the
        base is there--staff are committed to CAL. Some of them will never do any CAL
        development themselves, but they are all committed...
            The real benefit is to the students. They are getting the benefit of the materials
        developed and in the pipeline… and the materials and ideas are being taken
        elsewhere, through consultancies, etc.
    Issues addressed in the study include the novice's fear of computers, the use of electronic mail and related network services, the timing of change, project management, and staffing. Staffing issues include the use of students as technical experts, the acceptance of non-nursing staff in the development of nursing education materials, and the roles of academic and general staff in the development of instructional materials.
    The strategic direction provided through the CAL/CML Project faltered as staff size increased and institutional priorities changed. The challenge for Health Science is to develop a new strategic plan that takes into account the current institutional priorities, student needs, and technological realities. The strategic plan must provide a blueprint for the future that is sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, people, budgets, and technologies.
    Finally, the Faculty must look at the form of its management as one of the strategies for achieving its goals. The conventional management structures of a hospital or teaching institute may not be appropriate for managing change in a technology-based organisation where change is constant.

[Zelmer, ACL (1993). The Impact of the Introduction of Computers into the Faculty of Health Science: A case study of organisational change, University of Queensland, PhD thesis, p x111.]

Electronic version of full thesis (Version 11/99 pdf)

This electronic version (pdf format, 3 Mb) displays the text and illustrations for a dissertation submitted in September 1993 and accepted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy on 18 March 1994.
    While every effort has been made to ensure that this document is the same as the thesis, pagination and some minor details are not consistent with the original original due to changes in reproduction technology, the removal of blank pages, etc. This document should therefore be referenced as "Version 11/99 pdf".

Computers in the Faculty of Health Science -- 5 years on

Follow-up study co-authored with one of the Health Science staff:

Zelmer, AC Lynn and Stewart, SM (1998). "Computers in the Faculty of Health Science -- 5 years on", International Journal of Medical Informatics, 50 (1998) pp 133-137.

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