Title: Using business process re-engineering principles in educational reform Authors: Thomas I. M. Ho and Margaret Tan Thomas I. M. Ho Margaret Tan National University of Singapore National University of Singapore Department of Information Systems Department of Decision Sciences and Computer Science Singapore 0511 Singapore 0511 REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE Phone: +65 772 6807 Phone: +65 772 3157 Fax: +65 779 4580 Fax: +65 779 2621 Internet: email@example.com Bitnet: FBATANM@NUSVM Using business process re-engineering principles in educational reform? Introduction The objective of this paper is to apply business re- engineering principles to reform primary and secondary education. In particular, using information technology (especially telecommunications and networking), educational reforms can be proactively accomplished despite the dynamic environment and demands. Efforts to reform education through information technology (Corcoran, 1993) have entered the mainstream of society and of the corporation. Reforming education through information technology bears a remarkable resemblance to efforts to reform business organizations through information technology! (Business Week, April 1983) It is therefore appropriate to re-examine educational reform in terms of business' language and concepts as used in business process re-engineering. Re-engineeering strives to break away from the old ways and rules about how we organize and conduct business. It involves recognizing and rejecting some of the old ways and then finding imaginative new ways to accomplish work. (Hammer, pp. 104-105) In this way, we might learn lessons from the corporate experience to apply information technology to reform educational structure. This perspective may also enable leaders of the corporate community to better understand the context of educational reforms and their necessary role in promoting and assisting those reforms. Can we apply the language (and experience) of business process re-engineering to educational reform? In his landmark paper on re engineering, Hammer (p. 105) asserts: In a time of rapidly changing technologies and ever- shorter product life cycles, product development often proceeds at a glacial pace. In an age of the customer, order fulfillment has high error rates and customer inquiries go unanswered for weeks. In a period when asset utilization is critical, inventory levels exceed many months of demand. Small changes in wording to adapt these assertions to education reveal a remarkable analogy! In a time of rapidly changing history and ever-shorter political and economic cycles, curriculum development often proceeds at a glacial pace. In an age of keen competition and higher standards, student achievement has high failure rates and student needs go unanswered. In a period of limited resources, educational costs continue to climb but are often a diminishing proportion of infrastructure investment. These analogies should therefore provide us with new perspective to re-engineer education using advanced information technology. Re-engineering primary and secondary education The world has changed, but education hasn't necessarily adapted to these changes. At a recent Principals' Conference in Singapore, John Yip, Director of Education, was quoted (Leong): "It is crucial that we have a good education system which is relevant to the times. Change is inevitable.... Help students to develop attitudes and skills with which they can independently seek knowledge, process information and apply it to tackle issues." We still have "industrial age" schools that are unable to meet the needs of our emerging "information age" society! Davis (p. 24) claims that all organizations based on the industrial model are created for "businesses" that either no longer exist or are in the process of going out of existence. Again, quoting Hammer (p. 107), we can also draw another analogy between the business climate and the educational climate: Quality, innovation, and service are now more important than cost, growth, and control. It should come as no surprise that our business processes and structures are outmoded and obsolete: our work structures and processes have not kept pace with the changes in technology, demographics, and business objectives. Again, small changes in wording to adapt these statements to education reveal a remarkable analogy! Quality, innovation, and creativity are now more important than cost and standardized test scores. It should come as no surprise that our school processes and structures are outmoded and obsolete: our teaching structures and processes have not kept pace with the changes in technology, demographics, and societal conditions. Educational problems Corcoran (p. 66) remarks that "networks are changing the way teachers teach and students learn." Can we apply networking to re-engineer primary and secondary education? What are the problems of education today in our dynamic contemporary world? Recognizing the traditional isolation of teachers (and students), Newman (p. 49) argues that we must make a choice between systems that (merely) deliver traditional instruction from a central repository and systems that enable teachers and students to access and gather information from distributed resources and communities. The experience of teacher Sandra McCourtney (Corcoran, p. 67) demonstrates that a network can bring children the excitement of the outside world. Even independent research by students is possible as recognized by Bob Hughes (Corcoran, p. 66), Boeing's corporate director of education relations, who sees computer networks as key to turning out students who adapt to change and who solve problems by seeking out and applying new ideas. In one of the recent flood of articles on networking in the mainstream press, Markoff laments inequities such as Different levels of access between information "have" vs. "have-not" and Prejudices due to professional rank, gender, race, religion, national origin, or physical ability. Hunter (p. 44) offers us hope that assumptions of the present educational system where some learners and populations are "underserved" because they live in particular places, and that learning opportunities are necessarily tied to local resources, are open to rethinking in a highly networked environment. As a progressive force for change, equity, and restructuring primary and secondary education, information technology has been offered as a mechanism for fostering change. (Gillman, 1989) More specifically, many proponents have identified networking as a mechanism for change. In particular, efforts to promote the US National Research and Education Network (NREN) for use in primary and secondary education have been most representative of this point of view! Perhaps, the most ambitious effort is the National School Network Testbed (Bernstein, et. al.), a national research and development resource in which schools, school districts, community organizations, state education agencies, technology developers, and industry partners are experimenting with applications that bring significant new educational benefits to teachers and students. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has been most active in promoting this movement through its on-line Internet discussion (firstname.lastname@example.org) and other activities, e.g. gopher cosn.org . For membership information, send mail to email@example.com . Indeed, the need for educational reform is generally recognized. Applying the concept of internetworking to educational innovation, it becomes possible for every individual and group involved in educational change and research to be a direct contributor to the collective process of innovation. Examples of opportunities for direct contribution include (Hunter, p. 44): Improved communications among school district personnel and Sharing expertise among teachers of different disciplines and geographical locations. Critical shifts in application of information technology The literature on organizational change and the future abounds with dramatic predictions of the need for organizations to adapt to profound change. Sproull and Kiesler (p. 116) claim that the networked organization differs from the conventional workplace with respect to both time and space so that managers can use networks to foster new kinds of task structures and reporting relationships. Davis claims that while the new economy is in the early decades of its unfolding, businesses continue to use organization models that were more appropriate to previous times than to current needs. (p. 5) In terms of information technology, Tapscott and Caston (pp. 14-17) identify organizational changes that are enabled by information technology and network access, in particular. Networking enables the informal web of relations people developed with each other inside the organization (Davis, p. 86) so as to get things done. Likewise, examples of how educational organizations might adopt these network innovations are not difficult to imagine. Hunter (1993) provides many examples of how network access changes the nature of teaching and learning. Hunter (p. 42) claims that new models of learning and teaching are made possible by the assumption that learners and teachers as individuals and groups can interact with geographically and institutionally distributed human and information resources. Integrated organization With the evolution from system islands to integrated systems, network access enables inter-disciplinary instruction. Network access "flattens" the instructional development process by giving teachers access to previously inaccessible information and teaching resources. Hunter (p. 42) speculates that application of the concepts and technology of internetworking may make it possible for separate reform efforts of diverse groups and individuals to contribute to the building of a new educational system providing more accessible, higher-quality learning opportunities for everyone. Extended enterprise With the evolution from internal to inter-enterprise computing, more people, e.g. parents and business people, will become active in schools by "dropping in" electronically for a short time every day. Furthermore, students will leave the confines of the classroom and make electronic visits to museums, libraries, businesses, and governments around the world. Does business process re-engineering model fit educational problems? So, how ought we to apply the re engineering model to reform education? Hammer (pp. 108-111) offers principles of re engineering. Could these principles be applied to education? Let's see! Organize around outcomes, not tasks Have one person perform all the steps in a process and design that person's job around an objective or outcome instead of a single task (Hammer, p. 108) In the business sense, the idea (Hammer, p. 106) is to sweep away existing job definitions and departmental boundaries and to create a new position through empowerment. In the world of educational telecommunications, the experience of teacher Ed Barry (Corcoran, p. 68) reveals that the role of teacher changes to "manager, not a dispenser of information" because the teacher is empowered! Have those who use the output of the process perform the process Opportunities exist to re engineer processes so that the individuals who need the result of a process can do it themselves (Hammer, p. 109) In the business sense, when the people closest to the process perform it, there is little need for the overhead associated with managing it (Hammer, p. 109) By the same token, Kay (p. 146) has discovered that children learn in the same way as adults, in that they learn best when they can ask questions, seek answers in many places, consider different perspectives, exchange views with others and add their own findings to existing understandings. Subsume information-processing work into the real work that produces the information Move work from one person or department to another (Hammer, p. 110) Empower students to search for the "answers" in heretofore inaccessible places. As a means to reduce the isolation of classroom teachers, Hunter (1993, p. 43) claims that a thread woven throughout most networked learning innovations is the idea that schooling can be more closely linked to work in the real world. Treat geographically dispersed resources as though they were centralized Use databases, telecommunication networks, and standardized processing systems to get the benefits of scale and coordination while maintaining the benefits of flexibility and service (Hammer, p. 110) Use databases, telecommunication networks, and computer- supported courseware to get the benefits of sharing curriculum development while maintaining the benefits of individualized learning and customization. Link parallel activities instead of integrating their results Forge links between parallel functions and coordinate them while their activities are in process rather than after they are completed (Hammer, p. 110) Often, separate units perform different activities that must eventually come together. For example, curriculum developers often prepare instructional materials independently for teachers to use. Instead, enabling teachers and students to communicate easily with curriculum developers during development and testing of materials ought to lead to better materials produced in a shorter time. Put the decision point where the work is performed and build control into the process People who do the work should make the decisions and that the process itself can have built-in controls (Hammer, p. 111) In general, we should "empower" teachers and students! For example, opportunities exist to re engineer teaching so that teachers can tap the expertise of curriculum developers and subject matter experts. Then, teachers can become self- managing and self-controlling. In a project called Learning Through Collaborative Visualization (Hunter, p. 43), students and teachers are working directly with scientists at the University of Michigan, the Exploratorium (museum) in San Francisco, the National Center for Supercomputer Applications in Urbana-Champaign (Illinois, USA), and the Technical Education Research Center (Cambridge, MA USA) on inquiries in atmospheric science, using two-way audio-video technology being developed by Bellcore and Ameritech. Current research efforts In hope of making a case for the reforms described here, two research projects on educational telecommunications are experimenting with these principles. Common Knowledge: Pittsburgh Common Knowledge: Pittsburgh is a US National Science Foundation-funded project to test the impact of Internet access on the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Public Schools. Singapore pilot project Singapore's Ministry of Education is pioneering Internet access in several junior colleges (grades 11-12) and a secondary school. These projects are conducting experiments to address (through telecommunications) the educational problems described earlier. Collaborative efforts Collaboration between these international partners is intended to enable a comparative evaluation of the impact of educational telecommunications on two very different educational systems. The United States is generally recognized for its stronger climate for innovation with notable educational experiments such as: Apple Vivarium Program (Kay) Cityspace (Markoff) On the other hand, Singapore and other Asian nations (Hirsch) are generally recognized for their stronger climate for teaching the fundamentals. Does the model fit? Re engineering triggers changes of many kinds, not just of the business process itself. Job designs, organizational structures, management systems-anything associated with the process-must be refashioned in an integrated way. In other words, re engineering is a tremendous effort that mandates change in many areas of the organization. (Hammer, p. 112) Surely, primary and secondary education deserve the same attention and information technology has as much potential to reorganize education as well as work! The business re-engineering model is remarkably apt for educational reform. Perhaps, this novel (and somewhat provocative) approach may encourage fresh ideas in this difficult task. References Bernstein, S.; Newman, D.; and Huntley, M. Toward Universal Access to Math and Science Resources. Bolt Beranek and Newman (June 1993) Corcoran, Elizabeth. Why Kids Love Computer Nets. Fortune 128, 6 (20 September 1993), pp. 65-70. Davis, Stanley M. Future Perfect. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley (1987) Gillman, T. V. Change in public education: a technological perspective. Trends and Issues, series number 1. (Report No. ISBN-0-86552-0976). Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 302 940). Hammer, Michael. Reengineering Work: Don't Automate, Obliterate. Harvard Business Review (July-August 1990), pp. 104-112. Hirsch, E. D. This Focus on the Facts Is What Children Need. International Herald Tribune (8 September 1993), p. 9. Hunter, Beverly (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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