Oliver, M. (2003). Rethinking the Reuse of Electronic Resources: Contexts, Power and Information Literacy. Joint commentary on Carmel McNaught, Identifying the Complexity of Factors in the Sharing and Reuse of Resources (Chapter 16) and Allison Littlejohn, An Incremental Approach to Staff Development in the Reuse of Learning Resources (Chapter 18) of: Reusing Online Resources: A Sustainable Approach to eLearning , (Ed.) Allison Littlejohn. Kogan Page, London. ISBN 0749439491. [ www.reusing.info ]. Journal of Interactive Media in Education , 2003 (1) Special Issue on Reusing Online Resources. ISSN:1365-893X [ www-jime.open.ac.uk/2003/1/ ].

Chapter 16: Identifying the Complexity of Factors in the Sharing and Reuse of Resources

Carmel McNaught

Rethinking the Reuse of Electronic Resources: Contexts, Power and Information Literacy

Commentary by Martin Oliver

Education & Professional Development
University College London
1-19 Torrington Place
London, WC1E 6BT


This paper is a response to Chapter 16 by McNaught (2003) and Chapter 18 by Littlejohn (2003a), from 'Reusing Online Resources: a sustainable approach to e-learning' (Littlejohn, 2003b). These two chapters are briefly summarised, and the points that each makes are examined and challenged. Following on from this, the proposals within these two chapters are re-framed in terms of issues of information literacy and the exercise of power. This analysis suggests that, whilst these chapters may make an important contribution to understanding the process of reuse, they neglect issues relating to scholarship, wisdom and personal development; they also hide the ways in which reuse may serve to strengthen the position of learning technologists whilst marginalising academics.


This paper is intended to raise issues and questions in relation to two chapters from the book, Reusing Online Resources: a sustainable approach to e-learning (Littlejohn, 2003b). These chapters examine the complex contextual factors that influence reuse and the ways in which staff development can be used to encourage such practices (McNaught, 2003; Littlejohn, 2003a). Rather than discuss issues in the order they arise in the texts, the discussion within this paper has been structured around the following two themes:

  • Reframing reuse as information literacy, and

  • Questioning the play of power around reuse.

First, however, the two chapters will be briefly summarised. Rather than simply précis either chapter, these summaries will draw out a select number of points for consideration and challenge. Since such a process may appear to distort the authors' arguments, it is important to emphasise at the outset that the purpose of this paper is not to dismiss or devalue this work. However, it is necessary to challenge the position of the authors as authorities , so as to show that their chapters are examples of petits récits (Lyotard, 1979) ? local, personal understandings, rather than definitive accounts. By doing so, it is then possible to offer up other little stories that can stand alongside these offerings, valourising them by using them to generate new perspectives, new insights ( ibid ).

A summary of the chapters being discussed

Identifying the complexity of factors in the sharing and reuse of resources

McNaught's central argument (2003) is that the changes facing reusability in education are largely educational and cultural. She argues, moreover, that the increased calls for the sharing and reuse of learning resources, if not handled in a collegial way, may prevent teachers from engaging in this process. However, in spite of recognising the complexity of the change process, McNaught begins by assuming the goodness of reuse, explaining that her "chapter is concerned with how to reduce the barriers and improve the drivers". Within the chapter, there is no attempt to explore why these forces are acting on academics. This position serves to frame the academic ? the resistor ? as recalcitrant, as wrong. Whilst recognising that "there are still many academics and teachers who have not yet comfortably adopted technology in their teaching" she goes on to speak of "the adoption issue", which serves to present this situation as a problem to be solved.

In order to develop an understanding of the process of adoption, McNaught reports on a survey of technology adoption. Within this, the majority of people identified as early adopters of technology appeared to be isolated; these individuals asserted that the majority of staff in their institution would only use technology when it became mainstream. On the surface, this appears to tell an important story about managing change, and McNaught concludes that "it is imperative that academic teachers come to see the potential benefits that reuse offers" as a way of changing this situation. However, although such inferences may at first appear to be warranted by this study, it is important to consider three points which call these conclusions into question. Firstly, academic life involves a constant struggle to build a professional identity (Taylor, 1999); it is only to be expected that those who wish to distinguish themselves from their colleagues will portray their own practice as innovative and their colleagues as less creative. Such identity creation through questionnaire response is a well recognised problem in social psychology (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). Secondly, Rogers' model of adoption is largely uninformative in this case. It is tautological that the majority of individuals in a population will only use technology once it is in the mainstream. It is also a necessary fact of a model that describes a population chronologically that the first quartile of users will adopt the technology earlier than their colleagues. Unfortunately, information about the pace of adoption, the spread of adoption through the population (which is unlikely to be uniform) and so on is disregarded in this model. Thirdly, within the context of the model used for this survey, there is no attempt to explore what is meant by 'technology' (cf. Kuutti, 1996). This lack of analysis renders invisible the familiar technologies (language, chalk and blackboard, overhead projectors) that have become commonplace. The effect of this is to distort the picture by ignoring that we are all technology users ? what is important (but unexamined in this study) are the ways in which we use technology and the ends to which it is put.

Fortunately, McNaught does not rely on Rogers' model for the heart of her argument, instead discussing polarity theory as a way of analysing this situation. This theory proposes that situations can be described in terms of dilemmas ? problems to which there can be no solution, only a constant state of tension. It also advocates that these poles should be considered together, holistically. This approach seems ideally suited to the analysis of such a rich, complex situation. From this perspective, McNaught asserts that there are several dilemmas that should be considered, and discusses each in turn:

  • Scholarship versus cost effectiveness;

  • Integrated support versus piecemeal support;

  • Maintaining a comfort zone versus pushing the boundaries;

  • Rewarding teaching innovation versus efforts on research outputs;

  • Collaboration versus individualism;

  • Rewarding first attempts versus standards of best practice; and

  • Iterative educational design versus traditional models.

Before discussing any of these, it is important to recognise that there are no claims about the exhaustiveness or power of this model. McNaught acknowledges that these are, simply, "the set of dimensions I chose". This model is not necessarily any less powerful for being a personal account, but it must be recognised that, within the context of this paper, the choice of dilemmas rests on personal experience rather than any explicit theory or body of literature.

The first of these dilemmas is used to generate a series of questions, inviting reflection and engagement. This approach does not continue, however. Whilst it is asserted that polarity theory is about states of tension, several of the discussions slip into solutions. For example, discussing integrated versus piecemeal support, McNaught sidesteps the dilemma by asserting that "clearly articulated functions and effective coordination between units is the answer" ? in other words, integrated support is needed (although this is not necessarily the same as centralised support). Similarly, in discussing the complexity of learning, McNaught sidesteps the 'instructivist/constructivist' divide by asserting that what is important is "deciding whether the learning needs are short-term and explicit, or whether a more holistic focus has been taken." Rather than align with either of these two positions (which are primarily about the status of knowledge, rather than about the pragmatics of learning) it is asserted that models of reuse and customisation are value neutral. This ignores the fact that academics must develop an understanding of what reuse means ? and that McNaught's own model must take a position over whether we can instruct academics about what reuse is or whether we must help them construct their own meanings. The existence of answers in this section (some of which are value judgements, others of which sideline the dilemma) calls into question whether these are, indeed, the right poles to include in this model.

McNaught concludes by arguing ? wisely ? that "it is not useful to allow sectors of the organisation to work without reference to each other", and goes on to describe how these different sectors might be aligned. However, such a conclusion does not need this elaborate model to justify it; indeed, the power of the model is largely left unexplored, without even a 'before and after' pair of illustrations to demonstrate its application. Whether flawed or not, further use of this model would clearly be of value, and it was disappointing that its potential as a way of analysing specific cases was not developed within the chapter.

An incremental approach to staff development in the use of learning resources

Littlejohn (2003) opens her chapter with an exciting and empowering assertion: "the key to effective reuse of resources lies not in the technology, but in the creativity and imagination of teachers". Wisely, she frames her discussion in relation to the established history of reuse involving things like paper-based resources. However, in spite of this holistic start, her view of teaching appears fragmented. One of the benefits of reuse, it is argued, might be that "tutors could spend more time devising teaching strategies and interacting with students, rather than focusing on content generation". This might seem alien to academics, for whom devising teaching strategies, interacting with students and generating content are all part of a seamless whole (Oliver, 2002). In a study of academics' descriptions of their practice ( ibid ), a strong message was that creation of courses involves a complex interplay between one's personal sense of the discipline, departmental politics, perceived student interest, existing curriculum structures, the need to differentiate this course from that offered by other institutions and the various texts, papers and resources that could be called upon. Moreover, the curriculum itself was described in a rich, multi-layered way: the syllabus and 'content' (materials) were visible parts of it, but attitudes and beliefs, departmental 'style' (the 'hidden' curriculum) and ongoing interactions with students (the 'lived' curriculum) all formed essential parts of this whole. Disaggregating this into components, each treated separately, oversimplifies this emotive art into a rational production process ? convenient for automation, but hardly the same.

Questioning the simple process of curriculum development described in Littlejohn's study is important, because it allows us to reframe the problem being examined. As presented, the fundamental issue is one of acquiring and using content. In marked contrast, the curriculum design study described above shows that acquiring and using content are relatively minor components of much more significant projects. Searching, acquiring, interpreting, shaping and sharing are all parts of an holistic process of personal development for the academic involved; they are also a way of ordering, shaping and developing the discipline (cf. Wenger, 1998, who discusses the way in which personal trajectories through a community of practice shape the development of that individual's professional identity whilst also influencing the practices of the community in a process that requires mutual negotiation). This suggests that Littlejohn's model of development is limited as a result of its view of curriculum design as a technical process. The alternative is to view it as an act of scholarship (Boyer, 1990).

The case for specialised training is made, in part, in relation to an "inconsistency in approach" of academics. It is argued that tutors feel comfortable searching libraries and so forth for materials for traditional courses, but tend to develop (rather than reuse) materials for online courses represents. There is an alternative explanation to inconsistency. Introducing new tools into an established activity causes problems, which may lead to patterns of work changing and with them, each individuals' sense of professional identity (Kuutti, 1996; Wenger, 1998). In the study in question, for example, academics were given criteria for evaluating resources; these were not derived by them from personal experience. In other words, reifications of other peoples' practice was imposed upon this community, who then had to learn to adapt their own practices to accommodate this new approach (cf. Wenger, 1998). Moreover, this vocabulary is fixed, which stands in marked contrast to the ongoing tinkering, development and updating inherent in academics' curriculum work as the discipline (and their understanding of it) changes (Oliver, 2002). It is hardly surprising, given the unfamiliarity of this approach, that academics were unsettled and unsure, and appeared to need 'developing'. This situation might have been avoided, however, if the process of reuse had been approached in a different way.

The final point to be raised in relation to this chapter concerns the scope of reuse. Littlejohn proposes that it will be possible "to encourage the sharing and reuse of resources within and across disciplines". However, there is considerable evidence to suggest that cross-disciplinary sharing may be impractical (e.g. Becher, 1989; Oliver and Conole, 2002). The meanings of terms arise within communities of practice (Wenger, 1998); they do not necessarily generalise across them. What this means is that the terminology used to classify and describe resources (as well as all the concepts described within them) will be differently interpreted by each new community that encounters them ( ibid ) ? and communities are likely to consist of groupings whose boundaries are shaped by both institutions and disciplines. In other words, interpretations are likely to be specific to the level of a department, or smaller.

There are several ways in which this situation could be tackled, and Littlejohn proposes one: the use of information professionals such as librarians who have expertise in the re-interpretation and explanations of such classifications from one community to another. At least two other alternatives exist, however: to create such descriptions for specific communities (e.g. Friesen, 2002) or else to allow multiple descriptions to be attached to any single resource, so that several communities can re-describe in their own terms (Nilsson, et al. , 2002). Whichever approach is adopted, however, the issue of scope cannot be solved: resources must be understood in relation to specific contexts, rather than global definitions.


Reframing reuse as information literacy

Bruce's study of information literacy (1997) starts by rejecting behaviouristic definitions, focusing exclusively on what people do, in favour of an alternative 'relational' model, in which the focus is on people and their relationship to situations. Her phenomenographic study identified seven conceptions of information literacy (p. 110):

  • The information technology conception ? information literacy is seen as using information technology for information retrieval and communication.

  • The information sources conception ? information literacy is seen as finding information.

  • The information process conception ? information literacy is seen as executing a process.

  • The information control conception ? information literacy is seen as controlling information.

  • The knowledge construction conception ? information literacy is seen as building up a personal knowledge base in a new area of interest.

  • The knowledge extension conception ? information literacy is seen as working with knowledge and personal perspectives adopted in such a way that novel insights are gained.

  • The wisdom conception ? information literacy is seen as using information wisely for the benefit of others.

Within this mapping of conceptions, an order was discerned. The first conceptions have information technology as their focus, with information use as a peripheral component; the latter have information use as their focus, with information technology as a peripheral component. This mapping is useful in highlighting some of the preconceptions within these chapters and in arguing that, in spite of their emphasis on context, they do not go far enough to explain how reuse can be enabled.

McNaught, for example, recognises the complexity of standards documents and the process of metadata coding. Coding tools, she argues, may solve this problem. Similarly, Littlejohn proposes a centralised repository for resources as a solution to the lack of high quality electronic resources for staff development. She goes on to describe how resources can be aggregated to form lessons ? a description that almost suggests materials development has replaced pedagogy. These, however, are technology-focused responses; they neglect the way in which these problems are experienced by academics (a point emphasised throughout Bruce's phenomenographic study). What do the various terms mean to the academics who code resources, or to those who attempt to retrieve them? And to what ends are they to be put?

These questions are not simply abstract or philosophical; they also have significant implications at a practical level. For example, a study in which the software tool media adviser was used by academics to describe their teaching practices showed that even commonplace terms like 'lecture' had complex, variable meanings (Oliver & Conole, 2002). There was no single, 'correct' interpretation of the term; instead, its used varied depending on the disciplinary context, the year of students taught, the number of students present, the relationship of this session to others in the programme and so on. Not only did the meaning of the term vary from person to person, even within the same course team, it also changed for each person depending on the context in which it was used. Thus it proved impossible to provide a precise definition for the term; its meaning was determined in relation to other terms (such as 'tutorial', 'seminar', etc.) and a taken-for-granted context, as well as covering an ambiguous variety of actual practices. If the meaning of such familiar terms is inherently ambiguous, it is unlikely that new terms (such as 'virtual seminar') will mean the same in different contexts.

Another implication of this new perspective is to re-cast the developmental process academics may need to engage with in order to reuse materials. Littlejohn proposes a three-stage model, beginning at a basic level (discovering, searching and evaluating), moving to intermediate (supporting resource authoring) and moving to an advanced level (integration and contextualisation of resources). Such a model is rational and functional, but sits uneasily alongside the study of curriculum development practice (Oliver, 2002) which suggests that academics are already well versed in integration and contextualisation and are happy to author materials (within the various media with which they are familiar). Where they have no prior experience is in the browsing of specialist repositories such as the one proposed. In other words, the study of curriculum practice suggests that the 'levels' of development may need to be reversed ? what is 'basic' to them may be integrating resources to form curricula, whilst where they are least likely to be confident is in this new form of information searching.

There are, thus, two possible directions in which development might be required ? and the reason for this is that each study has adopted a different perspective when viewing this situation. Littlejohn's model can be related to the first four kinds of information literacy described by Bruce (using information technology through to information control). The study of curriculum practice starts from purposes, neglecting details of method, and thus relates to the latter three kinds of information literacy (building up a personal knowledge base, developing new knowledge and using knowledge wisely). Each neglects the alternative perspectives, which may make it appear that the academics described need further development in those areas. Whether these academics need to learn curriculum skills or technical skills is impossible to determine from either study, because of the presuppositions (the focus) of each. Instead, what is needed is new research that draws upon the whole range of described perspectives (or reconciling the existing research). This would allow a more considered, responsive analysis of the situation ? one that is more likely to identify where academics' experiences actually lead to problems.

Thus solutions focused primarily on the technical questions surrounding re-use are unlikely to radically transform the current situation. For progress to be made, a more holistic approach must be adopted, in which personal understandings and development are valued alongside technical 'solutions' which may otherwise simply replace old problems with new ones.

Questioning the play of power around reuse

It has been observed that many educational initiatives in recent decades have served to disempower academics, ostensibly in order to empower students but often in ways which are suspiciously favourable towards governmental concerns and industrial agendas (Holley & Oliver, 2000). Such changes have sparked serious fears amongst academics who feel alienated by this 'automation' of teaching (Noble, 1998). Given these fears, it is important to question the way in which power is shifting around the process of reuse.

McNaught, considering the tension between maintaining a comfort zone and pushing boundaries, suggests that "the culture of the organisation needs to be able to embrace change while offering staff opportunities to manage their own levels of comfort with the change". It is interesting to examine this assertion in relation to Barnett's discussion of different types of criticality (1997). Here, he differentiates between being allowed to find the optimal path within a situation and the right to question why the situation has arisen in the first place. The former, he argues, is representative of the kinds of critical thinking valued by industry; the latter he links to the critical role universities traditionally take. Clearly, in McNaught's solution to this dilemma, academics are positioned within the former, more restricted, kind of criticality. There is no indication at any point that staff might be allowed to challenge, resist or abstain from the change. The voice of academics is clearly subsumed here by the centralised imperatives of 'the organisation'.

Littlejohn positions not only academics but also advocates of reuse in the same position. Like McNaught, Littlejohn accepts certain external imperatives that then shape her response to the 'issue' of reuse. She argues that "there are several compelling reasons [why teachers should share their resources], many of which lie within the economics of education". She goes on to discuss how "to achieve this within current economic restrictions". Before the discussion has begun, the opportunity to challenge these presuppositions has been closed down. What if one were to reject the idea that education should be governed by economics? This notion is hardly heretical; indeed, the current economic imperatives for reuse only seems to have come to the fore in UK government policy in an appendix to the Dearing report ? a policy which advocated the re-framing of Higher Education as a service contributing to global economic competitiveness (NCIHE, 1997). There is an alternative: to view universities as a social good. This perspective has been pitted against economic arguments, with each in turn gaining the upper hand and then losing it again, for well over a century (Taylor, 1999). However, no matter what academics ? or advocates of reuse, for that matter ? think that Higher Education should be for, the argument within these chapters has been drawn out of the realm of values or ideals and into the world of fiscal and human resources. Those who question whether allocated resource should drive change, arguing instead that such resources might be granted to worthy projects as needed, are immediately rendered heretics.

Another critical perspective on this process of change can be drawn from the work of Freire (1970). Freire describes a situation wherein individuals who are oppressed, seeking to escape from their situation, seek to emulate their oppressors. They act as the oppressors do, appropriating their ideas and practices; they thus come to identify with the oppressors, rather than with the oppressed (cf. Wenger, 1998, and his discussion of the way in which individuals identify with communities whose practice they choose to adopt, rather than solely in terms of the community they originate from). McNaught describes a situation that is apparently benign, but which, when viewed from this perspective, could be reinterpreted as an exercise of oppressive power. A learning technology mentor programme was set up in which academics learnt the skills involved in designing and implementing online courses and then promoted and supported similar activities within their own departments. The purpose of this "was to achieve widespread adoption of online learning as part of effective a change in the culture of academic work". Unless such a change arose as the spontaneous desire of the academics involved, it seems likely that participation in this process must have arisen as a response to external pressures. Thus, rather than experiencing self-determined development, these individuals were inducted into the practices and values of communities that stand to benefit from these changes (as will be argued below). They were then sent back to spread the word amongst their fellow oppressed. Such use of power can clearly be effective; its elegance has to be admired; to be sure that it was not oppressive, however, it is imperative that the principles that led to its operation be questioned.

Littlejohn describes a similar incident. She recounts that "there was a tendency amongst tutors to seek out large resources which fulfilled a number of objectives [?] however, it was found that by engaging tutors in discussions about the advantages and disadvantages in using resources of different granularities, they were better at making decisions about which materials were most appropriate for reuse." There is a clear presupposition here that the technology specialists know something that the academics do not. There is no recognition that the reverse might equally be true. The criteria for 'better' decisions are determined by the specialists, and academics are taught to conform, in spite of evidence to suggest that these new practices are in marked contrast to tried and tested approaches ? such as the selection of a textbook as a way of shaping a course (Oliver, 2002). Such one-way development (as opposed to mutual development) echoes the exhortations of Merrill (2001), who argues that:

Too often instructional designers leave these important what-to-teach decisions to so-called subject-matter-experts (SMEs). Often a SME knows how to perform the task that is the goal of instruction but is unaware of the knowledge components that are required to acquire this knowledge and skill. A primary role of the instructional designer is to determine these granular knowledge components and their sequence

This process of devaluing the expertise of academics is a worrying trend. It echoes the ways Lisewski & Joyce (2003) describe learning technologists as seeking to establish their own power by serving the dominant ideology of managerialism, rather than by developing their own specialist expertise, worthy of respect in its own right. Taking educational processes out of the hands of academics and placing them under the purview of management serves to weaken academics' sense of professional identity by carving off areas of responsibility. It also allows learning technologists to grow in importance whilst academics are marginalised. Such a trend seems inherent in the model of staff development proposed by Littlejohn. In this, the arrival of a new technology unsettles existing staff practices; deficient skills are identified and named; training is then created and applied to staff who are framed as lacking in relation to these new practices. Positioning this process as something new and unfamiliar, rather than just another part of their existing practice, serves to split e-learning off from 'normal' academic work (Oliver & Dempster, 2003) ? this simply reinforces the 'mystery' of e-learning, allowing a 'priesthood' to arise who have a powerful gatekeeper role, which involves them revealing these secrets to the uninitiated.

Such tendencies are recognised within the literature on knowledge management. Wenger (1998) outlines how 'economies of meaning' can arise, in which dominant communities coerce others into adopting their understanding of a situation. The local understandings of other communities are marginalised, sidelined; the sanctioned 'truth' is the understanding held by those in power. Farrell (2001) explores how this process operates, focusing on texts that attempt to define standards or best practice. These are argued to standardise what 'counts' as knowledge, sanctioning some beliefs and rendering others heretical. This process is insidious. Defining something as 'best practice', for example, serves to impose external authority whilst obscuring its identity: external values are held up as an ideal, but the authors of the text are not seen to be the ones who proposed them. Thus the demands of authorities (government, management, etc.) are no longer seem as impositions ? instead, "they seem transparently natural and right, just 'best practice'" (p. 211). Hard at work throughout this process are 'discourse technologists' ? "people whose job it is to intervene in the textual practices of work at local sites in order to shift discursive practice to standardised global discourses" (p. 211). Although this role is implicated in the process of imposing dominant meanings, it need not simply serve to impose the values of management. Instead, discourse technologists can act to create a 'pedagogic space' (p. 212) in which structures of power can be unsettled. However, such a process requires negotiation, not instruction; it must be a dialogue, not simply indoctrination. Such space for dialogue can be hugely powerful, providing valuable new insights into the process being described (Wenger, 1998); it is also a pre-requisite for the kind of critical, reflective practice that it is argued that learning technologists ought to aspire towards (Lisewski & Joyce, 2003). However, such space that seems worryingly absent from exhortations such as, "encouraging resource sharing is complex. It is perhaps one of the major challenges currently facing learning technologists" (Littlejohn, 2003a).

This uncritical link between learning technologists and management is further evidenced elsewhere in these chapters. In the closing section of her chapter, for example, McNaught asks, "how can an organisation decide if it is within the zone of effective change?" She goes on to suggest that one part of this decision might involve tasks such as SWOT analyses. This discussion is particularly telling. Organisations do not do SWOT analyses; individuals do. However, the use of the label 'organisation' acts to naturalise the fact that specific individuals take decisions on behalf of the institution. It is rendered natural, obvious, that someone in a senior position should undertake such a task, in the same way that it is only natural that a senior individual should then devise a policy to respond to this exercise, and that a similar individual should use McNaught's model to represent their institution, since these models "can be a powerful focus for celebrating and realigning change". Such 'natural' assumptions validate the fears identified elsewhere in the literature (e.g. Holley & Oliver, 2000; Noble, 1998): that academics' identities are being re-conceived on their behalf, without their input. In fact, this is not necessarily the case; such analyses could be undertaken in an open, consultative way. However, for any one individual to act in this way on the behalf of others places them in a position of power over their colleagues. Unless this forms part of an open process, their beliefs will shape future practice, their values will determine the professional identities of their colleagues. McNaught does advocate at the outset that such change be undertaken in a collegial way ? but there are no echoes of this warning in the advice given about advancing such changes at the end of the chapter.


McNaught and Littlejohn set out in their chapters to propose ways of dealing with the complexities of context and personal development in relation to reuse. This paper has provided a critique of these proposals, re-framing them in terms of information literacy and the use of power. The purpose of this critique is not to dismiss the proposals offered in the initial chapters, but to generate new insights and opportunities that can be used to extend our understanding of the phenomena being described.

Reconsidering the chapters in the light of information literacy research showed that these proposals do not encompass the range of ways in which staff may experience the problem of reuse. Focusing on technical or process issues may make for a tractable, solvable set of problems, but it fails to take account of the ways in which academics' use of resources contributes to their personal development and the development of their discipline. What is required is either new research or the reconciling of currently disparate bodies of work that each focus on one end of Bruce's continuum of descriptions of information literacy. Without such an holistic account, the only solutions that can be proposed will necessarily be piecemeal. Thus these chapters may represent an important contribution to our understanding of part of this process, but they should not be seen as telling the whole story.

Examining this process in terms of the exercise of power reveals the tendency for reuse to marginalise academics. The process judges practice in terms of values esteemed by managerialism: efficiency, control and transparency. The complex, tacit expertise of academics in designing curricula (and, through this scholarly process, developing both themselves and their disciplines) is ignored. It might be possible to set this aside as an innocent oversight, were it not for the way in which these processes seem to benefit the same groups who are the strongest advocates of reuse. Learning technologists in particular seem poised to wrestle away from academics responsibilities for part (if not all) of the curriculum design process, legitimating their importance and strengthening their currently precarious role within universities. Given that we as learning technologists stand to gain whilst others lose from this process, it is all the more important that we are cautious and circumspect in the way in which we encourage reuse. If values, descriptions and practices are imposed, it would be fair to criticise this process as one that serves our own interests; only by approaching this issue in an open way, encouraging dialogue and valuing the different voices and values of academics, can we hope to avoid the charge of serving our own ends through advocacy of reuse.

Finally, it is important to recognise that the points made above are not unique to these chapters, or indeed to the topic of reuse. All educational change involves the development of new literacies and the exercise of power. What is important from this critique is to recognise the value-laden, disruptive and threatening nature of such processes. In both research and practice, we must seek to examine such processes, holding these issues in mind so that we are sensitised to their influence on the ways in which we work. Since we cannot work without disrupting literacies or exercising power, we should at least recognise that this is what we are doing. We should also recognise that those we influence may need time and experience to understand these new approaches, become fluent with them and be able to come to terms with the way that their identities have been re-formed by them. Training alone will not resolve these transformative anxieties; however, careful and respectful collaboration and dialogue with academics might.


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