A critical systems perspective on research methodology for research in e-learning in information systems classes
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The aim of this paper is to provide a critical systems thinking perspective on e-learning research in information systems classrooms. Many higher education practitioners are under pressure from their institutions to do research and to publish their findings. Higher education institutions spend large amounts of money on freeing up lecturers’ time for research by incorporating better technology in teaching. Many also believe that the so called generation-Y students can learn only when they are using technology. This leads to three problems: firstly, the class-room becomes a research centre; secondly, average quality research papers are written; and thirdly, technology drives teaching practices and not the other way round. Although these are often viewed as three independent problems they can be addressed as symptoms of one single problem: We struggle to find a method to reflect on and design our teaching practices in a way that truly benefits our students, the information technology industry and the scholarly community we are part of. Overall the motivation for teaching and the motivation for research about teaching become blurred and move away from most lecturers’ original motivation for entering academia. This paper uses critical systems thinking to motivate critical social theory as an appropriate research paradigm and action research as research methodology for research projects in e-learning in information systems classrooms. It reflects on teaching of information systems and using e-learning from a critical systems perspective. Doing research in e-learning in an information systems classroom is viewed as a pluralist complex problem with some coercive characteristics according to the Flood and Jackson categorisation. Critical social heuristics is used to better understand the different worldviews and associated objectives in the problem situation. Action research is viewed from the perspective of critical social research therefore the guidelines for critical social research in information systems developed by Myers and Klein are applicable. Key to such an application of action research is the use of a critical theoretical framework or theory to guide intervention as illustrated by the depiction of action research of Peter Checkland. This paper explores suitable educational theories to guide intervention in information systems classrooms what will be beneficial to different groups of interest as identified in the application of critical social heuristics. It aims to address the problems stated above by providing guidelines for good research in the e-learning discipline.