Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia Spain March 9th-11th 2009


Effective project management, change management and risk management are key to the successful implementation of elearning. Connected to risk is the notion of unintended consequences, and it is with the issues and concerns surrounding the borrowing of the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis method for a research study to elicit the unintended consequences of the processes and policies put in place at one higher education institute in Ireland to facilitate the roll out of elearning there, that this paper is concerned. The Law of Unintended Consequences holds that any action undertaken can result in desirable and undesirable, as well as anticipated and unanticipated outcomes that fall beyond those originally intended. There is no research method readily available to the education researcher that is designed specifically to elicit this type of information, however, the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) method, native to the field of engineering, is a systematic and disciplined method designed to highlight the unintended or unanticipated consequences of all identifiable aspects of a system, design, process or service, thereby making it possible for procedures to be put in place to counteract, eliminate or plan ahead for the occurrence of any identified consequences, ultimately leading to increased success and quality. There is no set pattern to ‘borrowing’, and it is a common practice amongst researchers. However, it does bring with it many challenges as the researcher struggles to understand that which they wish to borrow in its traditional context in order to maintain its integrity as they adapt it and render it useful for an alternative context. This is not an impossible task, but one that requires a great deal of epistemological reflexivity on behalf of the researcher as they prepare for and execute the process. This paper will discuss issues surrounding ‘borrowing’ in general before going on to describe specifically the practical issues and concerns that arose when modifying the FMEA for use in the educational context.