Institutions must have the appropriate organizational structures and governance mechanisms in place to ensure that e-learning is properly implemented. Bates & Sangrà (2011) stress that the successful implementation of e-learning “requires daily and continuous attention throughout the organization…[and]…ongoing mechanisms in place to deal with technology issues as they arise” (p. 103).
We will cover organizational structure in more detail in a later unit. For now, we highlight the two key components of organizational structure:
- Where e-learning fits in the organization and the reporting structure of the organization, e.g., does it reside in the portfolio of one of the senior administrators? Is it located on the academic/educational side of the organization or on the technical or administrative side? and
- How is the support provided, e.g., is there centralized support unit, does each Faculty, School or Department provide its own support, or is it basically a “do it yourself” model in which faculty or teachers are on their own to figure things out and find the support they need?
Clearly, it helps if e-learning is situated in the academic/educational portfolio as this is where the power lies in all academic organizations. However, the ideal organizational arrangement depends on how e-learning is going to be used and how widespread the proposed implementation will be. For large scale, institution-wide implementations of e-learning, well-funded, centralized support is essential. This may take the form of a centralized department that services the entire organization or, in very large institutions, it could take the form of large, well-funded centres that are based in each Faculty or school.
Related to the structural issues is the question of who is supporting and championing e-learning in the organization. It’s one thing to have the e-learning department strongly embedded in the organization and well-represented on governance committees and councils but it is also important that there are powerful e-learning champions within the organization These should be people with power and influence who are not seen has having a vested interest.