The conventional wisdom around e-learning is that for it to be sustainable and cost-effective there must be an institutional strategic plan for e-learning which is nested within the institution’s overall strategic plan. As I mentioned in the introduction, when I started teaching this course, I subscribed wholeheartedly to this view. But, over the years, my thinking has changed. My experience working in and with different institutions has led me to the conclusion that strategic planning for e-learning may not be necessary in all cases and may not produce the results that proponents think it will. Certainly an institutional e-learning strategy is not a precondition for e-learning as there are many examples of organizations that are using e-learning quite successfully without one. Now I haven’t rejected strategic planning for e-learning but I do think we need to be much more flexible in our thinking about this and accept that different contexts demand different approaches.
In a later unit we will examine planning in more detail and look at the components of a strategic plan and the steps in the strategic planning process. For the time being, we just want to highlight the value of proper planning but caution you to be pragmatic and flexible about how you approach planning. Like so much in education, context matters. Large organizations that want to implement system-wide e-learning are going to find it much more useful to develop a strategic plan for e-learning than a small organization that may just want to offer a few online courses or encourage their teachers to make more use of technology in their teaching. Just because you don’t have a fully-developed e-learning strategy doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t ready for e-learning.