The use of e-learning opens up completely new possibilities for teaching, and thinking strategically is critical to the success of e-learning. This requires the development of a clear vision of how one would like to teach, given the opportunities opened up by new technologies, and from this the development particularly of departmental teaching plans that take into account not only content, but teaching methods and the role of technology in teaching.
However, It is worth remembering what former American President Dwight Eisenhower said about planning: “plans are nothing; planning is everything.” With strategic planning, the process is often more valuable than the product. Going through the planning process forces us to think about what we do, what we want to achieve and how we are going to get there. It makes us more reflective and informed and, if done properly, allows us to draw on the collective wisdom and experience of the organization rather than relying on a few people. Events will probably force us to change our plans but if we have planned properly we will probably be in a better position to adapt our plans to changing circumstances.
As we plan for e-learning we need to be sensitive to the fact that not everybody with an interest in the process sees the issues from the same perspective. Faculty are the key people in this process and their values and goals may be different from those of administrators and students. We need to understand their world-view and adapt to it rather than fight against it. This does not mean abandoning a systematic, strategic approach but it does mean smoothing its managerial edges, building in flexibility, avoiding the use of overly managerial terminology and, above all, ensuring that faculty members feel involved. It also means that procedures and practices must be properly integrated into the academic core of the institution. This may mean devising new and innovative organizational structures that blend features of centralization with faculty-based support.
If there is one key point we want to emphasize above all others in this unit it is that to effectively implement e-learning at an institutional level will require significant change. Many of you may feel that you are not able to exert much influence in your organization in the planning and management of e-learning, because you are not sufficiently senior in the organization. However, one day you probably will be in such a position (especially, we hope, because of the skills you have learned in this course). More immediately, most of your senior managers are desperately in need of help. University and college Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Deans are struggling with these issues, and often do not have the understanding of e-learning, or the skills of managing this area. You, though, are now in a position to provide that help, and we wish you all the success in your endeavours.