Implementing E-Learning

Introduction

In this unit we are going to look at institutional readiness in terms of how e-learning is implemented and supported. The main players are the service units, departments or other such groups that play a role in making e-learning operational. These are the groups that are involved in organizational planning and management of courses and support services for learners or employees and faculty members or trainers. Individuals within these departments may also play a key role in the delivery of these courses and services as well.

As you saw in the unit on Institutional Organization and Support, service departments in a university or college can be organized in several different ways. Typically they are either central departments with a mandate to serve the whole campus, or faculty-based departments that support specific faculties or schools. In a private corporation or government organization, such a department might exist within a Human Resources department, training centre or professional development group involved in creating training and program materials for employees or clients. However, in any of these contexts, it is likely that the motivation to develop e-learning will come as often from individual faculty members or trainers as it will come from formalized project teams. Further, when thinking about program planning, we are assuming that a set of courses is being proposed or developed.  As such, it is important to be thinking strategically about how courses are developed and maintained, how students and professors are supported, and how the courses are delivered within an institution.

In all of these areas, both top-down and bottom-up approaches are likely to be encountered and there are likely to be both initiatives driven by enthusiastic individuals as well as more formal projects that are being developed using project management approaches. An understanding of the potential advantages and limitations of these approaches will assist you in coming up with an approach for developing e-learning materials that makes sense in your context.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:

  • Compare the strengths and weaknesses of different models for program and course development
  • Evaluate appropriate development approaches for their own organizations
  • Discuss the key elements of the project management approach to course development
  • Explain the key phases of course development
  • Explain the roles and responsibilities of project team members

Guiding Questions

Use the following questions to guide your thinking as you study this unit:

  1. Is there any evidence for what Bates & Sangrà says about Lone Rangers? Does it match what is happening in your institution?
  2. Bates and Sangrà list five elements of quality in technology-based projects (see p. 146). Do you agree with these?  Can you think of other elements of quality that might be at least as important?
    If you are interested in following up on the quality control of technology-based learning, look at the following:
    Quality Guidelines for Technology-assisted Distance Education (PDF).
    Quality On the Line: Benchmarks for Success in Internet-Based Distance Education (PDF). For other quality assurance documents from this organization, go to:
    FuturEd.Com
  3. If you can, try and read right through the DET Project Development Manual but at a minimum make sure you read at least one sample course proposal and one sample letter of agreement. Note that this reflects a model where money is held back centrally, then allocated to individual applicants. Would this work in your institution? If not, could you run a project management model at a departmental level?
  4. Would or does project management work in your context? If not, what would need to be done to make it work?
  5. What do you think of managerialism, in the form of strategic planning and project management? Does it rob professors and instructors of their autonomy, and if so, is that necessarily a problem?
  6. According to Tony Bates, “Faculty development is necessary but not sufficient to ensure the adoption of new technologies for teaching”. Do you agree?
  7. Will the adoption of e-learning inevitably mean an increase in the workload of faculty who do this? What can be done to avoid or reduce e-learning-related workload?
  8. In their article, Faculty 2.0, Hartman et al. suggest that faculty will have to adapt to the changing nature of students and how they use and think of technology. Do you agree with with their conclusions?

Unit Schedule

Try to work to the following schedule:

Week 12

  • Sections 6.1, 6.2, 6.3
  • Unit 6 Discussion

Week 13

  • Sections 6.4, 6.5, 6.6
  • Unit 6 Discussion