4.2 – The Elements of a Strategic Plan

It is important to realize that, while terminology may differ, most strategic plans contain similar components. Sometimes the term “objectives” is used instead of “goals” or “outcomes”. Or purpose is used instead of goal. The concepts of a mission and vision are sometimes used differently in different plans. The point is that, regardless of the labels, most strategic plans contain the same type of information about the organization and in roughly the same order and framework.

The following is a fairly generic framework for a strategic plan:

1. Mission
This should describe what the institution does and who it serves.

2. Environmental Scan
This is an attempt to survey the world around the institution and determine what emerging trends or issues may affect how the institution is organized. In many ways it is similar to a market analysis. It involves trying to anticipate trends and issues that might affect what the what is taught and how it is taught. More specifically, you would want to analyze how trends might affect decisions about the use of e-learning.

3. Rationale for E-learning
This is often overlooked but it is essential because your reasons for giving priority to e-learning will have an impact on how it is implemented and what your goals and objectives will be. For example, if your rationale is primarily about increasing access you will likely focus on a different kind of e-learning than if your rationale is primarily about enhancing ICT skills or changing pedagogy. You may have developed your rationale before you conduct the environmental scan but often the rationale will emerge are at least be influenced by what comes out of the environmental scan.

4. Vision
This is a concrete description of what the organization will look like if and when the strategic plan is fully implemented. It is often useful to develop a vision by describing specific scenarios related to key areas of the plan. For example, what will it be like to be a learner when e-learning is fully-implemented? What will it be like to be an instructor? A faculty or departmental plan should include a vision for teaching and learning  which includes concrete scenarios for how e-learning will be implemented in the department and how, specifically, it will affect the lives of students and instructors.

5. Objectives or Goals
These describe in concrete terms what the institution hopes to achieve by implementing the plan. Achieving the goals entirely would make the vision a reality.

6. Strategies
These are the specific actions that will be taken to implement the plan. The strategies need to be linked clearly to the objectives or goals so it is clear to everybody how you expect them to be achieved.

7. Monitoring
This describes the process of measuring the extent to which the goals have been met so that strategies can be adjusted if necessary.

What Makes for a Good Strategic Plan?

So how do you know a good e-learning strategy when you see one? Well, again, there is no magic formula. Not all plans are alike and what is good for one organization may be disastrous for another. Good plans don’t all have to be structured in the same way and, as mentioned earlier, the terminology used can vary. The key criterion that separates the good from the mediocre or bad is the extent to which the plan provides concrete and realistic goals and strategies for achieving those goals. It is very easy to draft lofty mission statements and ambitious goals about how your organization is going to be a leader in innovative e-learning but unless the plan spells out in detail how you are going to get there and what you mean by innovation and e-learning and how individual faculty will contribute to achieving the goals, the plan won’t be worth the paper it is printed on.


Review the draft BCIT strategic plan for e-learning as well as the draft ICT in Education Strategy for Belize. I was involved in developing both of these and while I’m not suggesting these are perfect, I do think they contain the key elements of a good plan. What do you think?

Find two or three other strategic plans from different institutions or organizations and review them. There is a link below to some institutional e-learning strategies. How do they measure up? What, if anything is missing? What are similarities and differences?

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Sample E-Learning Strategies


Additional  Reading

Bates, A.W. (2007). Strategic Planning for E-Learning in a Polytechnic. In M. Bullen & D.P. Janes (Eds.) Making the Transition to E-Learning: Strategies & Issues (pp. 47-65). Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.