Key Factors in Innovative eLearning Strategies: A Study of Innovation in European Higher Education
Recent claims have been made that European universities plan to expand their use of eLearning and that more students are signing up for it (OECD, 2005). However, as the time gets closer when virtually all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have some kind of Virtual Learning Environment (e.g. Jenkins, Browne & Walker, 2005), it is not at all clear what kinds of institutional strategies are associated with such expansion, nor what the success factors might be. In this two-year research study, a mixed-method approach was adopted to the problem of identifying examples of innovation. The study firstly built on and refined a number of existing survey instruments to help identify innovation and explain success at both institution and programme levels. There are typically several reports a year of large-scale attempts to survey HEIs in relation to eLearning, sponsored, for example, by EU programmes or industry groups. Yet the factors that determine educational effectiveness are not, so far, well understood; and consequently it can be difficult to develop reliable quantitative survey items that simultaneously enable valid and insightful comparisons between essentially qualitative eLearning strategies. So the study also made extensive use of interviews to illuminate a range of innovative eLearning strategy cases, looking to identify evidence of the factors that those who have implemented successful eLearning strategies consider critical. Where possible the study estimated the impact of the implemented eLearning programmes, but the emphasis was on documenting innovators’ diverse experiences of having to refine their strategies over time. A distinction was found between two kinds of innovation that require different methods of effective detection: innovation in standards-based institution-wide systems and innovation through personal technological exploration of end-user tools.
Keywords: eLearning, Higher Education, Management, Pedagogy, Institutional Strategies, Innovation
Dr. Pascale Hardy
Professor, Department of Business Management and Social Sciences, University of Applied Sciences Southern Switzerland
Dr. James Aczel
Lecturer, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University
He has played a leading role in a number of international research collaborations, with partners including MIT, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the United Nations. He has chaired the examination of The Open University's suite of Masters degrees in research methods for several years, and has won several awards for his work promoting knowledge exchange about teaching and learning.
His research interests focus on effectiveness of innovative educational technologies, fallibilist models of learning, particularly in relation to educational software design, games, social technologies, reasoning and knowledge sharing.