A Business Model for the Exchange of E-Learning Courses in an International Network

A Business Model for the Exchange of E-Learning Courses in an International Network

Christoph Brox (Institute for Geoinformatics-University of Münster, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-358-6.ch017
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In three projects funded by the European Commission (EC), European and Latin-American project partners have developed, improved, and successfully tested an e-learning business model for the exchange of e-learning courses. Typically, high-quality e-learning is expensive and many ambitious e-learning projects have been discontinued after the end of the funding period. The mission of the three EC projects was to ameliorate this problem by creating an organisational model for exchanging e-learning courses with limited resources. The design of this model rests on two pillars: firstly the re-use of existing resources and secondly the sharing of resources in an international network. Each university in the consortium develops one e-learning course, which is based on an existing course and teaching materials. This is then provided, including teaching, to the students of the partner institutions. In return, each partner university receives two or more courses on a non-fee basis. As a result, the business model was validated. After the end of the project, eduGI, the project partners have continued with the model, exchanging e-learning courses without the need for further funding and with even lower costs and higher benefits than providing the courses as regular face-to-face classes. Although this business model was developed by institutions specifically in the context of Geoinformatics, the exact field is irrelevant; teachers and decision makers of all scientific fields can apply this business model.
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The Institute for Geoinformatics (IFGI) at the University of Münster began exploring e-learning five years ago by attending educational conferences and listening to presentations of many e-learning initiatives which, at this time, were funded largely by European and national programmes. Interestingly, while much success was reported in papers and conference presentations, discussions afterwards revealed many obstacles (Brox et al., 2006). Therefore, along with success stories from e-learning projects, the hurdles to be overcome need also to be considered in the design and introduction of e-learning at the Institute for Geoinformatics. Major concerns and considerations for introducing e-learning at an institute are:

  • e-learning initiatives with substantial funding often disappear as soon as the backing has dried up (Boezerooy & Gorissen, 2004. Projects receiving funding from the European Commission’s programmes very rarely turned into sustainable initiatives (Salajan, 2007).

  • Due to the problem of the importance of funding it is even more important to consider costs: “e-learning production by universities will be accompanied with a relative high investment in ICT infrastructure and digital applications, as well as in methodological issues (course designs, didactic materials, etc.) and labour adjustments at the university level” (Castillo-Merino & Sjoberg, 2008).

  • How high the expense for an e-learning course is directly related to the quality of that course; it is obvious that the development of interactive teaching materials cost more than simply providing online text. Costs are saved, however, since e-learning material often does not require teachers; e-learning, especially in the training sector, is often designed for self-learning. For example, a cost comparison of Caterpillar University’s instructor-led courses versus e-learning courses reveals a cost savings of 40–78% (Wallicker, 2005). It is therefore important for each institute interested in using e-learning to analyse its requirements weigh the costs and benefits in regards to expense versus quality.

  • Is e-learning better than face-to-face instruction? Empirical studies support both answers: “campus students tend to perform better compared to online students” as well as “online students perform significantly better compared to their peers who take the campus version of the same course” (Lundberg et al., 2008). There is also tendency for pure online-learning to blended learning (Simonis, 2004). Each institute has to make a strategic decision where to place itself in the spectrum from traditional classroom learning to a purely virtual university (Seufert, 2001).

  • Each institute has to decide what it wants or can do on own resources. Among commercial e-learning vendors, there is a trend towards outsourcing; alliances among vendors of complementary technologies or services are an increasingly common business strategy (Barron, 2002). There is no reason why educational institutions should not consider alliances and networks among universities as well.

In summary, an institute needs to develop a consistent business model for setting up an e-learning environment as well as for assuring mid-to-long-term sustainability. According to the holistic business model by Hoppe and Breitner, three interdependent partial models have to be designed and defined (2004):

  • Activity model: defines the activities of the business (manufacturing, marketing, after sales and support activities);

  • Asset model: includes costs and revenues;

  • Market model: defines the various actors, their roles and the market structures, considering the supply side as well as the demand side.

When IFGI was starting its e-learning initiative five years ago, the institute faced two key questions:

  • Can IFGI afford e-learning?

  • Does e-learning help improving the quality of the study programmes?

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Markku Markkula
Mark Stansfield, Thomas Connolly
Chapter 1
Lalita Rajasingham
This chapter contributes to the ongoing discussion on current best practice and trends in e-learning and virtual classes in higher education. With... Sample PDF
The E-Learning Phenomenon: A New University Paradigm?
Chapter 2
Yukiko Inoue
An important task of higher education is to assist students in participating in an increasingly global economy. This global economy is transforming... Sample PDF
Linking Self-Directed Lifelong Learning and E-Learning: Priorities for Institutions of Higher Education
Chapter 3
Lars-Erik Jonsson, Roger Säljö
The academic seminar can be seen as the core of university culture. In a seminar, claims to knowledge – presented in an essay and/or orally – are... Sample PDF
The Online Seminar as Enacted Practice
Chapter 4
Stefan Hrastinski, Christina Keller, Jörgen Lindh
The transition from learning on campus to e-learning presents many challenges. One of the key challenges is the organisational culture, which may... Sample PDF
Is E-Learning Used for Enhancing Administration or Learning? On the Implications of Organisational Culture
Chapter 5
Dawn Birch, Bruce Burnett
Tertiary education is increasingly a contested space where advances in Information Communications Technologies and their application to... Sample PDF
Advancing E-Learning Policy and Practice: Influences on Academics' Adoption, Integration and Development of Multimodal E-Learning Courses
Chapter 6
Gill Kirkup
This chapter argues that e-learning innovation is best done in an environment that allows for small scale experimentation and development and that... Sample PDF
Flying under the Radar: The Importance of Small Scale E-Learning Innovation within Large-Scale Institutional E-Learning Implementation
Chapter 7
Albert Sangrà, Lourdes Guàrdia, Pedro Fernández-Michels
This chapter presents the findings of an in-depth analysis through several qualitative research studies, pointing out the key issues in relation to... Sample PDF
Matching Technology, Organisation and Pedagogy in E-Learning: Looking for the Appropriate Balance Leading to Sustainability and Effectiveness
Chapter 8
Irene le Roux, Karen Lazenby, Dolf Jordaan
The University of Pretoria (UP) implemented a virtual campus in 1999. The measure in which and rate at which the virtual campus environment was... Sample PDF
E-Learning and Virtual Campus Development: From Innovation to Sustainability
Chapter 9
Morten Flate Paulsen
This chapter presents an analysis of 26 European megaproviders of e-learning which had more than 100 courses or 5000 course enrolments in 2005. The... Sample PDF
An Analysis of European Megaproviders of E-Learning: Recommendations for Robustness and Sustainability
Chapter 10
Mark Stansfield, Thomas Connolly
This chapter will outline a set of guiding principles underpinning key issues in the promotion of best practice in virtual campuses. The work was... Sample PDF
Guiding Principles for Identifying and Promoting Best Practice in Virtual Campuses
Chapter 11
Helena Bijnens, Ilse Op de Beeck, Johannes De Gruyter, Wim Van Petegem, Sally Reynolds, Paul Bacsich, Theo Bastiaens
The chapter first describes the concepts of virtual campus and virtual mobility and refers to several past and present projects and initiatives in... Sample PDF
Reviewing Traces of Virtual Campuses: From a Fully Online Virtual Campus to a Blended Model
Chapter 12
Ron Cörvers, Joop de Kraker
The main objective of this chapter is to highlight the importance of subsidiarity in the development of a virtual campus. Subsidiarity is the... Sample PDF
Virtual Campus Development on the Basis of Subsidiarity: The EVS Approach
Chapter 13
George Ubachs, Christina Brey
In higher education, international student mobility has become increasingly important for learners as well as for institutions. But today’s mobility... Sample PDF
From Virtual Mobility to Virtual Erasmus: Offering Students Courses and Services without Boundaries
Chapter 14
Yuri Kazepov, Giovanni Torris
Starting from the increasingly widespread need to develop effective teaching in complex transnational settings, this chapter presents an innovative... Sample PDF
Blending Virtual Campuses Managing Differences through Web 2.0 Experiences in Transnational Cooperation Projects
Chapter 15
François Fulconis, Thierry Garrot
In the restructuring and reforming of European education, e-learning has become one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education, Higher Education... Sample PDF
Network Organisation to Improve Virtual Campus Management: Key Factors from a French Experience
Chapter 16
Luca Botturi, Lorenzo Cantoni, Benedetto Lepori, Stefano Tardini
This chapter presents a successful Swiss experience in developing and effectively managing virtual campus projects: eLab, the eLearning Laboratory... Sample PDF
Developing and Managing an Effective Virtual Campus: The eLab Experience in the Swiss Higher Education Context
Chapter 17
Christoph Brox
In three projects funded by the European Commission (EC), European and Latin-American project partners have developed, improved, and successfully... Sample PDF
A Business Model for the Exchange of E-Learning Courses in an International Network
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