E-Learning and Virtual Campus Development: From Innovation to Sustainability

E-Learning and Virtual Campus Development: From Innovation to Sustainability

Irene le Roux (University of Pretoria, South Africa), Karen Lazenby (University of Pretoria, South Africa) and Dolf Jordaan (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-358-6.ch008
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The University of Pretoria (UP) implemented a virtual campus in 1999. The measure in which and rate at which the virtual campus environment was adopted in the institution, was substantial. To accommodate the expected growth the University decided in 2004 to upgrade the learning management system in order to provide more stability and better integration with the student information system. However, the more complex integrated environment resulted in more points of failure and a less stable environment. Higher user frustration levels led to a decline in the number of users. The chapter discusses four key variables that influence growth and sustainability in an e-learning environment: Management, Training and Support, Measurement, and Technology strategies. We argue that additional resources required in Information Technology Services (ITS) were not adequately provided for. We give suggestions for future directions.
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The adoption rate of the virtual campus and e-learning environment at the University was such that Bonk (2004) refers to this growth as being “monumental” (p. 23). Zawacki-Richter (2005) used the University of Pretoria in a case study and states: “The example of the University of Pretoria was selected for a case study because learning and teaching with new media was introduced here with impressive effect and great success”. At the Blackboard BbWorld European Conference in Nice, February 2007, the implementation strategy UP followed for Blackboard Vista was showcased as best practice (Chasen, 2007). The success in e-learning at UP can largely be contributed to the development of an integrated virtual campus.

The virtual campus of the University of Pretoria is an example of organisational innovation (Lazenby, 2003). The ‘S’-curve empirical prediction cycle is often used in the technology and innovation environment (Porter et al., 1991). The chapter identifies the key variables that impact on the sustainability of the virtual campus and the e-learning environment: Management, Training and Support, Measurement and Technology strategies. We argue that progressive integration with legacy systems, as well as dependence on Information Technology Services (ITS) (over a period of ten years) poses a threat to the sustainability of the virtual campus. In this light that we contend that current management structures at executive level within the institution as well as at operational level within the Information Technology Services should be revisited. These managerial changes must be supported by a stable Information Communication Technologies (ICT) infrastructure to ensure sustainability. We also hope that a new enterprise systems renewal project will be sufficient innovation to create a new ‘S’-curve, supported by high level dedicated strategic leadership and policies to provide direction for academic technology.


The University of Pretoria is one of the largest residential universities in South Africa. It is ranked as one of the top five hundred universities in the world (Shanghai Jiao Tong, 2007). The academic offerings are organised into nine faculties, i.e., Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology; Law; Education; Humanities; Economic and Management Sciences; Health Sciences; Veterinary Science; Natural and Agricultural Sciences; and Theology. The university offers a total of 1,802 programmes, including 341 undergraduate and 1,461 postgraduate programmes to approximately 53,400 students. Of these, about 14,000 students are traditional paper-based distance education students (University of Pretoria, 2007b, pp. 13-18).

A virtual campus was implemented in 1998/1999 consisting of a learning management system (WebCT) and wrap-around portals for students and lecturers. The virtual campus was deployed on an institutional scale and provides seamless access to the learning and student administration environment (Lazenby, 2003). Within the context of this chapter, the term virtual campus will be used for portals that provide administrative functions to lecturers and students through the portals, and the term e-learning environment for the learning management system and other technologies used for teaching and learning.

Complete Chapter List

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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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