Matching Technology, Organisation and Pedagogy in E-Learning: Looking for the Appropriate Balance Leading to Sustainability and Effectiveness

Matching Technology, Organisation and Pedagogy in E-Learning: Looking for the Appropriate Balance Leading to Sustainability and Effectiveness

Albert Sangrà (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain), Lourdes Guàrdia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain) and Pedro Fernández-Michels (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-358-6.ch007
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This chapter presents the findings of an in-depth analysis through several qualitative research studies, pointing out the key issues in relation to succeeding in developing effective and sustainable institutional virtual campuses and E-Learning provision initiatives. An appropriate balance between the issues concerning technology, organisation and pedagogy, the TOP triangle model, is needed, although every higher education institution is different and develops its activity in a particular context. In addition, the design and implementation of a strategic plan for such initiatives is highly recommended.
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The general use of Information and Communication technologies (ICT) is having a clear social, political and economical effect and the field of education and training has not been spared. New social and learning needs and changes from the shift of Information and Knowledge Society have made the universities consider ICT use as a driver of institutional change.

Dillman (quoted by Hanna, 2000) affirms universities must change in order to satisfy the new students’ needs, on the basis they are a public service. In the same way Bricall (2000) states that ICT is going to be “one of the main key factors for change in universities in the very next years” (pp. 237-249). Bates (2000) and Hanna (2000) translate the felt urge for an adaptation to new realities into concrete rationales for e-learning in Higher Education (Sangrà, 2003), most notably:

  • To facilitate and increase the access to education and training to a wider range of people;

  • To improve the universities’ economical expectations;

  • To respond to the “technological imperative”;

  • To improve the quality of education.

One of the ways in which higher education institutions are doing this is by developing virtual campuses and other e-learning solutions which are adapted to the needs of their social contexts.


In Search Of Effectiveness And Sustainability: The Role Of Strategic Planning And Flexibility

Virtual campuses and e-learning provision from conventional universities implies necessary changes. These changes normally involve a whole strategic planning process with the redefinition of roles, the creation of new functions and departments, the conceptualisation of online teaching and learning, the reorganisation of administrative processes and routines, and the restructuring of educational design and production processes. Effective e-learning provision can only be understood within the context of a reconfiguration of the organisational and pedagogical characteristics of an institution in harmony with the new opportunities and limitations the technology provides. We therefore see technology, organisation and pedagogy as a triangle of factors that are closely interrelated in a symbiotic way. An in-depth review of representative experiences of e-learning provision leads to the understanding that sustainability and effectiveness are closely related to how the institutions configure the triangle of technology, organisation and pedagogy (TOP), on which they base their educational activities.

The three elements are interrelated in their function of contributing to the provision of a powerful environment in which teaching and learning can happen under clear and defined quality parameters. Despite the fact that each institution has its own particularities that lead to the need of customising the balance between the three factors depending on parameters such as target group, size, type of contents, social and educational context, it may be considered that the right balance between the three fields can not only hugely vary with different institutions, but it can be subject to necessary adjustments as needs and requirements change over a period of time.

We therefore consider the factor of flexibility and adaptability a key factor for success in e-learning provision. Collis & Moonen (2001) and Khan (2007) have already introduced the concept of flexible learning in this context. While Collis & Moonen focus on how technology and organisational factors of E-Learning are related to the learning process change, Khan attempts to show how it is possible to create a meaningful flexible learning environment. by facilitating authentic and relevant learning activities and assessment, as well as authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used in real life and therefore improve learning motivation. Also giving to the students access to expert advice in terms of guidance and coaching, collaborative work and the adoption of different roles and perspectives are examples to be in mind when flexible environments are being designed.

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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