Electronic Web-based campus information systems and e-learning educational delivery became increasingly important for higher education practice in the late 20th and early 21st century (Bates, 2000; Cobarsí, 2005). These emergent information technologies brought about changes in the traditional face-to-face campus and paper-based communication and teaching (Brown & Duguid, 2000). There are several trends in the introduction of information technology in universities that can be summarised into three main types (Duderstadt, 2000; Folkers, 2005). Firstly, most universities gradually adopted electronic campus information systems and e-learning to reinforce functionalities offered by their physical campus, with no intention of substituting the traditional campus but simply to strengthen their capabilities. Secondly, other institutions, the so-called first generation distance universities, had no physical campus from the very beginning, such as the institutions founded in the 1970s: the British Open University http://www3.open.ac.uk or Spain’s Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia http://www.uned. es/portal/index.htm. Thus, they incorporated electronic media to complement their usual means of communication by post or periodical face-to-face tuition. Thirdly, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, hereinafter the OUC) is a quite different case: it was created from the very beginning (the academic year 1995-1996) as a wholly e-learning and Internet-based higher education institution, where a virtual campus with wide-ranging functionalities supports most of the day-to-day activities. As a result of these original premises, this university has some important organizational and information system features, which are summarised and discussed in the sections below, from the chronological perspective offered by its having been in operation for 10 years.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Campus Information System (CIS): An interrelated group of information resources, accessible by computer through the campus’s institutional external and internal Web environment, which a university places at the disposal of its users to enable them to consult it and/or provide a selection of data significant and relevant in the context of their university life in its academic, administrative and social senses.
Cooperation: Students are not alone in their learning process. The OUC’s virtual campus offers the possibility to cooperate with other students through teamwork, or with the professors or the different people involved in the university community.
E-Learning: The application of electronic information technologies to education, whereby teaching contents and actions are delivered by electronic means.
Virtual Campus: A restricted-access Web environment that supports work and interaction for all the different asynchronous and geographically scattered users who make up the university community.
Academic Networked Environment: A set of contents and services available and distributed to the university campus community in electronic format.
Personalisation: Aiding individual handling of each student’s educational needs.
Interactivity: the basis for the educational relationship on the virtual campus. Interaction involves not just teaching by action, but is established among students, and between these and the university as a whole.
Flexibility: In response to the different needs of the very diverse students.