From R&D Project to Virtual Universities

From R&D Project to Virtual Universities

Harald Haugen (Stord/Haugesund University College, Norway) and Bodil Ask (Agder University College, Norway and United Nation University, Japan)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch146
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Abstract

Four Norwegian higher educational institutions—the University Colleges at Agder, Stord/Haugesund, and Sør-Trøndelag, and the University in Trondheim (NTNU)—had all participated in a European collaborative project on open learning, that is, JITOL (Just- In-Time Open Learning, 1992-1994) under the Delta program of the European Community. Building on experiences from this and other related projects, representatives from the four institutions decided to propose a national experiment along the same principles. Support was granted from a governmental agency, SOFF, and NITOL (Norway-net with IT for Open Learning) was established in April 1994. NITOL was in the beginning an open learning project for the training of students, teachers, IT professionals, and others. Research and development activities, particularly focusing on distribution of courses and learning material, required some “guinea pigs” to gain experience in the field. The project group therefore invited a group of around 30 students to participate in the experiment—and found that there was possibly a large potential for business, expanding the experimental group and perhaps demanding student fees for participation and examination.
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Background

Four Norwegian higher educational institutions—the University Colleges at Agder, Stord/Haugesund, and Sør-Trøndelag, and the University in Trondheim (NTNU)—had all participated in a European collaborative project on open learning, that is, JITOL (Just-In-Time Open Learning, 1992-1994) under the Delta program of the European Community. Building on experiences from this and other related projects, representatives from the four institutions decided to propose a national experiment along the same principles. Support was granted from a governmental agency, SOFF, and NITOL (Norway-net with IT for Open Learning) was established in April 1994.

NITOL was in the beginning an open learning project for the training of students, teachers, IT professionals, and others. Research and development activities, particularly focusing on distribution of courses and learning material, required some “guinea pigs” to gain experience in the field. The project group therefore invited a group of around 30 students to participate in the experiment—and found that there was possibly a large potential for business, expanding the experimental group and perhaps demanding student fees for participation and examination.

Learning material was initially distributed through different electronic network systems, covering topics from informatics/computer science, educational applications of IT, and a few other subject areas, at introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. The institutions collaborated in the development of goals and objectives, strategies, courses, course material, and evaluation tools for the project, as well as in the online contact with students.

The series of courses from the four cooperating institutions gave credits that could be part of degree programs. Central to the R&D project was the combination of several types of media and the development of methods for presentation, with emphasis on the use of IT and electronic networks. Hypertext and hypermedia were at the time under development, parallel to the project.

At the time, open learning (OL) was a frequently used phrase, indicating:

  • Open with regard to availability, independent of time, place/geography, economy/social situation

  • Open with respect to methodologies, like computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL), project-based learning (PBL), inductive learning, discovery-based learning, problem solving, and the classic, academic lectures in the form of electronic “lessons.”

To incorporate experiences and traditions from distance education, the expression was frequently extended to open and distance learning (ODL), or open and distributed learning. In all cases the focus was meant to be on learning and the learner, not teaching and the provider.

Experiences from the initial part of the project, that is, pre-WWW existence, covered areas related to the learning process, such as:

  • The establishment of an open network making higher education available to students, groups, and individual participants from business, schools, administration, SMEs, and so forth;

  • Production of joint learning/training materials;

  • Distribution of educational materials through electronic networks;

  • Development of an extensive, dynamic, and creative electronic learning environment based on local and wide area electronic networks;

  • Development and application of assessment tools; and

  • Evaluation of open and distance learning/training.

Hard experiences were also gained in the field of technology, where networks were unstable, students had difficulties with downloading and decoding of formatted documents from news conferences, e-mails had different standards for attachments, and our particular set of Norwegian characters (æ, ø, å) caused extra problems in transfers of texts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL): Learning facilitated through collaboration with fellow students (and tutors), supported by ICT networks.

Open Learning (OL): Learning made available, independent of time and place; also open with respect to methodology and form of presentation.

Networked University: An organization of independent universities building a network for study programs to their own and other students; following a set of regulations and rules for rights, duties, and responsibilities; and having a business plan and a strategy for daily routines and further development. Each institution may be dual mode, that is, offering both on-campus and Net-based studies.

Joint Venture Model: Model for collaboration between institutions where modules and courses are developed and offered through joint efforts; a jigsaw of different specialties and resources.

Composite Model: Model for collaboration between institutions where each institution is responsible for particular parts of certain courses or study programs; a cooperative method.

Open and Distance Learning (ODL): Learning made available at a distance, adopting the traditional expression of distance learning into new technological situations.

Open Access Model: Model for collaboration between institutions where all courses are made openly available to students, across institutional limits and regulations.

Electronic Learning Environment: ICT-based environment particularly aimed at facilitation of learning activities, for example, by offering e-mail, conferencing, chat, FAQs, search engines, glossaries, and so forth.

Virtual University: A university without one fixed campus; either an institution offering online/Net-based learning only, or a networked university having multiple campuses and offering Net-based learning facilities.

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