The Politics of e-Learning: A Play in Four Acts

The Politics of e-Learning: A Play in Four Acts

Celia Romm Livermore, Mahesh Raisinghani, Pierluigi Rippa
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJEP.2015040103
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The goal of this research is to study the political strategies utilized in the context of e-Learning. The paper is based on the e-Learning Political Strategies (ELPoS) model. The model is based on two dimensions: (1) the direction of the political strategy (upward or downward), and (2) the scope of the political strategy (individual or group based). The model assumes that the interaction between these dimensions defines four different types of e-Learning political strategies, which, in turn, lead to different outcomes. The model is discussed in the context of the literature on e-Learning and is accompanied with a case study that is divided into four parts (“acts”). Each of the four acts provides an example of each of the four strategies in the model. The discussion and conclusions section integrates the findings from the case study, outlines the rules that govern the utilization of political behavior in the context of e-Learning, and lists the practical conclusions that can be drawn from a better understating of the politics of e-Learning.
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Politics And E-Learning

Cross (2004) is considered the person who coined the term e-Learning. Since then, a range of definitions have been offered for this term. The first type of definitions focus on the fact that e-Learning is based on the Internet. For example, Rosenberg (2001, p. 5) defines e-Learning as: “the use of internet technologies to deliver a broad array of solutions that enhance knowledge and performance, Rossett and Sheldon (2001) defines e-Learning as: “Web-based training (WBT)”, and Adrich (2004, p. 240) defines e-Learning as: “a broad combination of processes, content, and infrastructure to use computers and networks to scale and/or improve one or more significant parts of a learning value chain, including management and delivery”.

Other definitions of e-Learning are so general that they include just about all interactions and experiences in organizations. For example, Manville (2003, p. 50) defines e-Learning as: “Not only Internet-published courseware, but also the tools for managing, modularizing and handling: different kinds of content and learning objects (including both electronic and non-electronic forms, and even traditional classroom instruction), just-in-time and asynchronous learning, such as virtual labs, virtual classrooms and collaborative work spaces, simulations, document repositories and publishing programs, tools for prescribing learning, managing development pathways and goals and handling e-commerce and financial transactions related to learning, and the utilities and capabilities for supporting informal learning, mentoring, communities of practice and other non-training interventions”. In other words, according to Manville, e-Learning includes just about everything that happens in the corporate world except training.

For the purpose of this paper, we define e-Learning as both electronically based and related to teaching and learning. However, this does not mean that we restrict e-Learning to activities that occur in a classroom (even an on-line classroom) or that we consider e-Learning a process that takes place during the delivery of content. Thus, activities that occur between students, instructors, and administrators, within an organization that engages in e-Learning (such as a university) that involve electronic means and are related to the teaching and learning process would meet our definition of e-Learning.

There are a number of central themes in the literature on e-Learning that are directly related to our study. First is the discussion of factors that predict attitudes to e-Learning. Previous research lists many factors as affecting attitudes to e-Learning, including: age: gender, personality, and computer experience (e.g., Miller & Varma, 1994; Taylor & Todd, 1995; Sanchez et al., 2006). Thus, the literature shows that users who are young, male, with a higher risk tolerance and more experience with computers, are more inclined to have positive views of e-Learning than users who do not meet these criteria.

The effectiveness of e-Learning programs has attracted much research as well. Studies focusing on this issue identified three sets of factors that impact the effectiveness of e-Learning programs: (1) technology factors (Masie, 2001; Brown, 2002); (2) psychological factors (Henning, 2003); and (3) organizational factors (Guest, 1998; Herriot et al., 1998; Martin et al.,1998; Capelli, 1998; Martin and Beaumont, 2003).

Applying the above framework, Mital (2011) found that learner perceptions of the characteristics of learning technology can explain acceptance behavior, particularly in relation to the inclination to adopt e-Learning technologies. Learner perceptions also explain the effectiveness of utilizing e-Learning technologies in the long term. Most importantly, according to Mital (2011), acceptance behavior correlates with learner’s expectations of the technology in terms of the suitability of the learning to the task, the applicability of the technology to the learner’s needs, and the availability of the right incentives to motivate learners to use the technology.

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