International Journal of E-Learning, Designing and Implementing Vol. 5, No. 65, (2010) pp.

ISSN 5372-8942

E-Learning in Higher Education C. Periasamy1
Abstract Teaching and learning are no longer confined to class room or school or college today. There are many technologies that can offer a great deal of flexibility in, when, where and how education is distributed. The e-Learning technologies are indented in implementing e-Learning concepts. This study argued Why is e-learning important for Higher Education, Technological Change and the Learning Experience and ELearning through Stakeholders. It is concluded that Stakeholder group has an important role to play while working together towards the common goal of enhancing the overall learning experience. Students and Instructors should participate as proactively as possible; provide feedback to improve future experiences, and communicate the learning possibilities that e-learning creates. Institutions should provide the technical infrastructure and support needed to enable comprehensive solutions. Content and Technology Providers should provide high quality, interoperable solutions that consider learning principles. Accreditation Bodies should provide and enforce clear guidelines for this new form of learning delivery. Employers need to recognize the validity of this form of education and work with other stakeholders to ensure that graduates meet the needs of the job market. Institutions of higher education could utilize the stakeholders’ responsibility matrix presented in this paper as a starting point when undertaking a new e-learning initiative. The stakeholders involved and their associated responsibilities could then be adapted to the nature of the particular initiative at hand. Keywords: E-Learning, Higher Education

E-Learning in Higher Education Introduction Teaching and learning are no longer confined to class room or school or college today. distributed. The There are many technologies that can technologies are indented in offer a great deal of flexibility in, when, where and how education is e-Learning implementing e-Learning concepts. The first general purposes eLearning system was the PLATO system, developed at the University of Illinois, USA. The PLATO system involves control data,
1

General Manager, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

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which created the first authorizing software used to create eLearning content. The authoring software is called PLATO. Subsequently, the same e-Learning system was introduced in Singapore as a joint operation between WICAT and BAAL system. It is from this design the entire computer learning centers globally evolved which was pioneer of e-Learning. Organization such as SKILLSOFT, EPIC and learning steps.com are leading innovators in the design and development of e-Learning in the commercial world. Of all these organizations, SKILLSOFT is the largest and most experienced in the global e-Learning market. Definition of e-Learning Any learning that utilizes a network (LAN, WAN or INTERNET) for delivering interaction or facilitation is called e-Learning. This would include distributed Learning, e-Learning (Other than pure correspondence), computer based training, delivered over network, and web based training synchronous, asynchronous instructor lead, or computer based or a combination. Distance education, defined by the distributed learning or remote education are the synonymous, conveying the same meaning as e-Learning and following criteria: 1. The teacher and students are separated by distance (this distance could make different class rooms in the same school or different locations, thousands of miles apart). 2. The instruction is delivered by print, voice, video or computer technologies. 3. The communication is interactive. In that the teacher receives some feedback from students. The feedback may be immediate or delayed.

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The classification of e-Learning is given in the following Table 1: Technolo gy Video Synchronous Video conferencing Asynchronous 1) Videotape 2) Video Broadcast Audio Audio conferencing 1) Audiotape 2) Radio Data 1) Internet Chat 2) Desktop 3) Video conferencing 1) E-mail 2) CD-ROM

Why is e-learning important for Higher Education

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A student who is learning in a way that uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is using e-learning. These interactive technologies support many different types of capability:

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 internet access to digital versions of materials unavailable locally  internet access to search, and transactional services  interactive diagnostic or adaptive tutorials  interactive educational games  remote control access to local physical devices  personalised information and guidance for learning support  simulations or models of scientific systems  communications tools for collaboration with other students and teachers  tools for creativity and design  virtual  data reality analysis, environments modelling or for development tools and and manipulation organisation applications  electronic devices to assist disabled learners For each of these, there is a learning application that could be exploited within Higher Education. Each one encompasses a wide range of different types of interaction – internet access to services, for example, includes news services, blogs, online auctions, self-testing sites, etc. Moreover, the list above could be extended further by considering combinations of applications. Imagine, for example, a remotely controlled observatory webcam embedded in an online conference environment for astronomy students; or a computer-aided design device embedded in a roleplay environment for students of urban planning. The range and scale of possible applications of new technologies in Higher Education is almost beyond imagining because, while we try to cope with what is possible now, another technological application is becoming available that will extend

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those possibilities even further. Everything in this chapter will need updating again when 3G mobile phones begin to have an impact on our behaviour. Never mind; we keep the focus on principles and try to maintain our equanimity in the face of these potentially seismic changes. E-learning is defined for our purpose here as the use of any of the new technologies or applications in the service of learning or learner support. It is important because e-learning can make a significant difference: to how learners learn, how quickly they master a skill, how easy it is to study; and, equally important, how much they enjoy learning. Such a complex set of technologies will make different kinds of impact on the experience of learning: Cultural – students are comfortable with e-learning methods, as they are similar to the forms of information search and communications methods they use in other parts of their lives. Intellectual – interactive technology offers a new mode of engagement with ideas via both material and social interactivity online Social - the reduction in social difference afforded by online networking fits with the idea that students should take greater responsibility for their own learning Practical – e-learning offers the ability to manage quality at scale, and share resources across networks; its greater flexibility of provision in time and place makes it good for widening participation There is also a financial impact. Networks and access to online materials offer an alternative to place-based education which reduces the requirement for expensive buildings, and the costs of delivery of distance learning materials.

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Technological Change and the Learning Experience The information revolution is sometimes compared with the Gutenberg revolution, when the printing press harnessed a mass delivery system to the medium of the written word. It is a good parallel to draw for the impact of the Internet, but it undervalues the other key feature of the interactive computer - its ability to adapt. The simple fact that it can adapt its behaviour according to a person’s input means that we can engage with knowledge through this medium in a radically different way. A better analogy than the printing press, to give a sense of the power of this revolution, is the invention of writing. When our society had to represent its accumulated wisdom through oral communication alone, the process of accretion of communal knowledge was necessarily slow. Writing gave us the means to record our knowledge, reflect on it, re-articulate it, and hence critique it. The means by which the individual was able to engage with the ideas of the society became radically different as we developed a written culture. When a text is available in written form, it becomes easier to cope with more information, to compare one part with another, to re-read, re-analyse, reorganize and retrieve. All these aspects of ‘knowledge management’ became feasible in a way that had not been possible when knowledge could only be remembered. The earliest surviving text - the Rosetta Stone - shows that ‘information management’ was an important benefit of the medium, recording the resources available, allowing a tally to be kept, enabling better management of the way the society operated. The nature of the medium has a critical impact on the way we engage with the knowledge being mediated. The oral medium has the strength of having a greater emotional impact on us which enables action through motivation; the written medium has the

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strength of enabling a more analytical approach to action. As we create and generate knowledge and information we naturally use different media, depending on the nature of the content and the objective we want to achieve. It is impossible, for example, to use a verbatim transcript of a lively lecture for a print version. The spoken word written down usually reads badly. Medium and message are interdependent; there is an internal relation between them. A spreadsheet holds a different kind of working model. It holds not just data but also ways of calculating with the data to represent different behaviours of a system. A common application is for modelling cash flow for a business. The user can determine the initial data about costs and pricing, for example, and the spreadsheet calculates the profit. By changing the prices, the user can experiment with the effects on profits. The cash flow model embodies an assumption about the effect of prices on sales - for example, that they will fall if the price goes above a certain limit. But the user can also change that assumption, by changing the formulae the spreadsheet uses for calculating profits. So there are two ways in which the user can engage with this model of the cash flow system: by changing the inputs to the model, and by changing the model. The adaptive nature of the medium offers a creative environment in which the user can inspect, critique, re-version, customize, re-create, design, create, and articulate a model of the world, wholly different from the kind of model that can be created through the written word. These two examples illustrate the power of the interactive computer to do a lot more than simply provide access to information. It makes the processing of that information possible, so that the interaction becomes a knowledge-building exercise. Yet the excitement about information technology has been focused

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much more on the access than on the processing it offers. And the technology developments so far have reflected that. The focus has been on the presentation of information to the user, not on tools for the user to manipulate information. The sequence of technological change in interactive technologies has been a historical accident, driven by curiosity, the market, luck, politics – never by the needs of learners. Learning technologies have been developing haphazardly, and a little too rapidly for those of us who wish to turn them to advantage in learning. This becomes apparent if we compare these technological developments with the historical development of other key technologies for education. Table 1 shows some of the main developments in information, communication, and delivery technologies over the last three decades, and against each one proposes a functional equivalent from the historic media and delivery technologies. The story begins with interactive computers because the move away from batch processing brought computing to non-programmers. The user had access to a new medium which responded immediately to the information they put in. As a medium for information processing, it was radically different from the much more attenuated relationship between reading and writing, thus creating a new kind of medium for engaging with ideas. There is one very striking point about Table 2. The development in information and communication technologies over the last three decades is comparable with the development in information and communication technologies over the last three millennia. No doubt there are alternative ways of drafting such a table, but that point at least is likely to be common to any analysis of ICT. Attempting to construct these equivalences is instructive in itself. It is difficult to represent the importance of computer-

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mediated conferencing, for example, as there is really no clear historical equivalent to enabling large group discussion across huge distances. Table 1 does not cover the full range of new technology forms, but succeeds, nonetheless, in illustrating the extraordinary capabilities of the technologies we are now struggling to exploit. We have to be aware of the impact this fecund inventiveness is having on our intellectual life. The chronological sequence of discoveries obeys no user requirements analysis of learners’ needs – electronic inventions are created by engineers and computer scientists working in a spirit of enthusiastic co-operation, debugged in the crucible of intensive peer-review (Naughton, 1999) - but the sequence matters.
Table 2: New media and delivery technologies for information processing and communications compared with their functional equivalents for reading and writing

Date 1970’ s

New technology Interactive computers

Old technology equivalent Writing

1980’ s

Local hard Paper drives and floppy discs WIMP interfaces Contents, indexes, page numbers Internet Printing Multimedia Photography, sound, and film Libraries Published books Postal services

Learning support function New medium for articulating and engaging with ideas Local storage with the user Devices for ease of access to content Mass production and distribution of content Elaborated forms of content presentation Wide access to extensive content Personal portable access to the medium Mass delivery of communications messages

1990’ s

Worldwide Web Laptops Email

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Search engines Broadband

Bibliographic services Broadcasting, telephones Paperbacks Pamphlets

2000’ s

3G Mobiles Blogs

Easier access to extensive content Choice of elaborated content and immediacy of communication Low-cost access to elaborate content Personal mass publishing

E-Learning through Stakeholders’ Students Students are the consumers of e-learning. In the context of higher education, they are under-graduate or graduate students enrolled at a university or college. Students are motivated to use elearning to gain access to higher education. For some, it may be a component of a traditional course; while for others entire courses may be entirely online. Particularly for this second group, e-learning may create access to higher education that they would not have otherwise because of geographic or time constraints. E-learning presents an entirely new learning environment for students, thus requiring a different skill set to be successful. Critical thinking, research, and evaluation skills are growing in importance as students have increasing volumes of information from a variety of sources to sort through. Also, particularly in courses that are entirely electronic, students are much more independent than in the traditional setting. This requires that they be highly motivated and committed to learning, with less social interaction with peers or an instructor. Students in online courses tend to do as well as those in classrooms, but there is higher incidence of withdrawal or incomplete grades Instructors

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In e-learning, as in traditional classroom learning, instructors guide the educational experiences of students. Depending on the mode of e-learning delivery, instructors may or may not have faceto-face interaction with their students. Instructors may be motivated to use e-learning in their courses for a variety of reasons. For example, they may be encouraged or pressured by their institutions; they may wish to reach a broader audience of students; or they may have an interest in the benefits of technology mediated learning. E-learning technologies bring as much change to instructors as they do to students, again requiring a new set of skills for success. In the e-learning environment, instructors shift from being the primary source of students’ knowledge to being the manager of the students’ knowledge resources. For example, in a traditional classroom scenario, the instructor delivers the content to the class and responds to their questions. In contrast, in a technology only asynchronous elearning environment, the instructor is more of a coordinator of the content, which students then peruse at their own pace. Thus, the skills that are most important for an instructor to possess may depend on the e-learning attributes of their course. Educational Institutions Educational institutions, in the context of higher education, include colleges and universities. In addition to the traditional list of postsecondary institutions, the rise in popularity of e-learning has lead to the creation of new, online only educational institutions. Educational institutions integrate technology into classrooms to facilitate lecture delivery and create new technology mediated learning opportunities for students. They provide distance learning, including e-learning, to create access to a larger pool of students. As e-learning becomes more widely accepted and more courses are

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offered online, geographic boundaries between institutions and students are removed often, budgetary restriction is a primary issue for institutions. Tight budgets make it difficult to implement broad, campus-wide e-learning solutions. There is a tendency for individual departments to implement their own solutions, which may not be consistent with the rest of the institution. This reduces the potential for cross-departmental efficiencies, and can make the process more complicated for faculty, staff, and students, particularly if they are involved with more than one department. Depending on the technological infrastructure in place at an institution, the implementation of e-learning courses can involve very costly technology upgrades. E-learning systems require several components systems, including sufficient bandwidth, course and management technology equipped classrooms,

adequate computer facilities for student use. This increase in technology generally requires a corresponding increase in support staff as well. Content Providers In the higher education context, online course content may be created by instructors or acquired from external sources. The growth in e-learning has created a market for commercialized educational content creators, particularly for more introductory courses that are offered consistently at multiple institutions. Whether the content provider is the instructor or an external source, their motivation is to provide content modules that will result in effective learning. Commercial content providers are motivated by profit to develop content modules that are flexible enough to be readily utilized across institutions with minimal adaptation efforts. The main concern for content providers in elearning tends to be intellectual capital rights. Independent content

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providers in particular, need to ensure their retention of copy rights in order to sell their product to multiple customers. Technology Providers Technology providers develop the technology that enables elearning delivery. This category consists of a broad range of services, from the facilitation of individual distance learning courses, to complete Learning Management Systems (LMS) provided by companies such as Blackboard. Similar to content providers, technology providers are motivated to provide learning environments that will result in effective learning for students. Technology standards are an important consideration for this stakeholder group as well. Since educational institutions often have different adherence solutions to implemented standards by various departments, interoperability. common facilitates

Constant evolution in hardware and consumer expectations creates pressure for technology providers to rush to market with new product offerings. In order for these businesses to be sustainable, the cost of pursuing this constant innovation must be controlled. Accreditation Bodies Accreditation bodies are organizations that assess the quality of education institutions offerings. Those institutions meeting the minimum requirements will be accredited, providing them a level of credibility that non-accredited institutions will not possess. As the proportion of education delivered by electronic means grows, it is increasingly important for accreditation bodies to encompass elearning in their standards. Neglecting to do so will limit the relevance of their accreditation since it will only be relevant to the traditional education component of educational institutions’ offerings. The growth of e-learning presents new challenges for

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accreditation bodies. As the number of learning institution grows in an attempt to capitalize on the excess demand for higher education, accreditation bodies have an increasing number of institutions seeking their approval. This increase in volume of work is combined with a change in the nature of the work that these bodies do. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in the United States defines distance learning as educational or instructional activity that is delivered electronically to students at a distance. By this definition, all distance learning (including e-learning) is subject to the same accreditation and securitization. Employers Employers, in this context, are those organizations that will potentially hire graduates of higher education institutions. Often, there is a tendency for employers to view online education from reputable traditional institutions in a more positive light; however the acceptance of online degrees in general is increasing (Chaney, 2002). This is a positive trend for e-learning in general and for completely online educational institutions in particular. Employers are increasingly motivated to consider e-learning as a higher education alternative. Denying the value of e-learning will restrict their pool of potential hires. It will also limit the availability of courses and professional development activities that their employees may participate in. Since many students pursue higher education for the purpose of beginning or advancing their careers, a lack of support for e-learning by employers could deter employees from pursuing their coursework through electronic means, thereby restricting their opportunities. One issue that employers have with e-learning is the decreased interpersonal interaction inherent in many of these courses. Employers typically

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rank technical skills and expertise from 6 to 8 on a scale of 10, and rank interpersonal skills to be of higher importance. Some feel that while e-learning may be suitable for delivering content, it may not be capable of developing these interpersonal skills that employers value so highly. Conclusion E-learning is a large and growing market with great potential in higher education. In order to maximize this potential, e-learning implementations should endeavor to satisfy the needs and concerns of all stakeholder groups as much as possible. The Stakeholders’ analysis undertaken in this paper and culminating in the Stakeholders’ Responsibility Matrix is a step in that direction. Stakeholder group has an important role to play while working together towards the common goal of enhancing the overall learning experience. Students and Instructors should participate as proactively as possible; provide feedback to improve future experiences, and communicate the learning possibilities that e-learning creates. Institutions should provide the technical infrastructure and support needed to enable comprehensive solutions. Content and Technology Providers should provide high quality, interoperable solutions that consider learning principles. Accreditation Bodies should provide and enforce clear guidelines for this new form of learning delivery. Employers need to recognize the validity of this form of education and work with other stakeholders to ensure that graduates meet the needs of the job market. Institutions of higher education could utilize the stakeholders’ responsibility matrix presented in this paper as a starting point when undertaking a new e-learning initiative. The stakeholders involved and their associated responsibilities could then be adapted

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to the nature of the particular initiative at hand. As such, the matrix will help institutions to identify the appropriate stakeholders’ and develop a set of expectations for each. References 1. Ebner, M., Scherbako, N., Maurer, H(2005). New feature for e-Learning in
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