Key Factors in Innovative eLearning Strategies: A Study of Innovation in European Higher Education

Hardy, Pascale and Aczel, James (2008). Key Factors in Innovative eLearning Strategies: A Study of Innovation in European Higher Education. In: World Universities Forum, 31 Jan - 2 Feb 2008, Davos, Switzerland.



Recent claims have been made that European universities plan to expand their use of eLearning and that more students are signing up for it (OECD, 2005). However, as the time gets closer when virtually all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have some kind of Virtual Learning Environment (e.g. Jenkins, Browne & Walker, 2005), it is not at all clear what kinds of institutional strategies are associated with such expansion, nor what the success factors might be. In this two-year research study, a mixed-method approach was adopted to the problem of identifying examples of innovation. The study firstly built on and refined a number of existing survey instruments to help identify innovation and explain success at both institution and programme levels. There are typically several reports a year of large-scale attempts to survey HEIs in relation to eLearning, sponsored, for example, by EU programmes or industry groups. Yet the factors that determine educational effectiveness are not, so far, well understood; and consequently it can be difficult to develop reliable quantitative survey items that simultaneously enable valid and insightful comparisons between essentially qualitative eLearning strategies. So the study also made extensive use of interviews to illuminate a range of innovative eLearning strategy cases, looking to identify evidence of the factors that those who have implemented successful eLearning strategies consider critical. Where possible the study estimated the impact of the implemented eLearning programmes, but the emphasis was on documenting innovators’ diverse experiences of having to refine their strategies over time. A distinction was found between two kinds of innovation that require different methods of effective detection: innovation in standards-based institution-wide systems and innovation through personal technological exploration of end-user tools.

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