The fostering of innovative eLearning strategies in European higher education

Aczel, James; Cotinat, Olivier; Franco, Adelaide; Hardy, Pascale; Iggulden, Helen; Komáromi, Laszlo; Maillet, Katherine; Medina, Sara; Meiszner, Andreas; Obermueller, Eva; Reichl, Franz; Spinoglio, Mark and Staniland, Karen (2006). The fostering of innovative eLearning strategies in European higher education. In: EDEN 2006 Annual Conference, 14-17 Jun 2006, Vienna, Austria.



Although there are strong attempts being made by various European observatories and European Commission programmes to identify and disseminate innovative eLearning practices (MENON, 2006), the factors that determine educational effectiveness are, as yet, not well understood. In particular, while an extraordinarily wide range of university-level eLearning programmes are rapidly becoming available from large numbers of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Europe, the sharing of good practice requires detailed accounts of successful innovative eLearning strategies. There are many relevant checklists and sets of principles described in EU websites (e.g., 2006) and in the academic literature (e.g. Conole et al, 2004), but it is often only through thoroughly appreciating what others have done that such abstract guidance come alive. However, it can still be difficult for HEIs to learn from others. While there are many media reports of innovation, these typically have to omit the level of detail that would enable optimal understanding by those HEIs wishing to apply such innovations in their own contexts. Meanwhile, case studies presented at conferences and in the academic literature can provide the necessary level of detail, but it can be difficult to collate such case studies into a form that facilitates consistent descriptions across the diversity of European HEIs.
By identifying the various eLearning programmes applied by HEIs in a number of EU member states and conducting a detailed assessment of a sample of eLearning strategies found to be effective supporters of higher education requirements, the EC-funded InnoUniLearning project is disseminating a range of eLearning strategy case studies. Where possible this project is estimating the potential impact of the implemented eLearning programmes, but more importantly it will identify and detail the strategies applied by leading institutions and well-known success stories, as well as those institutions that have applied new and innovative eLearning programmes. It is hoped that the dissemination of these case studies will be of assistance to HEIs across Europe in implementing eLearning strategies that meet their own particular curricular and cohort requirements. The study is concentrating on illuminating a range of successful eLearning strategy cases, rather than necessarily determining best practice, which could be argued an impossible task at the moment because of a lack of learner feedback. Nevertheless, most, if not all, organisations that have implemented eLearning have gone through a period of adjustment in order to obtain an eLearning programme that is cost-efficient and effective; so capturing something of the challenges overcome by the HEIs leading this field should assist the wider EU higher education community.
This paper describes background and the methodological approach of the two-year study and some preliminary results, which will be elaborated in the conference presentation.

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