The Report of the E-Learning Advisory Group 3/14

Steve Maharey Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)

The Report of the E-Learning Advisory Group 3/14

Summary

New Zealand's learning environment is being transformed by new advances in
technology, electronic media and the Internet. E-learning, the provision of
learning through the electronic media, has the potential to be an enormously
useful educational tool. Many exciting developments in e-learning are already
underway in tertiary education providers around the country. These range from
on-line tutorials to dualmode campus-based courses, to courses that are entirely
web-delivered.

At present, however, these initiatives are not part of a coherent national
e-learning strategy. If New Zealand wants to truly realise the potential of
e-learning, it must develop a shared vision of the kind of learning environment
it wants to create which reflects our unique identity and strengths and the
changing needs and expectations of learners. We must establish an inclusive
system that can cater for people of all ages and educational backgrounds.

E-learning will not replace our campuses but it will change the way students
learn when they are there. It will also open up new learning pathways and make
it possible for people to more effectively undertake tertiary learning from
home, work and other centres in the community.

The challenge is to shape our system to meet these diverse demands. This will
require a much more collaborative approach to e-learning between government,
tertiary education providers, communities and industry.

New Zealand needs an e-learning vision that fits within the overall vision
for learning in the tertiary sector and is underpinned by a learner-centred
approach. Technology alone will not achieve our goals. What is required is a
focus on the needs of learners and an unflagging commitment to quality in
governance, teaching and learner support. These elements and a willingness to
collaborate will be the hallmarks of New Zealand's success and the key to our
being internationally competitive in e-learning.

E-learning is a global phenomenon and New Zealand must carve out its own
niche in the e-learning market, mindful that it has many competitors. We must
expand our vision of export education to harness the potential of e-learning,
extending our educational services to people all over the world who may never
set foot in this country.

At the same time, we must be mindful of our own unique identity in developing
a New Zealand e-learning environment. It's vital that our e-learning future
empowers all cultures and communities. The implications of the Treaty of
Waitangi must underpin e-learning developments in New Zealand. It is a priority
to develop Internet resources and other digital material that reflects both
Maori culture and values and supports Maori aspirations into the 21st century.

We must build on our impressive track record in creating flexible and
adaptable learning solutions that are tailored to student needs. This could be
done in a number of ways and the Advisory Group has recommended the phased
implementation of the following initiatives:

  • The establishment of a tertiary e-learning consortium comprising
    institutions with appropriate expertise in the area. The consortium would be
    funded by government to coordinate the development of e-learning within the
    tertiary sector
  • The creation of a single electronic point of entry, a portal, for people to
    gain access to a wide range of information, services and resources offered by
    New Zealand's tertiary education sector. Over time it is envisaged that students
    would be able to enrol, learn, be assessed and credit transfer between providers
    and programmes using this portal
  • The establishment of a Collaborative Development Fund (CDF) to provide
    capital for tertiary providers to access funds to develop their e-learning
    capability.

E-learning in New Zealand will only be successful if it is based on sound
pedagogical approaches. Increasingly New Zealand will require educators who have
the skills to work confidently in an internet environment as well as a lecture
theatre. A new generation of students is emerging from New Zealand secondary
schools who are technologically-capable and expect e-learning to be part of
their educational experience.

It is imperative that professional development is a priority throughout the
tertiary sector so that academic staff have the abilities required for this new
medium. Once again collaboration is crucial, since mentoring is already proving
itself to be one of the most effective means of upskilling in many of our
tertiary education providers.

In developing our strategy for e-learning, the Advisory Group found it very
useful to consider the impact of e-learning on all aspects of the teaching and
learning process. The three underpinning requirements in this educational value
chain are effective leadership, high standards of quality assurance and
sufficient capability in terms of systems, people and infrastructure.

The key activities in the chain itself are market analysis, curriculum
design, course development, marketing and enrolments, delivery and assessment
and credentialing. All these functions have the potential to be greatly enhanced
in an e-learning environment. However to date there has been little analysis and
research done into the needs and wants of students, the type of courses
required, modes of delivery and key factors that influence student choice. The
sector as a whole stands to benefit substantially from timely research that will
help to focus our efforts. In terms of curriculum design and course development,
increased collaboration between providers has the potential to reduce costs as
well as improve developments. An important issue here is the need for New
Zealand to develop agreed standards for e-learning content and indexing.

At community level, collaboration will also be essential in making full use
of the Internet. Schools, marae and libraries all offer exciting potential.
Closer links between providers, industry and workplaces will also significantly
enhance e-learning opportunities and broaden access to quality learning
throughout the community.

E-learning will bring its fair share of challenges. Academic staff will be
required to adopt new roles and approaches; institutions will need to be open to
new partnerships. The creation of a highly-networked learning environment full
of shared learning objects also challenges traditional notions of intellectual
property rights. The outcome of the current review of the Copyright Act 1994
will have major impact on e-learning. It is imperative that it meets the needs
of a digital learning environment.

The development and delivery of e-learning opportunities will require
different cost structures from conventional education and bring different
financial demands. There are also technical and infrastructural challenges to
surmount such as ensuring learners have access to sufficient bandwidth in their
learning venue to make use of all their opportunities. Experience shows that
such developments can be costly and care must be taken to develop our own
materials and systems costeffectively, sharing best practice and avoiding
duplication of effort wherever possible.

Government has a central role to play in providing incentives for
institutions to collaborate but there must also be scope for innovation and
autonomous action at institutional and local level.

E-learning will come of age in this country when students have access to an
integrated, quality e-learning system, with the right connections and support no
matter when or where they choose to learn. The case studies in this report show
the many different directions that e-learning is already taking us. It will be
an exciting journey but ultimately success will rest on our ability to work
effectively together.

Commonly-used E-Learning Terms and Definitions

E-Learning Learning that takes place in the context of
using the Internet and associated web-based applications as the delivery medium
for the learning experience.

Digital Learning Objects Electronic 'stand-alone' information and
learning packages. The learning objects may be as simple as the chapter of a
textbook or as sophisticated as a virtual tour of a museum.

E-Education E-Education involves e-teaching and e-learning along
with the various administrative and strategic resources needed to support
teaching and learning in an Internet environment. It will incorporate a local,
regional, national and international view of education.

E-Educators E-educators are the new generation of academic staff who
work in an Internet environment in both regular and virtual learning situations.

Portal A website that acts as a 'doorway' to the Internet or a
portion of the Internet, matching a person's needs to available offerings.
Bandwidth The transmission capacity of an electronic line such as a
communications network, computer bus or computer channel.