The Report of the E-Learning Advisory Group March 2002 11/14

Steve Maharey Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)

The Report of the E-Learning Advisory Group March 2002 11/14

Future Directions: E-Learning and the Education Process

In an earlier
chapter, the Advisory Group discussed the possibilities of e-learning in terms
of a value chain. The value chain comprises the key activities undertaken by
participants in the educational process.

These key activities are:

  • Market analysis
  • Curriculum design
  • Course development
  • Marketing and enrolments
  • Delivery
  • Assessment and Credentialling.

In this chapter, we will look at
each of these functions and see how they can be enhanced by the use of new
technologies and an e-learning environment. Benefits inherent in this new mode
of education extend both to students and academic staff.

If New Zealand is to become a knowledge-based society, it is vital that we
achieve greater efficiencies in our educational system and are open to greater
collaboration at each phase of the educational process.

Market analysis

Key to success here is work to determine what
markets we want to be in. This is important for both international and domestic
markets. At an institutional level, this is critical if there is to be sensible
investment in infrastructure that will support e-learning for those chosen
markets.

Campus-based institutions, for example, may choose to invest in serving
students only within the controlled technical environment of the campus. This
would require significant investment in staff development to ensure they can
teach using web support, but may not require investment in the development of
on-line learning resources.

If the choice is to go after international markets, then there are
significant 'supply-side' investments that must be made if students are to be
appropriately supported, such as the need for in-country partners to provide 24
hour, 7 day technical help-desk support and English for Speakers of Other
Languages assistance. As has already been noted, there are many alternative
strategies that can be chosen. The focus here is on highlighting the critical
importance of taking a market perspective first. Which markets do we want to
serve?

What is the scale and size of those markets? What are the 'supply-side'
requirements to service them? Can we develop the capability and capacity to meet
those demands? Although Education New Zealand can assist in relation to work on
the international opportunities here, it is up to each institution to determine
the particular markets they will serve and then to ensure they have the
capability and capacity to serve them.

Education providers need to be offering the right courses for students for
them to consider enrolling. Research is required into the needs and wants of
students, the type of courses required, modes of delivery and key factors that
influence student choice. This will assist in identifying appropriate
assumptions for developing business models for investment. For example, at this
stage most students prefer websupported study rather than fully on-line options.
This may change over time and institutional planning will need good market
analysis to inform it.

Curriculum design

There are major opportunities for tertiary
providers to collaborate in the design of common curricula, as in the suggestion
of a Science On-line project where the sector is encouraged to work together to
offer a common first-year science programme which can be delivered, or at least
strongly supported, by on-line media.

While there are advantages and efficiencies for providers in designing a
common curriculum, the greatest advantages are for students. Opportunities for
students to cross-credit between providers are greatly enhanced when different
institutions are working to a common curriculum. Clearly this needs to be
balanced with the need to encourage innovation and to support academic freedom.

Collaboration in the curriculum area is an important step forward in making
our tertiary education system more flexible and responsive to the lifelong
learning needs of students.

Course development

Increased collaboration between providers has
the potential to reduce costs as well as improve the quality of course
development. Key to sound work is the importance of instructional design. In
most traditional tertiary education, academics are not trained teachers, and in
some instances the design of courses is of variable quality. Separating course
development out as a specific function allows much greater quality control over
content, level of learning and amount of student work expected. Appropriateness
of assessment can be quality controlled too. It also allows economies of scale
when the same course can be supported for hundreds or thousands of learners. It
is not a viable model when class sizes are small.

The creation of digital learning objects has the potential to greatly enhance
learning for students, whether they are distance learners or studying on campus.
Virtual chemistry laboratories, interactive online language laboratories,
virtual field trips for geography, specialist teaching for medicine all are
made possible through well-designed digital learning objects.

This is perhaps one of the most obvious areas where advances in technology
can enrich a student's overall educational experience. Tertiary institutions
with limited resources stand to benefit substantially from developing common
courses and sharing digital objects.

The costs and expertise associated with the development of these on-line
learning objects and packages make it essential that institutions are encouraged
to collaborate in their development. The expertise required for development of
web-based learning resources for use in industry can be a sound commercial
opportunity. This work also feeds back into better options for developing
courseware for students and into further developing both the capability of staff
and the institution's links with industry.

Science On-line a potential case study in collaboration

New
Zealand tertiary institutions might consider a project that would see them
collaborate to offer the first year of a generic undergraduate science degree by
e-learning. This programme would be targeted at offshore students and would
enable students to complete their first year of study at home before coming to
New Zealand to complete their degree by conventional study. Participating
institutions would agree to provide full credit to students enrolling through
this programme.

There are three factors which combine to present both a community of interest
for this project and a strong market opportunity. Firstly, many New Zealand
tertiary institutions have spare capacity in their undergraduate science
programmes and are strongly motivated to accept international students in those
programmes. Secondly, the Government has identified the importance of science
education in developing the knowledge economy. And thirdly, a common first-year
science curriculum provides the opportunity for a high level of cooperation
across the sector.

Every New Zealand university, and a small number of the larger polytechnics,
offer undergraduate degrees in science. These degrees meet common standards
which allows a high level of credit transfer across institutions. With some
minor exceptions, New Zealand tertiary institutions have a common first-year
curriculum for science and applied science degrees.

This common curriculum enables students to undertake the professional
'intermediate' year at their local university before moving elsewhere to
undertake an applied science degree. This common first-year programme could
provide an opportunity for tertiary institutions to collaborate in offering a
joint first-year programme to the international student market. Member
institutions would offer full credit for this programme and allow students who
successfully complete the course to be admitted direct to the second year of
their science programmes. Member institutions would collaborate in delivering,
supporting and assessing this programme.

A key issue in implementing any such project is to target the particular
international markets and ensure that in-country support is available for
students as part of their enrolment package. While it is possible to offer
courses without such support and clearly this is cheaper, the group is of the
view that such an approach should only be taken when there's been prior
assessment to determine that students are capable of completing the study alone.

Course development

Increased collaboration between providers has
the potential to reduce costs as well as improve the quality of course
development. Key to sound work is the importance of instructional design. In
most traditional tertiary education, academics are not trained teachers, and in
some instances the design of courses is of variable quality. Separating course
development out as a specific function allows much greater quality control over
content, level of learning and amount of student work expected. Appropriateness
of assessment can be quality controlled too. It also allows economies of scale
when the same course can be supported for hundreds or thousands of learners. It
is not a viable model when class sizes are small.

The creation of digital learning objects has the potential to greatly enhance
learning for students, whether they are distance learners or studying on campus.
Virtual chemistry laboratories, interactive online language laboratories,
virtual field trips for geography, specialist teaching for medicine all are
made possible through well-designed digital learning objects.

This is perhaps one of the most obvious areas where advances in technology
can enrich a student's overall educational experience. Tertiary institutions
with limited resources stand to benefit substantially from developing common
courses and sharing digital objects.

The costs and expertise associated with the development of these on-line
learning objects and packages make it essential that institutions are encouraged
to collaborate in their development. The expertise required for development of
web-based learning resources for use in industry can be a sound commercial
opportunity. This work also feeds back into better options for developing
courseware for students and into further developing both the capability of staff
and the institution's links with industry.

Marketing and enrolments

While institutions will continue to
brand and market their own programmes in many ways, there is considerable scope
for adopting a collaborative approach to providing information about their
programmes, products and services. It is anticipated that shared information
would be a key feature of the e-learning portal, which would provide an
electronic one-stop-shop for all those seeking information and services from the
sector.

The Tertiary Education Advisory Commission has already identified the need
for more comprehensive and up-to-date information for students about tertiary
education options. The development and marketing of a portal, with a multitude
of links to other sites, will give students ready access to the on-line
offerings of all New Zealand tertiary institutions. As well as course
information, the portal could consolidate information on enrolments,
scholarships and student loans. In this way it would complement the career and
employment information which is localised in the KiwiCareers website.

Because of its benefits to students, staff, institutions and to Government,
this is a significant and important project that needs to be funded as a
critical building block in portal development.

Another significant opportunity is the development of central enrolment
options. This could be done by groups of institutions who see benefit in this,
or it could be done in particular disciplines. Benefits for students include
only having to make one application which specifies their ranking of
institutions in terms of their preference for acceptance. Benefits for
institutions include knowing that they are putting effort into selection
processes only for those students who are likely to enrol with them and in
getting better market information as the total application data is available to
all institutions. Benefits to Government lie in having access to market
information and in enrolment patterns in institutions.

A number of jurisdictions have implemented such central systems and are using
the advantages of the web to enhance them. In the UK, UCAS provides an example
of a 'clearing house' approach to enrolments and is a provider of statistical
and information services. www.ucas.ac.uk.

Delivery

The Internet offers exciting potential for the speedy
and efficient distribution of learning materials associated with courses for
both distance and oncampus students. It also offers new ways of supporting
students at various stages of their learning experience and according to their
various needs. For students with special needs there is room for the tailoring
of learning using web-based technology.

As with more traditional distance education, there are opportunities, too,
for delivery to be separated from the development of the courseware. The
Internet offers options for the tyranny of the classroom to be overcome by
enabling more students to be supported within a course, while still having a
high-quality learning experience. Learning resources instructionally designed
into web-based courses need only be developed once and they can be supported by
teachers whose role becomes that of learning coach and assessor. As we' ve said
on many occasions, this model is not likely to replace more traditional
teaching.

However, it is an option that has more scaleability and will increasingly be
used to service particular student markets the part-time student; the
workplace student; and many international students. The ability to offer the
different components of the education process as separate services has also
begun to bring a wider diversity in learning venues - that is the places where
learning is delivered.

Local e-learning centres
The growth of learning centres, the
ability to use the infrastructure already being established in the school sector
in non-school hours, the development of maraebased cyber-centres all these
offer exciting potential. The Commonwealth of Learning Report, The Changing
Faces of Virtual Education, highlights the changing nature of learning venues as
one of the most significant emerging trends in education.

Government has already indicated its support for the development of local
e-learning centres. Such centres can provide access to a range of on-line
courses from providers with web courses. The types of learning centres would
vary from community initiatives in local schools and community centres to more
sophisticated learning centres based in tertiary institutions.

Living in Bermuda, Learning in New Zealand

Todd Olson is using
e-learning to continue his studies while travelling overseas. Todd, who works
for a sail-making company in Bermuda, races yachts in his spare time and is
studying the Diploma in Information Systems and Technology for Business through
Open Mind On-line, The Open Polytechnic's new on-line course service.

The 27-year-old and his wife made the move to Bermuda for a change in
lifestyle and as a base for exploring other countries. Study was also part of
the plan. 'I was working in the IT industry in New Zealand as an Intranet
webmaster before moving to Bermuda so it was important for me to have a relevant
qualification for the IT industry. The diploma also allows me to gain knowledge
in other areas of business that will be invaluable. '

'I intend to return to New Zealand one day and resume my career in the IT
industry. I think by completing this qualification by the time I return home I
will have more chances of finding a better job. '

On-line distance learning suits Todd's study style and he says he has not
encountered any difficulties studying overseas. He uses the online learning
guide and says the support systems are excellent.

The on-line service could be restricted to course material alone with local
tutorial support, or it could be more comprehensive and include specialist
tutorial support, assessment and access to library services. A learning centre
could act as a broker, helping students to access on-line courses and providing
a supportive learning environment and non-subjectspecific tutorial staff. It is
envisaged that students would also be able to access other campus facilities and
courses provided by the local tertiary institution. Such centres would increase
access for students to a broader range of courses and help local communities to
retain their learners and institutions. It would enable access to e-learning for
learners without personal access to the web a key issue in bridging the
digital divide.

The Advisory Group agrees with the Government's support for learning
centres. It also notes that the 'hub and spoke model' outlined in the TEAC
Report (2001) can be significantly enhanced through use of e-learning
opportunities. (Recommendation 6)

Extending the reach of local institutions
In this model academic
staff at an institution could prepare their courses for on-line teaching. This
would extend their reach nationally and internationally and provide
opportunities for academics who are leaders in their fields. It is envisaged
that the local institution would retain the accreditation within the current
guidelines. Associated student support services (enquiries, enrolment, library,
moderation and assessment) could either continue to be provided by the
institution concerned or shared among several. This approach makes better use of
specialist academic staff and clearly differentiates regional institutions. It
improves access to specialist courses and strengthens local institutions,
enhancing their viability.

Enhancing school/tertiary links
Consideration of the links between
schools and the tertiary sector in terms of e-learning is essential if we are to
meet the needs of the learners of the future. ICT-aware school-leavers will not
only expect that e-learning opportunities will continue to be available to them
but they may well make choices about their future learning places based on the
availability of the range of learning opportunities. As schools prepare students
to live and work in a digital age, tertiary learning opportunities need to not
only build on this base of experience but continue to provide an engaging
learner-centred environment.

The ICT Lead Schools model currently operating in primary and secondary
schools has involved groups of schools forming clusters and working together to
engage and support their teaching staff to become confident and competent users
of a range of technologies. Resources and experience are shared outside the
school and make available new opportunities for professional development that
may not have been available in individual schools. Tertiary institutions, iwi
and other key stakeholders including private enterprise, forming clusters to
assist the professional development of teaching staff could learn much from the
ICT Lead Schools model.

As schools have more bandwidth available to them this opens up possibilities
for members of their communities to utilise these enhanced bandwidth
opportunities. Schools could well become one of a variety of community
e-learning centres and provide a bridge between the school, tertiary and
workplace needs and opportunities.

The Advisory Group recommends building on bandwidth developments in New
Zealand's school system and encouraging the Tertiary Education Commission and
the Ministry of Education to achieve closer links between the school and
tertiary sectors in e-learning initiatives. (Recommendation 6)

The development of Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI), the national portal for schools,
offers a model which can inform the development of the tertiary e-learning
portal. Use of TKI by school students and teachers could well extend to the
tertiary portal providing a seamless national e-learning experience.

Accessing library services
The Internet is a very valuable tool
for students in accessing library materials and obtaining the support they might
need in any aspect of their studies. In delivering library services, local
institutions could contract one institutional library to provide their students
with a range of library services. Here are three options for how this could be
done. Local institutions could contract another library for

back-up services to increase the range and quality of what it can offer
students. Secondly, library services could be integrated within an e-learning
centre to provide library services for learners who do not have access to a
local library. Finally a centralised service could be established and accessed
via free-phone or the web. In this way students could gain access to a full
range of library services without any local library presence.

The Waitomo E-Commerce Centre

The Waikato Institute of
Technology, the Waikato District Chamber of Commerce and Industry New Zealand
are working to develop the Waitomo E-Commerce Centre. The E-commerce Centre will
be an enhancement of the existing Waitomo Learning Centre established in the
1990s. The concept is similar to the notion of Telecentres, TeleCottages or
Community Technology centres, but placed in a commercial and tertiary education
setting. It will provide:

  • Access for opportunities to use advanced computers and telecommunications
    equipment
  • Training in the application of new and existing technologies
  • Connection with global information and broad band communication networks
  • Opportunities for local commercial groups to partake in global industry and
    this includes web-based opportunities for data packaging for the rural sector
    (i.e. information on agricultural production and markets)
  • Pursue other advantages offered by broadband access in businesses connected
    to information sharing, broadening business scope and research and development
  • A social environment in which to interact and develop new business ideas.

The Centre will help local people gain access to tertiary education,
allow for rural-based industry to develop and help retain people in the region.
The Centre therefore provides a technology focus to regional capability
building.

Some degree of on-line library service would undoubtedly bring benefits through
improved access, particularly for those in regional New Zealand, and result in
economies of scale. There are also considerable benefits to be derived from
libraries working collaboratively in licensing of databases and in delivering
assistance in e-information access for students.

Such initiatives will enhance the viability of local institutions and
increase local educational opportunities.

E-Learning and tertiary libraries trends and issues

The Waitomo E-Commerce Centre

University Libraries
At
present, university libraries offer both electronic and hard copy resources for
campus-based learners and for those accessing content on-line. Feedback from the
Council of New Zealand University Librarians indicates that they are committed
to both types of content and customer and are not seeking to replace physical
resources with the virtual.

All university libraries have websites and/or portals to give entitled
students, irrespective of geographic location, direct pathways into their
resources and services. Five of the eight university libraries are now in a
joint project to scope and implement a common computer library management
system. One of the goals of this project is to create a platform for the
strategic enhancement of each library's ability to leverage maximum opportunity
from the fast-changing marketplace of electronic publishing and of e-based
teaching and learning.

The role of academic libraries is to make accessible to both staff and
students the accumulated resource of published knowledge adding value to
teaching, learning and research. Expansion of e-learning will need to ensure
that this academic added-value is maintained and developed if the quality of the
learning experience is to be assured. This means:

  • continued refreshment, updating and development of the knowledge resource
    base
  • systems and pathways which enable the learner to explore beyond the course
    materials to discover alternative perspectives or further data
  • professional staff with the skills and incentives to 'discover, describe and
    deliver' relevant material from the overall accumulated resource of published
    knowledge.

The Council has also identified several risks and barriers
associated with e-learning. The first is the perception that the only worthwhile
information is digital. A great deal of published knowledge is likely to remain
accessible only in hard-copy (print) formats and academic libraries are
specifically organised to ensure that access systems to this are maintained.
There is a need to ensure that students have real access to a wide range of
material, and not just to the 'canned' content inserted into a course package
which could well be provided by just one publisher.

Issues of electronic content licenses and digital copyright also pose
enormous challenges. The ability to digitise content is central to e-learning
and the risks of the present severe restrictions flowing from New Zealand law
need to be addressed. The work done for the Ministry of Economic Development's
current review of digital copyright will help inform this issue. Polytechnics

Polytechnic libraries were also surveyed for this report. Six reported that
their institutions offered e-learning and all libraries are involved in
e-learning developments in some way. Most have chosen to use their websites as
the platform to deliver electronic resources to their clients, irrespective of
time or place. They are helping to shape e-learning content and providing
on-line and face-to-face support and instruction in library skills.

Most polytechnic libraries are actively promoting the provision of web-based
resources through the library's website, whether or not their institution is
providing e-learning. These include on-line catalogues, subscriptions to on-line
journals and links to other websites. Some provide e-reserve for heavily-used
material. Most also provide access to material to support e-learning and are
looking to integrate e-learning platforms and existing library resources.
Possibilities here include the ability for lecturers to create and customise
links to library resources and websites.

Key challenges identified include lack of training for library staff to
support the advent of e-learning, lack of technical support and the pressure of
adding new resources and services without additional funding. Libraries report
that an increasing proportion of their budget is being spent on electronic
resources anywhere from 16% to 33% of budget.

Assessment and credentialling

New assessment methods using the
considerable benefits of the Internet environment are currently being developed
and this area is one of the 'emerging markets' in the world of education. It can
be very successfully 'unbundled' from the education process and provided as a
separate service with benefits for students, academics and institutions.

Credentials are increasingly important in the world of lifelong learning.
Students want to be assessed on their current competence and receive credentials
without paying for further study if they reach required standards. They also
want to be able to practise and to be assessed when they feel they are ready
not only when an examination cycle happens to occur.

There are many overseas models of on-line assessment that can be
investigated. Internationally, the University of Durham incorporates software to
assess its first-year Geography students. A number of universities in the United
Kingdom are also involved in a collaborative project to ascertain which learning
outcomes can best be assessed using technology. The aim is to develop generic
computer-based assessment systems. US academics have developed software that
marks essays more reliably than groups of academics.

There is considerable potential for collaboration locally in this area. For
example, there is interest from the TANZ Polytechnic group in collaborating on a
pilot project to develop on-line assessment. The aim would be to learn from that
project before expanding it to other shared qualifications. Expected benefits
include improving and ensuring national consistency inquality; a better service
for students and a reduction in time spent on assessments by academics that
would enable them to concentrate more on teaching and research.

Assessment is an area ripe for cooperative work with software developers an
area of New Zealand strength. There are companies specialising in development of
simulations, for example, which can be incorporated into educational
assessments. Educators and the developers working together could better maximise
opportunities, particularly in the international market.

It will be important to evaluate electronic assessment options to ensure that
they meet comparable quality standards to conventional methods. A further issue
from an administrative point of view is that of security. There is a need to
identify and verify the person undertaking the electronic assessment. A user
name and password would be insufficient. The security of the assessment site
itself must also be safeguarded. However, the Advisory Group sees that on-line
assessment, either as part of the enrolment package or as a stand-alone service,
may bring a number of benefits. Although initial investment costs are high,
staff are freed up to spend more time on teaching and research. Students benefit
from being able to undertake assessment when they feel ready. The Advisory Group
suggests that pilot projects, involving consortia, be funded with support from
the Strategic Development fund, or within funding for research into e-learning.
These will provide lessons about this emerging market that will be useful for
the whole sector.

In an e-learning environment it is important to reiterate that credentialling
will remain the responsibility of providers. Learners want the assurance that
their credentials will be valued nationally and internationally. It is also
important for the development of New Zealand's knowledge society that e-learners
have their learning formally recognised with credentials from an accredited
education provider.