4 eLearning Disconnects Within Higher Education Institutions

4 eLearning Disconnects Within Higher Education Institutions
Summary: Higher education faces a number of challenges which need to be addressed in order to enhance prestige and market share. The prospect of providing online education is becoming increasingly appealing to institutions that wish to expand their offerings; however, such undertakings should not be thought of lightly. Especially since higher education institutions face a number of fundamental disconnects that make this prospect difficult, if not impossible.

eLearning Obstacles In Higher Education Institutions

In many instances, higher education institutions can be challenged to offer successful online solutions because of either internal politics, near-sighted policies, or budgetary considerations. Furthermore, those charged with making eLearning decisions oftentimes don’t have a background in Instructional Design nor the experience in building courses for adult learners. Let’s examine each of these dilemmas in greater detail.

  1. Internal politics.
    Universities can be considered among the most political institutions in society. At first glance, universities and colleges appear as conservative and reluctant to change at the pace required by external demands. However, the demand for change in higher education institutions in order to garner market share produce tensions and conflicts within the colleges and university community. Internal competition for limited funds and internal esteem issues oftentimes prohibits the free flow of ideas among various the various disciplines within a university. Thus islands of automation exist within universities, each populated by fiefdoms controlled by powerful entities.
  2. Near-sighted policies.
    In order to generate additional income, administrators often look to eLearning as a straight forward method to increase sales. However the strategies and incentives required to successfully implement such approaches can be difficult hurdle to overcome. College unions often play an important role in such negotiations. Additionally, incentives for faculty to participate in such activities are often overlooked or at best paid a token tribute. A closer examination of the faculty whose participation in implementing eLearning services can be broken-down in the following manner: Approximately 10% - 15% of faculty can be thought of as the early adopters of such tools and techniques. They need little incentives in order to continue with their current adoption of eLearning. They are fully onboard and oftentimes drive the current state of eLearning within their respective institutions. The next set of participants are called the reluctant majority. These participants, roughly 70% - 80% within the educational setting, will participate in developing eLearning courses only if they feel that doing so will directly benefit them. Finally, the remaining 10% - 15% are called the reluctant minority. These faculty have little or no desire to participate in such activities and trying to convince them to do so is a futile effort.
  3. Budgetary considerations.
    Money is a very limited and valuable resource and technology today is a sea of moving targets, always expanding and morphing into new and exciting products and services. Your staff can spend dozens or hundreds of hours researching eLearning best practice tools and services that would best serve your specific needs. Technology is only as good as your ability to manage it.
  4. Unqualified decision makers.
    Those charged with making eLearning decisions oftentimes don’t have a background in Instructional Design nor the experience in building courses for adult learners. Additionally, they generally don’t have a fundamental understanding of the complexities needed when developing online courses that engage and motivate adult learners. Specific compliancy and intellectual property issues often can compound these issues. To teach in elementary, middle, or high school you need to be certified from the state in which you are teaching. However, you need no such certification requirements to teach within a university or college setting. Thus professors are often self-taught or rely on their fellow colleagues to present their content with little or no understanding of Instructional Design principles or basic educational methodologies. Thus institutions often find themselves at a loss to provide courses that have the rigor that will differentiate them in the marketplace.

In conclusion, providing eLearning solutions continues to grow within higher education institutions. However, without a thoughtful and practical plan such efforts may be very difficult to achieve. An objective and essential review of your current organizational, personnel, and institutional goals must be developed in order to successfully navigate and implement your eLearning endeavors.