“Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of the university. The twin challenges of providing high-quality services and controlling costs continue to impel institutions to seek creative solutions” - The Horizon Report 2011
Second week's topic for EduMOOC was- "What the Research Tells Us", which is really an interesting topic! I think, we should start from the success as well as failure stories from corporate sector in this respect. Because the possibilities of ODL including its eLearning variants are being greatly made use by the Corporate Sector and hence most of the researches on the effectiveness of e-learning systems are greatly depending on the corporate experiences for data.
For example, when you go back by a decade as our weekly topic suggests, you may love to read "An Assessment of the Effectiveness of e-learning in Corporate Training Programs" - International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning by Judith Strother, Florida Institute of Technology published in 2002. In her paper Judith Strother attempts a brief review of the ‘Assessment of the effectiveness of e-learning in Corporate Training Programmes’ using Kirkpatrick’s classic model (Kirkpatrick 1979) having four progressive levels along with the fifth level - Return on Investment (ROI) recommended by Phillips (1996) - that are applicable alike for traditional (class-room) as well as e-learning programmes viz
- Reaction - measure of learners’ reaction to the course
- Learning - measure of what they learnt
- Transfer - measure of change in behaviour when they return to work
- Results - measure of business outcomes that occur because they do the job differently after the training
- Return on Investment - the cost benefit ratio of training
Along with explaining each level Judith Strother cites relevant data as well.
(see http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/download/83/161 )
Another noteworthy thing is the 'No Significant Difference Phenomenon' revealed though hundreds of research reports during 90s - mostly from corporate sector - demonstrates that no significant difference occurs in learning while following traditional (class-room) method and e-learning. It may also be noted that these studies were conducted before the advent of the interactive e-learning tools that we have now. Therefore, now, various studies reveal that the difference occurs in favour of e-learning.
While answering the query embedded in the weekly topic (What the research tells us?) I would say researches tell us the promptness of the Corporate sector in making use of the possibilities of e-learning for training and development, struggles of innovative minds in the higher education to get through the rigidity of conservatism and the gradual triumph of e-learning over the traditional setups.
Of course, there are many institutions in the Higher Education Sector that have decades’ of experience with e-learning and the number of higher education institutions implementing e-learning solutions are increasing gradually. However the pace at which effective e-learning solutions are being implementer in the HE Sector as a whole is substantially slower than that in the corporate sector.
Researches also tells us that In this era of Knowledge Economy, which reinforce the need for Lifelong Learning, we cannot completely segregate the interests of Higher Education sector from Corporate Training and Development. Because HE sector has the responsibility to ensure the availability of excellent workforce and professionals by establishing efficient Lifelong Learning Systems for the nations to prosper. In order to establish efficient lifelong learning systems the academia in the HE Sector has to carefully follow the changes in the industry where the learners are expected to work. Only interactive e-learning systems can facilitate it by promoting knowledge exchange between teachers and professionals in the industry. Other wise, in a knowledge economy, teachers would require to work in the industry at regular intervals for exposure. Hence it is seen that we require e-learning systems for both teachers as well as students. Such systems are already in existence.
Moreover, with the advent and popularization of Trans-border or Transnational Education, the similarity of issues that are being faced by the course managers in higher education as well as the corporate sectors also have been increased. For example student/trainee registration, faculty deployment, development and contextualizing of learning materials, procurement and upkeep of technologies, funds for the same, other administrative as well as academic support services etc pose almost similar issues. Rise of knowledge economies is likely to increase the demand for transnational education tremendously. The Horizon Report 2011 lists "People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want" as a highly-ranked trend for 2011 (http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/HR2011.pdf). Said that, the corporate and higher education sectors have to build collaborative platforms for exchange of technology, techniques and expertise in implementing and managing e-learning systems. This includes use of e-learning tools in classroom setups for better learning/teaching experience as well.
Similarly, many studies underline the fact that online readiness of the learners is the most crucial factor that makes elearning systems successful. In this context we are very fortunate to have a generation that has developed amazing online readiness through various online social networking activities. It is further substantiated by the high student satisfaction levels in e-learning. It means, the learners are ready, but what about the teachers?