Global picture, local lessons: e-learning policy and accessibility Publications
This research report was commissioned by the Ministry and undertaken by Massey University. This examined the existing international state and federal/provincial policy in the area of e-Learning, and attempted to determine the outcomes of the policy implementation. It also considered subsequent and proposed amendments and the reasons for those. It determined the nature of government-funded infrastructural arrangements for e-Learning, focusing on the specific barriers and enablers faced by small and remote communities.
Both areas (policy and accessibility) included Australia, Canada, the UK, EU states, federal and state policy in the USA, and the more developed Asian nations. It also considered trans-national organisations as part of the context of policy formation e.g. the Commonwealth of Learning and UNESCO.
Author(s): Dr Bill Anderson (Project Director), Dr Mark Brown, Fiona Murray, Dr Mary Simpson, Mandia Mentis, Massey University. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.
Date Published: September 2006
Released on Education Counts: 16 November 2009
This report was commissioned to consider the e-learning policy experiences of a number of countries in order to identify consistent themes and tensions running through the policy implementation process and relate identifiable outcomes to policy measures. The project comprised three aspects:
- Development of a database of templated summaries of international e-learning policy and strategy documents from 2000-2005
- Provision of a report on overall e-learning policy direction and implementation
- Provision of a report on policy initiatives that focus on accessibility to e-learning in small and remote communities.
This final report brings together these three aspects in a single document.
The following jurisdictions and international agencies are included in this study:
These jurisdictions and agencies are all represented in the database of templated summaries of e-learning policy and strategy documents.
Interventions in e-learning
We identified a discernible pattern to development of e-learning policy. The first stage occurs as governments act to make e-learning possible, the second as they work to integrate e-learning into the education system, effectively, to mainstream e-learning. In the third stage a transformative role for e-learning is seen, with changes to views of learning and to the nature and operation of the tertiary institutions and the tertiary system.
First and second stage policy objectives are commonly seen together as policy makers draw on the experience of early adopters of e-learning or on their experience of previous adoption of technology use in education. Similarly, second and third stage policy objectives co-exist in policy documents as policy makers continue to encourage the mainstreaming of e-learning and enhancement of its quality, while seeing the potential for sector efficiencies and the need for policy alignment.
Following this pattern, policy initiatives include
Strategies to develop physical infrastructure
All areas included in this report had undertaken policy initiatives designed to provide access to the physical infrastructure supporting broadband access which is considered essential for effective e-learning provision.
Focusing on building and ensuring quality in e-learning
Four groups of initiative were prominent in support of this objective. These were:
- Provision of support, information and guidance for learners
- Professional development and support for tertiary teachers
- Leadership development
- Development of high quality e-learning content
Moves to create a system wide approach to e-learning
Supporting the four major enablers discussed above were several policy objectives that enabled a more systemic approach to e-learning. The move to a systemic approach signals a turn to the second phase of e-learning policy development. Major initiatives here involve:
- Development of collaboration and cooperation between the institutions comprising the tertiary system
- Attempts to ensure an awareness of the benefits of e-learning and to continue to build demand for e-learning services
- Support for research initiatives and policy evaluation to ensure informed decision making
Embedding e-learning and aiming for sector efficiencies
This stage of policy development is only recently noticeable. As the e-learning environment matures there are policy moves to embed e-learning by making it integral to broader strategies for teaching and learning. Thus policy alignment is a key issue at this stage. Sector efficiencies are sought through the integration of information systems and the development of synergies between institutional activities.
Small and remote communities
Five examples of specific policy initiative were identified, three were studied in depth. The major finding of our examination of the three in-depth cases was that the involvement of local communities played a major role in the successful uptake of broadband access which in turn provides a means of access to e-learning. Critical also is a focus on provision of an array of government and non-governmental services for communities, necessitating a degree of liaison between a number of agencies.
Outcomes from policy
Only two distinct evaluations of policy initiatives were located – an evaluation of the Saskatchewan Technology Enhanced Learning Action Plan and an evaluation of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework 2000-2004. The main findings from these evaluations are:
- Professional development for staff and the development of high quality digital content are seen as central to the success of e-learning approaches to education
- Inter institutional collaboration is a key element of integrating e-learning across the tertiary sector
- Policy alignment is essential to ensure a mature e-learning environment
- 'Buy-in' by staff and institutions is slow and considerable investment in time and people is essential. This time is needed to realise the investments that are made. At the same time, it is important to ensure that e-learning is sustainable and that e-learning policies include a strong accountability focus.
Issues for policy makers
The report concludes by identifying 17 issues emerging from the policy initiatives. It does so recognising that New Zealand e-learning policy has largely taken account of the many specific lessons provided by the experience of overseas jurisdictions. These issues are general in nature, focusing on broader questions about e-learning policy and its development, not on specific policy issues. Questions are raised about the way policies might define e-learning; acknowledge and address gaps in e-learning policy; align and differentiate levels of policy, and account for the national and global education context.
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