Internationalising online programs/Faculty Research

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eLearning Maturity Model (eMM)

Description of the Activity

The eLearning Maturity Model (eMM) is a research methodology that provides a means by which institutions can assess and compare their capability to sustainably develop, deploy and support e-learning. The eMM is based on the ideas of the Capability Maturity Model and SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability Determination) methodologies.

The underlying idea that guides the development of the eMM is that the ability of an institution to be effective in any particular area of work is dependent on their capability to engage in high quality processes that are reproducible and able to be extended and sustained as demand grows.

The Penn State World Campus is looking at eMM to provide a structured methodology to better understand our processes and capacity and to engage in a formal quality improvement process from an organizational standpoint.

As eMM has not been widely adopted in the US, we are engaged in conversations with international partners who have implemented eMM at their institutions. This allows us the opportunity to be involved in creating an international reference group, to gain insight into the process as it evolved at other institutions, and to gain knowledge about the ways in which eMM has been adapted and re-engineered at other institutions.

It is important to note that although we are just starting the eMM project we have been talking with institutions who are fully engaged, those that are interested, and the founders of the eMM methodology at Victoria University of Wellington NZ.

Benefits of the Activity

There are a number of potential benefits associated with involvement with eMM:

  1. Because the methodology tiers together research and practice, it can connect faculty, institutional research, and administrators/managers in a common improvement process that is supported by the institutional mission.
  2. Because eMM is an internationally applied method and allows for collaboration across institutions, it allows for some measure of benchmarking and the potential for research around international comparative education.

Success Factors for the Activity

There are a number of factors that we believe will help this project along:

  1. There are local advocates for the methodology.
  2. There is an administrative unit, the World Campus, that has responsibility for operational effectiveness for online learning processes.
  3. Some members of the implementation team have had previous experience with eMM.
  4. Quality improvement is a institutional priority included in the planning and budgeting process at the unit level.
  5. Resourcing has been made available for project support.

Risk Factors for the Activity

This project has both financial and political risk.

  1. Although not high barrier, it requires the development of a resource team to engage in the eMM methodology, collect and analyze data, and report results back to stakeholders.
  2. In order to engage in the eMM methodology, staff will most likely require training by its founder.
  3. Because eMM examines organizational processes, there is the potential to cause political strife associated with exploring established processes.
  4. A previous process review left many units feeling defensive, and agitated by the lack of tangible results. This might make it more difficult to get buy-in and cooperation from all units.

Organizational Readiness Factors

Once again, this project does have some risk and requires some investment, so it is important to consider the readiness of the organization to engage in a multi-institutional research and quality improvement project:

  1. The World Campus has an established associate director level role with formal responsibilities for “evaluation” and access to institutional database to mine quantitative data.
  2. The World Campus has a history of documenting processes; some mechanisms exist for measuring and reporting outcomes.
  3. The World Campus works in partnership with academic and administrative units throughout the University.
  4. The World Campus has established relationships and protocols for exchanging data and articulating on joint projects, both internal and external to the University.
  5. The World Campus is at an appropriate "age" to become more reflective and more self-aware. Although not fully mature, the World Campus is no longer in its infancy.

Exit and Sustainability Plans

We are going to approach this project in a stepwise fashion, using a phased approach with milestones that allow us to assess next steps. Once fully operational, this project should be iterative in nature, with eMM reviews conducted at regular intervals, with duration let to be determined.


  • Conduct your own EMM evaluation (Available under the CC-BY-SA license).