WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook/Management and implementation of eLearning/Administrative requirements of e-learning

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Like any organized educational activity, e-learning needs to be very systemically (ie., from a systems level) managed. Foremost this will include attention to the technology and the infrastructure that is necessary to support it. It will include different approaches to course design and development and strategies for generating and managing subject matter content from that which is suitable in conventional educational settings (see also Naidu, 1994, 2003).

The technology. While this is crucial to the success of any e-learning activity, technology is not the driver of the initiative. It is there to serve an educational function and such, it is a tool for learning and teaching. However, it has to be robust, reliable and affordable. It is critical to ensure that this is so, just as it is important to ensure that in a classroom-based educational setting, the classroom is available and it is comfortable, and it has the necessary equipment such as tables and chairs and other tools for teaching and learning to take place. Most teachers and students in such educational settings would take these facilities for granted and they will be unaware of what goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the classroom setting works in the way in which it is expected to work. Staff and students alike would be very agitated if the computer, the projector, or the lights in the classroom did not work, as that would be very disruptive to their learning and teaching activities. In the same way e-learning technology needs to work just as transparently and fluidly to allow teachers and students to concentrate on learning and teaching and not be distracted by the technology. If teachers and students have to be taught to operate this technology, then there should be processes and programs in place for this training to occur, routinely.

Course design and development. Like any other organized educational activity, e-learning, is a team effort, as a number of people and a range of expertise need to be brought together to make e-learning work. In conventional educational systems, course design and development is the sole responsibility of the subject matter expert who is also the teacher. E-learning will require the delivery of that subject matter content in alternative forms such as online or on a CD-ROM. Some teachers are able to produce their content themselves. However, this might not be the best use of their time and expertise in most educational settings. A more efficient and effective model of course development is the team approach, which brings together people with subject matter knowledge and expertise in the development of technology enhanced learning materials. However, the establishment and nurturing of such a team process is not to be taken lightly as it has implications on where the boundaries lie for various types of expertise and on the costs of supporting it across a large organization (see also Foster, 1992; Holmberg, 1983; Mason, & Goodenough, 1981; Riley, 1984; Smith, 1980).

Subject matter content management. In conventional educational settings, the generation and presentation of the subject matter content is the sole responsibility of the teacher. In e-learning, while the teacher may still be generating this content, for it to be made accessible to the learners, it needs to be modified, enhanced and presented in a form that is amenable to the technology that is in use (see Lewis, 1971a; 1971b; 1971c; Lockwood, 1994; Riley, 1984; Rowntree, 1994). Content once generated will need to be updated in order to retain its currency and relevance. For this to happen, academic staff and other content developers will need expert assistance with learning and instructional design activities. They will need to be supported in the design and development of such self-study materials in alternative media forms. Permissions will be required in the form of copyright clearance to publish some of this material in such form. In large educational settings, this will create a substantial amount of work, which will require enough trained staff and appropriate procedures and processes (see Kember, & Mezger, 1990; Jenkins, 1990, Naidu, 1987; 1988).