Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Inter-Institutional Academic Networks

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jul 26, 2006

Summary of a talk by Peter Stucki,University of Zurich, Switzerland,
Bogota, Colombia, July 26, 2006

Bounded conditions to talk:
- I assume the internet is a given
- I know that e-learning is a big challenge

Will report on two projects from central Europe and will show they have an impact on modern learning

Bologna Declaration - common approaches for online learning in Europe
Diagram: implementation of layered study structures in Europe

- implementation in progress, some European countries more advanced than others
- reduction of study length observed, more course offerings
- but testing and administration efforts needed

- teachers have an aversion to using 3rd party e-learning resources; solution: - new method - inter-institution networks
- also, smaller institutions have trouble offering specialized resources; solution: - again, use inter-institutional networks
- also: problem of maintaining high-quality 24/7 access; solution - you guessed it.

Example 1: Swiss Virtual Campus

General strategy:
Support change and not status-quo
Focus on need-to-have, not nice-to-have (eg Internet 2 is nice, not needed)
Conduct development and not research
Practice sustainability and not experimentation

Selection criteria:

- based on there being a network of 3 institutions
- pedagogically correct implementation for use as a substitution for in-class teaching
- clear concepts for quality
- 50% matching funds
- must comply with Bologna declaration

SVC's preferred approach:
- mostly blended learning
- tutor, etc., support

(Some course examples provided)


Assessing Course Implementation of 50 Projects, 200 programs
- the ones that used commercial platforms had much more time to focus on content, and developed better courses
- open source - they forgot to transfer knowledge on the content level
"Altogether these open source programs performed quite a bit less well..."

If you want to run e-learning modules, you have to have cross-institutional compatibility - we came to the decision that we would like to establish a national e-learning platform of CMS based on WebCT Vista - this was based on
- modern architecture
- academic user model used
- institutional branding
- offers open APIs and standards
- multi-language user support

Example 2

The Bavarian University e-learning Network
- provides full e-learning courses (not blended)

They have institutionalized an e-learning brokerage service based in a city called Hof

The professor develops the course, the broker administers the course and signs students up; profs and students from 25 Bavarian institutions. They get access to tutors and to the professor.

The number of students is growing, new courses are being offered, and by 2002, there were 5000 students, expect 50,000 by 2008

The broker organizes an examination through the professor, the student travels to the institute and takes the exam.


- any academic teacher of a Bavarian university can apply to create a course
- currently 160 course offerings
- currently 10,000 students (more females than males)


- creation of e-learning awareness in Switzerland and Bavaria
- in education and learning, content is based on previous content
- refinement is an interdisciplinary and social process
- content development is not complete until is is disseminated
- not all e-learning resources stand against important criteria, eg. pedagogic shortcomings, copyright, etc.

Perception of E-Learning in Central Europe
- educators have difficulty moving away from the status quo
- the students are generally in favour of change, but oppose reductions in classroom offerings
- institutions have limited budget
- industry thinks of e-learning as an important qualification, all news, etc., is delivered via e-learning

Content, implementation, quality, reliability, availabilty: all are key. You need inter-institutional academic networks. Powerful tools support resource and learning development processes. And while there are many bottom-up initiatives, a go or no-go decision must be taken at the administrative level.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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