From distance to online: educational management in the 21 century
2011 (English)In: Learning and sustainability: the new ecosystem of innovation and knowledge / [ed] Morten Flate Paulsen, András Szűcs, European Distance and E-Learning Network, 2011 , 2011, 2-3 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
The increasing interest in distance education for Umea university is related to a couple of factors in society. First, the state in Sweden has historically had an interest in distance education to ensure education to citizens. Secondly, the location of Umea university in the northern part of Sweden contribute to a responsibility to develop the sparsely populated region and to educate people with limited possibilities to read campus courses. And Thirdly, the Swedish educational system for higher studies is partly dependent on number of students to succeed, since the economic support to the University is based on how much the students have completed i.e. output based. Among their innovations in the competition for students, universities have turned to distance education using information and communication technologies to attract students. Today 70 % of the new students at Umea University are distance or online students. The trend is that more and more courses are carried out in online environments without physical meetings (online education). The focus in this paper is the shift from distance to online education by investigating the courses at department of education from an educational management perspective. The aim is to describe and analyse the development of distance education from the beginning of 1990s to 2010 in terms of driving forces behind the development and the consequences of it, with the department of education at Umea university as a case in point. The description and analysis derives from economical, staff and student data, policy and strategy documents regarding ICT and learning. The data has been categorised according to number of courses, total yearly income of distance and campus courses, registered students at distance courses, output of students.
The department of education has had a long interest in distance courses. A strong interest of using technology in education contributed to that video conferences were used in the early 1990s in distance education. In the middle of 1990s ICT, email and world wide web, started to replace the delivery of the course material. From the beginning of 1995 to 1998 the teaching on the web changed character from delivery of information to possibilities to interact with teachers and peer students. In the 1990s it was teachers with an interest for learning and ICT that worked with the development of learning management systems and implementations of ICT tools in education. In year 2001 an ICT educationist was employed which was followed late 2002 with a new employment of one more ICT educationist. Today there are three ICT educationists employed at the department. However, despite this stronger emphasis on ICT as a tool for teaching it took many years before everyone at the department had to work with ICT in their teaching. In the ICT policy from 2002 the ambition was that ICT should be used and integrated in teaching but also to initiate ICT-pedagogic development. In the document information and communication strategy from 2008 the role of ICT in teaching and online education is much more explicit expressed about how ICT should be used to support the teacher and the students to enable for distance and flexible studies. In year 2010 the decision was made to not have any particular ICT Policy since it is fully integrated in the daily activities at the department.
The results from the investigation of economical, staff and student data shows that both the number of courses and the number of students increased for distance and online education. The number of registered distance students increased in high extent and especially from year 2005 and forward and increased dramatically 2007 which also was the first time when all distance courses shifted to totally online courses. In year 2008 the department determined to promote courses in 100 % study pace totally online. The results show that these courses attract much more students compared to the traditional campus courses which over the years attracted less and less students. The extreme increase of number of students might not only be dependent on the online mode. At the moment there are a lot of possible students in Sweden due to large birthrate in the late 1980s and early 1990s which also is combined with a low conjuncture in society. The income from online courses totally 2010 was 778 700 Euro and 55 800 Euro from campus courses. The transition from distance to online courses has contributed to more students (economy of scale) which make it possible to release resources for pedagogic development work. The online courses have also contributed to better working conditions for the teachers. Without the conscious educational management strategy the alternative might have been to discontinue general educational courses, which had been a serious threat for education as an academic subject. One conclusion we draw is that ICT pedagogical development needs both technical and pedagogical support in combination with support from a strategic leadership.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
European Distance and E-Learning Network, 2011 , 2011. 2-3 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-46775ISBN: 978-963-87914-5-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-46775DiVA: diva2:440766
EDEN 2011 Annual Conference, Dublin, Irland, 19-22 june