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Content and Intense Cooperation, not Technology, are Essential for Quality Outcomes in e-Learning

Book Contribution - Book Chapter Conference Contribution

The experiences with e-learning at the faculty of Medicine and Health sciences of Ghent University are evaluated in this paper. The aim is to delineate the conditions necessary for e-learning to bring quality improvement in education and knowledge acquisition. Since 2002 several digital logistics were introduced to improve the educational process. The print library was transformed into a full digital information system, constantly available on the web. Next to broad online journal access, e-Books now cover the entire curriculum. A wide variety of bibliographic and factual databases, a fast working interlibrary loan system, dissertations database, open access sources, institutional archive and academic bibliography, easy access to instructional materials, are all available for our users. The library space has changed in a digital study-platform with 160 desk top computers, 100 of which in a networked e-class. The digital course system offers on-line communication with and between educators and learners, and includes group collaboration possibility, Wiki and portfolio. Software programs are available using server-based computing.Despite the introduction of appropriate technology, its use is incomplete and the overall quality outcomes in knowledge acquisition seem limited. After six years of availability of all these digital auxiliaries, only a limited number of courses offer interactivity. The content of the learning platform is greatly limited to syllabi and PowerPoint presentations', the contact education is given primarily in class lectures and tutorials. Moreover we observe a limited use of the offered information resources and facilities. And above all, we have no single indication that our students acquire more knowledge. Two major factors relate to quality outcomes: content management and cooperation/collaboration. For both factors we list examples of activities which might promote the educational outcomes:1. Improvement of content management: Promote constantly resources and facilities, development of new educational digital resources, integrate digital resources in the curriculum, develop a (multi-centre?) archive of educational materials, constantly measure student workload (to avoid information overload), train the staff in the use of digital resources (students get formal education), develop alternative assessment methods2. Better cooperation: Integrate the materials over individual courses (recognition and booster effects), change the expectancies and attitudes of both educators and learners, create a team responsibility for education, improve technical support for the teaching staff in the construction of digital learning output, train the educators in e-course and e-evaluation design.e-Learning certainly has the potential of improving the quality outcomes of education, but this depends largely on content management, and more importantly, on human commitment to intensively collaborate and network between all participants in the learning process. Technology alone cannot produce any real beneficial effect on knowledge acquisition. Technology without added value is not worth the effort and investment.
Pages: 616 - 622
Publication year:2008