How E-Learning Businesses Meet Client and End User Needs: Analysing the Collaborative Contexts DAVID RUSSELL, DAVID CALVEY & MARK BANKS
Business Process, Experience and Memory: Educational Approaches and Technology Tools for a Global Workforce DANIEL M. CARCHIDI & DAVID J. MCCARTHY
Part II: Challenges for the Academy
From High Level Clarity to Ground Level Confusion: Exactly Where do IT-Mediated Education Policies Fit? STEPHEN D. REEVE & STEPHEN H. FLOWERS
Moving a University Toward On-line Learning: Opportunities, Challenges, and Technologies DREW PARKER & ANDREW GEMINO
Linking Pedagogical Innovation and Information Technology to Enhance Business Education SERGIO VASQUEZ BRONFMAN
The Experience of Self-Organized Learning Through the Use of Learning Plans for Knowledge Management VIVIEN LEE LOOI CHNG & STEVEN COOMBS
Part III: Team and Collaborative Learning
Using Student Consulting Team Assignments as a Vehicle to Teach a Systems Development Course 113 SYLNOVIE MERCHANT Using Team Learning in the Classroom: Experiences and Lessons LEROY F. CHRIST, MARY Y. CHRIST, A. STEVEN GRAHAM, MICHAEL K. MCCUDDY & WENDY L. PIRIE
Using Teams in the Classroom: Meeting the Challenge of Evaluating Students’ Work MICHAEL K. MCCUDDY & WENDY L. PIRIE
International Management: Early Experience in Multicultural Virtual Team Interaction KEN MORSE
Part IV : Problem Based Learning
PRAXIS: A Practice-Based Instructional System in the First Year of an Industrial Engineering Program WILLEM M. VAN WOERDEN & NYNKE JO SMIT
Using the Web for Problem-Based Learning 189 NYNKE JO SMIT, MAARTEN VAN RIEMSDIJK & JAN VAN DER VEEN Effects of Problem-Based Learning in Business Education: A Comparison Between a PBL and a Conventional Educational Approach PIET VAN DEN BOSSCHE, MIEN SEGERS, DAVID GIJBELS & FILIP DOCHY Learning about Teaching Information Systems in a Problem-Based Curriculum: An Exploratory Study of the Impact of Students’ Individual Differences on their Conception and Perception of Problem Tasks JAN NIJHUIS, MIEN SEGERS & WIM GIJSELAERS
Part V : Distance and On Line Learning
The Use of a Virtual Learning Environment to Support Learners on Work-Based Learning Programs LEN BIRD
Distance Learning: The Experience of Accounting at the University of Natal (Durban), South Africa ANTHONY B. LUMBY & ADRIAN D. SAVILLE
Creating and Improving a “Virtual Object” Through Web-Mediated Discourse GORDON WELLS
Testing Social Information Processing Theories in Distance Education WM. BENJAMIN MARTZ, JR.& MORGAN M. SHEPHERD
viii PART VI : Specific Applications of Learning Technology Electronic Tutorial for Moral Reasoning in Business Education: A Technological Learning Tool to Facilitate Students’ Moral Reasoning MARGARITA ALEMÁN VARGAS
The Five Key Benefits of On-line Final Examinations (with Three Free Bonus Benefits) JEREMY B. WILLIAMS
Assertion-Reason Assessment in Formative and Summative Tests: Results from Two Graduate Case Studies LUKE B. CONNELLY
Exploring the Implications of Videoconferencing for Management Learning VIVIEN HODGSON & MIREIA ASENSIO
Margarita Aleman Vargas, Faculty Member of Bilingual High School, The Monterrey Institute of Technology Campus, Guadalajara, México. firstname.lastname@example.org Mireia Asensio Department of Management Learning, The School of Management, Lancaster University, UK. email@example.com Mark Banks, Manchester Institute for Popular Culture, Manchester Metropolitan University, M15 6LL, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org Len Bird, Work-based Learning Unit, Coventry Business School, Coventry University, Priory Street, Coventry. CV1 5FB, UK. email@example.com David Calvey, Centre for Employment Research, Manchester Institute for Telematics and Employment Research, Manchester Metropolitan University, M15 6LL, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org Daniel Carchidi, Knowledge Systems GE Capital, Performance Technology Solutions, USA. email@example.com Leroy Christ, College of Business Administration, Valparaiso University, Indiana, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Christ, College of Business Administration, Valparaiso University, Indiana, USA. email@example.com Luke Connelly, Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology, 2 George Street, Brisbane, Q 4001, Australia. firstname.lastname@example.org Steven Coombs, Department of Curriculum Studies & Secondary Education, School of Education, Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park Ca. 94928-3609, USA. email@example.com Filip Dochy. Educational Innovation and Information Technology (EDIT), Faculty of Law, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands. Filip.firstname.lastname@example.org Stephen Flowers, University of Brighton Business School, UK. email@example.com Andrew Gemino, Faculty of Business Administration, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org David Gijbels, Educational Innovation and Information Technology (EDIT), Faculty of Law, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands. David.email@example.com Wim Gijselaers, Department of Educational Development and Educational Research, University of Maastricht, PO Box 616, 6200 MD, Maastricht, the Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org Steven Graham, Purdue University North Central, Indiana, USA. email@example.com Vivien Hodgson, Department of Management Learning, The School of Management, Lancaster University, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org Vivien Lee Looi Chng, Temasek Polytechnic 21 Temasek Avenue 1 Singapore 529 757. email@example.com
Anthony Lumby, Faculty of Management Studies, University of Natal (Durban), South Africa. firstname.lastname@example.org Wm Benjamin Martz, Information Systems Department, College of Business, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, USA. email@example.com Sylnovie Merchant Department of Management, California State University, Sacramento, California, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org David McCarthy, Run Fast Inc, USA. email@example.com Michael McCuddy, College of Business Administration, Valparaiso University, Indiana, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org Kenneth Morse, Department of Marketing & International Management, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand. email@example.com Jan Nijhuis, Department of Management Science, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Maastricht, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org Drew Parker, Faculty of Business Administration, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada. email@example.com Wendy Pirie, College of Business Administration, Valparaiso University, Indiana, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org Stephen Reeve, University of Brighton Business School, UK. email@example.com Maarten van Riemsdijk, Faculty of Technology & Management, University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org David Russell, Centre for Employment Research, Manchester Institute for Telematics and Employment Research, Manchester Metropolitan University, M15 6LL, UK. email@example.com
Adrian Saville, School of Economics and Management, University of Natal (Durban), South Africa. firstname.lastname@example.org Mien Segers, Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Maastricht, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands. email@example.com Morgan Shepherd, Information Systems Department, College of Business, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, USA. mshepher@ uccs.edu Nynke Smit, Faculty of Technology & Management, University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands, firstname.lastname@example.org Piet van den Bossche, Department of Educational Research and Development, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands. email@example.com Jan van der Veen, University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org Sergio Vasquez Bronfman, ESCP-EAP, 79 Avenue de la République; 75011 Paris; France. email@example.com Gordon Wells, Dept. of Education, University of California, 1156 High St.,Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org Jeremy Williams, Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia. email@example.com Willem van Woerden, Faculty of Technology & Management, University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org
It would not have been possible to produce this book without support and help from a wide variety of sources. First, we are very grateful to all those who attended the EDiNEB VIII conference in Nice and submitted papers for our consideration. While this presented us with many challenges in drawing up a short list of those to include, it clearly demonstrated the high degree of interest in, and the wealth of experience of, educational innovation amongst the membership of the EDiNEB network. Second, thanks are due to staff of EDHEC School of Management who hosted and helped to organize such a successful conference in a very attractive location. Last, but by no means least, we greatly appreciate the help received from EDiNEB personnel. We particularly wish to acknowledge the contribution of Bob Janssen Steenberg and Henny Dankers who coped admirably with the very difficult task of getting the book into a camera-ready format.
Roger Ottewill Liz Borredon Laurent Falque Bruce Macfarlane Ann Wall
Roger Ottewill (BSc Econ, University of London) currently combines a part-time research post in the Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) at the University of Southampton with a very active semi-retirement. Prior to joining the CLT on 1st October 2001, he was employed as a lecturer for 28 years by Sheffield Hallam University. During this period he supported learners on a wide variety of courses at many levels from sub-degree to postgraduate. His principal subject areas were in the fields of public administration and business and management. From the early 1990s he became increasingly involved in education research and development and played a key role in projects relating to aspects of resource based learning, vocational education, course evaluation, language learning and cross-cultural skill development. These resulted in conference papers, including contributions to two papers included in earlier volumes of this series; articles in a wide variety of academic journals; and co-editorship (with Bruce Macfarlane) of a book Effective Learning and Teaching in Business and Management, published by Kogan Page in 2001. As a member of the CLT he is helping to enhance the quality of learning, teaching and assessment by promoting good practice and fostering innovation. He retains his links with Sheffield Hallam University through a Visiting Fellowship with the School of Business and Finance. Liz Borredon (MA in Management Education by Research, Lancaster University) is a Professor in the Department of Management and Strategy and Deputy Head of Centre for Languages and International Communication at the EDHEC Business School, Lille, France. She is on the Board of Directors of the European Mentoring and Coaching Centre and on the Mentoring Committee of the Academy of Management (AoM) USA. xv
Her research is in mentoring, dialogue and organisational learning. Her present studies focus on the role of mentor within collaborative learning and knowledge creation processes. She has published numerous articles and regularly contributes to AoM annual meetings. Laurent Falque (PhD, University of Tours) is a Professor in Human Resource Management in the EDHEC School of Management, Lille. Previously, he worked as human resources manager for 11 years. At EDHEC he introduced problem-based learning in 1997. He is a member of the EDiNEB board. During his studies for his PhD he moved gradually into the field of decision-making research. Currently, he is focusing on discernment and deliberation in decision making and acting as a coach. Bruce Macfarlane (PhD, University of London) is Reader in Higher Education at City University, London. Before joining City University in October, 2000 he worked for 13 years as a business and management lecturer in higher education. His research interests incorporate values in higher education and the pedagogy of business and management education. He recently co-edited (with Roger Ottewill) the first book in a new Institute for Learning and Teaching/Kogan Page subject series entitled Effective Learning and Teaching in Business and Management (2001). His professional activities incorporate work as an accreditor for the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, membership of the editorial boards of Teaching in Higher Education; the Journal of Management Development; and the Journal of Business Ethics Education and the organisation of conferences on the teaching of business ethics in collaboration with the European Business Ethics Network (UK). Currently, he is writing a book on the ethics of teaching in higher education. Ann Wall (BA, University of Nottingham) is currently a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University in the School of Business and Finance. For more than twenty years she has been involved with students on a variety of courses at a variety of levels, from sub-degree to postgraduate. Her principal subject areas are public and social administration, particularly health care policy. Since the early 1990s she has also been interested in education research and development and has contributed to several projects relating to aspects of resource based learning, vocational education and course evaluation. She has presented papers at three EDiNEB conferences, one of which was included in an earlier volume in this series. Other publications include four textbooks on the NHS and community health services; and a number of contributions to pedagogic journals such as, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, Journal of Vocational Education and Training, Quality Assurance in Education and Education and Training. She has also written case studies on general practice for use in GP training and open learning materials for the Open University.
As business and management educators seek to respond positively to the ever-changing environment within which they practice, so there is an increasing need to keep abreast of developments in pedagogy and technology. Without an appreciation of current pedagogic and/or technological thinking it is unlikely that innovations in educational practice will be as robust as might otherwise be the case. Thus, it is incumbent on educators to ensure that in seeking to improve the learning experience of their students they are prepared to be reflective and evidence-driven in their approach. The papers in this edited volume illustrate many different aspects of such a process. They have been contributed by educators from a variety of countries thereby providing a truly international perspective on pedagogy, technology and innovation. Some of the papers focus on the broader institutional and corporate context, others on more specific aspects of pedagogy and approaches to learning, teaching and assessment. In a number there is a strong research focus with both qualitative and quantitative methodologies being represented. Others are essentially evaluative reports of a particular innovation based on the personal reflections and practice-based analysis of those involved. The papers are also illustrative of the range and variety of subject areas in which EDiNEB members have an interest, from economics to business ethics and from knowledge management to accountancy. Likewise, there are differences relating to level and context. Some relate to undergraduate education others to postgraduate. Many are concerned with campus-based provision, but distance education and learning in the workplace are also covered. Notwithstanding this diversity, what all the papers have in common is that the underlying motivation for what they xvii
report is an enhancement of the quality of the learning environment for those seeking a deeper knowledge and understanding of the world of business, management, economics and finance. Naturally, within this collection there is a strong emphasis on the application of learning technology but this is not at the expense of nontechnologically informed aspects of pedagogy. Indeed one of the important messages is that technology should be seen, at least in an educational context, as a means to an end and not as an end in itself. That end, as indicated earlier, should always be the enrichment of the student learning experience and/or an extension of the range of learning outcomes being pursued. In organising the papers selected for inclusion in the book, the editors have “worked with the grain” of what was submitted for consideration by contributors to the eighth EDiNEB international conference held in Nice rather than a pre-determined plan. What has emerged is a structure in which the earlier papers tend to deal with macro-level issues, reflecting business and institution-wide change, and the later papers with more micro-level topics, focusing on specific teaching contexts and strategies. To assist readers the book has been divided into 6 parts. However, these should not be regarded as watertight compartments since a number of papers deal with a variety of topics and could easily be allocated to more than one part of the book. That said, as far as possible, papers have been grouped according to their major theme.
Part I: The Business Context The two papers which make up this part of the book both, in their different ways, illustrate developments within the business world. One by Russell, Calvey and Banks focuses on e-learning businesses that have emerged to meet particular training needs of the business community. Depending on perspective, these can be seen as either complementing or competing with traditional academic providers, such as universities and colleges. The other paper by McCarthy and Carchidi considers how a large conglomerate, General Electric, is using technology to meet the development needs of its staff. Together, these papers are a reminder to those in academic institutions that for business related subjects, at least, the educational community extends well beyond the hallowed walls of academe. Additionally, they indicate some lessons and potential challenges for colleagues working in universities and colleges.
Part II: Challenges for the Academy This part of the book includes papers that deal with challenges facing those working in an academic environment. All have a particular resonance for business and management educators and those in related disciplines. Here, however, the focus is more inward looking. Most of the challenges relate to the learning environment, in particular technological enhancement, and to the needs of educators and of learners in this respect. Two papers by Reeve and Flowers and Parker and Gemino adopt a sector level and an institutional level perspective respectively. Reeve and Flowers raise some very pertinent questions regarding the way forward for IT mediated learning in higher education. While most of their empirical material relates to the UK, it does have a worldwide significance. Arguably Parker and Gemino are more positive but still recognise the difficulties involved in “moving a university towards on-line learning”. Again, while this is a case study of one Canadian university, the lessons are universal. The other three papers concentrate on challenges that relate more directly to students and their learning. Vasquz Bronfman, writing from a French perspective, seeks to address the question of how to “link information technology and active learning methods in order to add value to business education”. Drawing upon evidence from three case studies he reaches the conclusion that in exploiting the potential of information technology, it is important to avoid the dangers of technocentrism and put pedagogical considerations first. While the World Wide Web represents a significant resource for learning one of the key issues facing educators is how to get students to use the information it provides in an informed and critical way. Lee and Coombs address this challenge arguing that self-organized learning is an important way to overcome the “‘cut and paste’ mentality”. Using economic concepts and principles as examples, they recommend learning plans as a way of building the competence of students in this respect.
Part III: Team and Collaborative Learning In this part of the book various aspects of one type of response to some of the developments/challenges highlighted in Parts I and II are explored. As the title indicates, this involves the use of teamwork to enrich the learning experiences of students. Marchant’s contribution is intended as a guide to those wishing to improve teaching effectiveness and students learning within the
Management Information Science/Systems disciplines. In the case described, student-consulting teams were used to prepare students for the realities of designing systems for actual organisations. The success of the programme explained lies in the course reflecting what systems analysts do, together with the tools and techniques used in this discipline. A complementary strength of the courses is learning about team management and team dynamics. Pirie, Christ and colleagues encourage faculty to develop interactive team learning situations. They explain how courses conducted at Valparaiso and Purdue Universities provide “exceptional learning opportunities”. Students’ subject mastery was enhanced and, in addition, their time management, study skills and behavioural competencies were developed as a result of learning collaboratively. Their analysis is complemented by that of McCuddy and Pirie, who demonstrate how peer assessment enhances learning and, within this process, the need to focus on concrete behaviour rather than abstractions. The authors are adamant about the faculty guiding students in developing capacities in this area. Morse focuses on the successes and limitations of virtual team exercises in multicultural environments. In terms of success, he highlights how a diverse group from different locations can be brought together without significant expense enhancing the participants’ perception of the realistic nature of their education and, in the process, creating a flexible virtual learning space that facilitates communication. The difficulties are primarily technological, exacerbated by reliance on a single language (English); by cultural behaviour patterns which differ with regard to ease and openness in seeking assistance; and by the amount of time participants spend on familiarising themselves with personal isolation embodied in electronic communication.
Part IV: Problem-Based Learning (PBL) One pedagogic innovation that has had a considerable impact in the Netherlands and with which EDiNEB has been particularly associated is PBL. Thus, not surprisingly, the four papers, which comprise this part of the book, all have Dutch authors. Each deals with different aspects of this very influential approach in contemporary business education. Learners in the field of business, management and economics are often attracted by the prospect of a qualification that will lead directly to material success. For educators working with students impatient to see the relevance of learning to a practical context this can represent a significant motivational challenge. Prompted by concerns about the enthusiasm and success rate of their students, Van Woerden and Smit contend that a highly structured
approach to problem-based group learning is a way of motivating students to work harder and improving their academic success. It is also, they argue, a means of easing the difficulties students experience in adapting to the demands of university education. Smit and colleagues demonstrate how the introduction of web support has stimulated the use of theoretical material in case study exercises. They also explain how on-campus students have gained “added value” from having a shared electronic workspace facility. In their paper, a group from the University of Maastricht (Van den Bossche, Segers, Gijbels and Dochy) compare PBL with a conventional educational approach. Using a quasi-experimental research methodology their results suggest that students learning in a problem based environment score perform better than their counterparts in a conventional environment with respect to knowledge acquisition and case studies. However, they found no statistically significant difference for the application of knowledge or skill development. They argue that the results confirm PBL as a “powerful learning environment”. The paper by Nijhuis and colleagues reports the results of research into a problem based, information systems course. The findings suggest that motivation and guidance are important task elements regardless of the preferred learning style or personality of students and that this should be taken into account by tutors when designing problem based tasks. However, what is also needed is similar research in other subject areas in order to contain further insights into the relevance of course content in the design of tasks.
Part V: Distance and On-Line Learning This group of papers is particularly international in composition including contributions from the UK, South Africa and the USA. They also carry a clear and optimistic message. Distance and on-line learning can, if used thoughtfully and in conjunction with face-to-face learning, not only enhance student learning but can compensate for some of the shortcomings of traditional methods. Bird describes how a virtual learning environment was used to create a “community of practice” for work-based students that successfully combined the university, workplace and wider professional community. A distance learning programme for accountants, described by Lumby and Saville, increased the participation of part time, non- white students in accountancy education. Wells explores the use of the Web Knowledge Forum to generate discourse amongst student and teachers in between their class meetings. In the final paper, by Martz and Shepherd, a comparison is made between
distance and on-campus students, in particular the affiliation needs of students and how these can be met in a distance learning context.
Part VI: Specific Applications of Learning Technology In the final part of the book, a number of very specific applications of learning technology are analysed/or evaluated. Aleman Vargas’ contribution deals with a very important, although sometimes sadly neglected, aspect of business education, namely business ethics. She demonstrates how an electronic tutorial allows students to develop and practice moral reasoning in their own time and at their own pace, released from the “threats” which sometimes inhibit students in the classroom. Although the setting is the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico, the innovation could well inspire developments elsewhere. The authors of the next two papers, Williams and Connelly, are from the Queensland Institute of Technology in Australia. Their particular interest is the role that technology can play in student assessment. Williams agues that appropriately designed and implemented on-line examinations can present educators and students with a number of important benefits including a reduction in cheating and stress and an enhancement in the quality of learning. Connelly sees on-line assessment as facilitating formative, as well as summative, assessment. This is particularly important given the increasing pressure on the time available for tutors to support learning by providing students with opportunities to practice and obtain constructive feedback. One very specialised type of technology, videoconferencing, and its application in educational settings is the theme of a final paper by Hodgson and Ascensio. Perceived problems with videoconferencing, the authors claim, are more to do with the way the learning event has been designed than with the shortcomings of the media itself. Two aspects are explained as critical: the first is “social presence”, the second the degree of student “engagement”. Hodgson and Asensio provide a framework for understanding learners’ needs and programme design components for entering a new era of programme delivery. It is anticipated that this collection of papers will inspire and encourage others to innovate and will contribute to the forging of partnerships across national boundaries. There is much to be gained from international collaboration in those spheres of education of particular concern to EDiNEB members and, indeed, all involved in business and economics education worldwide. Internationalisation in the business world needs to be matched by developments in the academic world. Technology is eroding old divisions, such as those between the academic and corporate worlds, thereby
contributing to the globalisation of business knowledge and educational processes. Thus, it is vital for educators to keep abreast of what is happening. Clearly, in this respect, EDiNEB has played and will continue to play an increasingly important role.
THE BUSINESS CONTEXT
How E-Learning Businesses Meet Client and End User Needs: Analysing the Collaborative Contexts
David Russell1, David Calvey2 & Mark Banks2 1
Centre for Employment Research, Manchester Institute for Telematics and Employment Research, Manchester Metropolitan Unversity, UK; 2Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
This paper reports on research undertaken into the emerging e-learning industry in the North West of England. It is based on findings from SMILE (Skills for the Missing Industry’s Leaders and Enterprises), a research project part sponsored by the ESF/Adapt-University for Industry. The research has assessed and evaluated management skills within small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), specifically those producing digital media based educational and training materials, hereafter known as e-learning products, a fast growing and economically important sub-sector which has emerged to meet increased demand for multimedia based learning and training materials in educational and workplace environments. Previous research has argued that creative management skills may be lacking in the UK industry context – potentially leading to job losses and thus a “missing industry” (Speake & Powell, 1997). Our research has aimed to identify just how, and how far, managers in such firms can ensure that the creators of education and training materials are able to meet demands for new and innovative products, that not only utilize the best of convergent technologies, but can respond to consumer demands for both bespoke and generic learning products. The chapter examines the ways in which SMEs that provide elearning products collaborate and communicate with their clients, customers and/or end users. 3
David Russell, David Calvey & Mark Banks
Our premise is this: given the increased demands for more sophisticated and “learning centered” products, it is becoming increasingly crucial for firms to source and exploit content, education, knowledge and expertise that is external to the traditional boundaries of the firm. This predominantly occurs in three ways. Firstly, there is the sourcing of content from the client – material that can be shaped into or inform the e-learning product in question. Secondly, and increasingly, there is the need to draw advice from external learning experts. It is now necessary for firms to open up their organization to exterior knowledge to create new collaborations that can position learning in the production process. Thirdly, given the necessity of providing effective learning that is sensitive to end user needs, it is now more common to involve or conceptualize the end user within the development process. Ensuring that learning products are able to engage with and enhance the learning of the end user involves more consultation, partnership and interaction with the learner than ever before. These shifts raise a set of problems related to how firms can effectively interact, exchange and collaborate with external agencies in order to create, distribute and evolve effective learning tools and products. Using case study examples from our qualitative research of over 20 companies, we show how firms are attempting to expand (and expound) new “learning communities” in order to effect progressive e-learning products. The phrase “learning community” we use to describe the interactions between the collection of “communities of practice” integral to the firm, and the range of external experts, clients and end-users implicated in the creation of an e-learning product. We feel that given the need for flexibility and creativity in this sub-sector (Swanson & Wise, 1997), the more firms can exploit or integrate external expertise, client creativity and learners’ knowledge and viewpoints, the more effective these learning communities and their products will be. However as we will reveal, while some successes have been identified, the strategies and pathways adopted in forming these new communities are often partial and uncertain. We conclude by observing that firms in the digital education and training sector need to more fully conceptualize and engage with the possibilities of expanding their learning communities to ensure the continued production of innovative e-learning products.
WHY LEARNING IS CRUCIAL
It is expected that the number of SMEs in the e-learning field will grow, yet businesses vary in the extent to which they possess detailed knowledge or interest in learning. We have identified a number of advertising,