13 February 2012

#H807 case-studies in elearning innovation (2): Online Msc in Strategic Management in Africa

This case study description is part of Activity 2 - Week 2 in the H807 course at the OU.

The second case study describes the introduction of an online MSc in Strategic Management course by the University of Derby.  The course had been running some years as a face-to-face course and was then adapted to be offered both as a blended learning programme in Malawi and Botswana, and as a 'pure' online course.  In the blended learning option Derby Un. lecturers organized regular intensive 3-day seminars in the country.

The author is very critical of the experience and lists a number of encountered problems:

  • The online programme proved expensive due to additional time use (overhead, limited IT literacy, technical problems, slow typing)
  • Retention rates were lower with the online variant.  For the blended variant retention rates were similar to the face-to-face variant.
  • Many students had problems to access to materials due to low bandwidth speeds.
  • There was no audio- or video-conferencing component built in, as many students had insufficient internet connection speeds.
  • The author felt the online course was imposed by the institution to reach administrative targets.
  • Due to these problems students were not satisfied with the course.
Although the case study lacks suggestions on how the course could be improved or a discussion of potential cultural factors that hampered the adoption of elearning, the case-study highlights some important considerations to take when introducing an online course:
  • Outline what what IT access and skills students need to have to complete the course;
  • Provide technical IT support to staff and students
  • Monitor time use for all parts of the course (development, update, marking, tutoring...)
  • Make a cost-benefit analysis.  In particular for small student cohorts a blended approach might be more cost-effective.
  • Ensure sufficient staff buy-in

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