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