Benchmarking e-learning in higher education: Lessons learned from international projects was the title of my dissertation which I public defended the 14th December 2012, at University of Oulu Graduate School, University of Oulu, Faculty of Technology, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Finland.
The academic dissertation was presented with the assent of the Doctoral
Training Committee of Technology and Natural Sciences of the University
of Oulu for public defence in Auditorium IT116, Linnanmaa, on 14
December 2012, at 12 noon.
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Professor Pekka Kess
Doctor Pekka Belt
Professor Janerik Lundquist, Linköping University, SE
Doctor Keith Williams; Open University, UK
Abstract is also available in Finish and Swedish
Higher education is facing a range of major challenges during the twenty-first century. Personalised, flexible and open learning are considered among the driving forces, thus, issues of quality must be urgently addressed.
This qualitative, multiple-case-study research with single and cross-case analysis focuses on benchmarking e-learning in higher education. The results of this study include providing conceptual lenses with which to see, discuss and perceive the complexity of benchmarking e-learning in higher education in extended, stretched and boundless learning environments. It has become obvious through the research that there is a need for new frames of reference for quality in e-learning. The choice of theoretical foundations for benchmarking e-learning will impact the consequences of accomplishing and selecting benchmarks.
This research provides directions and recommendations for the future regarding how to accomplish benchmarking e-learning in extended learning environments in which students can study, work and live independently of time and space with global resources at their disposal in lifelong learning environments. The greatest challenge identified in this study for integrating benchmarking e-learning into general quality assurance is the fact that the required changes related to and demanded for e-learning are not fully understood. The research shows that benchmarking as a method will have a significant impact on ordinary quality assurance in higher education.
This doctoral dissertation revealed challenges to integrate external quality audits and internally driven benchmarking. The studies have likewise revealed the need for methodological changes by quality assurance bodies and authorities carrying out audit and accreditation for integrating e-learning into quality assurance, as well as the need to fully understand the complexity and the special characteristics of e-learning. Probably, the challenge lies not with the system, success factors or benchmarks but in the lack of knowledge and experience of e-learning systems amongst those charged with implementation. The concept benchlearning was introduced as part of benchmarking exercises.