Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Is There a Value Paradox of E-Learning in MBA Programs?

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Is There a Value Paradox of E-Learning in MBA Programs?

Article excerpt

Introduction

E-learning has become a strategic necessity for many organizations engaged in education or training (Hiltz & Turoff, 2005; Neumann, 1994). Academic institutions invest money, lecturers spend time and efforts answering students and supervising online activities, and websites are loaded with enrichment materials. Utilizing these resources, students are engaged in online activities, such as reading and posting messages in online discussion forums, checking out relevant links to other websites, and reading current newspaper excerpts. The question arises then, academically as well as practically, what is the relative value of all these activities?

There are many different values of e-learning services: they may increase student satisfaction (Levy, 2006), or enhance the learning process (Hiltz & Turoff, 2002), and therefore, increase student retention. Nevertheless, not all e-learning services are of equal value. Some distance learning environments or tools may be more effective than others (Alavi Marakas, & Yoo, 2002; Rovai & Jordan, 2004), and students may regard some activities as much more valuable than others (Levi, 2006).

Since the value of E-learning provided information is relative and depends on the user and the circumstances (Ahituv, 1980, 1989), we relate to three groups of users: academic institutions, teachers, and students.

Student retention is one of the most important challenges facing distance education institutions (Eastmond, 1995; Rovai, 2002; Tresman, 2002; Woodley, 2004; Guri-Rosenblit, 2005). As more and more academic institutions embed distance e-learning elements into their programs (Alavi & Leidner, 2001; Hiltz & Turrof, 2005) and incorporate distance or blended learning into their programs, the research questions grow in importance (Hirschheim, 2005). Thus, from an academic institution perspective, the value of e-learning should be measured by its effectiveness in increasing student retention and willingness to recommend the program to others.

The value of e-learning to students depends on many things. Among these are the field of study and the purpose of study. We chose to examine the value of e-learning to MBA students, since their motives for study are usually different from those of other graduate students and also because this is a very popular field that serves as a major income resource for many institutions. The time these students can invest in learning is limited, as most of them also work full time and sometimes also have a family to take care of. As a result of this balancing act, students need to set priorities. And so, they miss classes, make other compromises, and some of them adopt a satisficer approach. Simon (1957) suggested that satisficing decision makers aspire to reach a satisfactory solution, and not necessarily the optimal one (Ronen, Pliskin, & Pass, 2006, pp. 14-18). In our context, a student who adopts a satisficer approach would aspire to successfully complete the courses by achieving a passing grade (or some other level of aspiration, e.g., an average grade of 80% out of 100%), and would invest the least amount of effort required to achieve this goal. Even if indeed students would like to study more, and attain the highest grades, or broaden their knowledge, they have limited attention (Simon, 1971; Davenport & Beck, 2000, 2001). The flexibility of e-learning and distance education may help these students. Therefore, it is especially interesting to examine the value of various e-learning services to MBA students.

The strategic need to invest in e-learning is a budget burden constraint in academic organizations and a strain on teachers' limited time. This may be especially important to new academics who must excel in both teaching and research in order to get tenure. Hence, on one hand they believe that they need to invest in their courses' websites to achieve high student evaluations, and on the other hand, they should engage in academic research and other activities. …

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