Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Management of Innovative E-Learning Environments

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Management of Innovative E-Learning Environments

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) is an HBCU (95% African American, 2% White and 3% others) open admission institution. The female/male student ratio is 60/40. Traditionally a brick and mortar university, it now offers both ground-based and online courses. With the implementation of e-learning, the number of online classes being offered per semester has increased from 15 before Hurricane Katrina (August 2005) to over 100 at present. Furthermore, the Departments of Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education and General Studies now offer online undergraduate degree programs. An online graduate program in Museum Studies is also available. The average age of freshman students who took the survey ranged from 17 to 19.

The rapid expansion of e-learning at SUNO has created a need for greater understanding of the online learning dynamic from the perspective of students, of faculty, and of the administration. Earlier studies have paid little attention to real users of e-learning focusing instead on instructors or administrators. As a result, students' needs and demands have often been neglected in studying the design and implementation of e-learning, while administrators' or instructors' demands or assumptions have been the major focus of investigation (Oh, 2003). According to Oh (2003), administrators of higher education tend to view e-learning not from students' perspective, but from an internal organizational or technological prospective. In order to truly understand e-learning, administrators, instructors, and students should all be considered as part of the learning process. As such, educational institutions need to base e-learning programs on real circumstances by periodically examining students' and instructors' needs and attitudes towards e-learning and, on the basis of the findings, suggesting improvements to the e-learning environments.

Lyons (2004) confirmed that many professors use technology in the traditional classroom but would not teach online because they dislike the lack of personal interaction. Other online instructors, according to Lyons (2004), complained that answering emails and participating in discussion boards mean that online teaching takes up more of their time than a traditional class and criticized the attitudes and behaviors of online students who do not take deadlines seriously. The reality of online teaching can be confounding and upsetting and can make a talented teacher feel like an unmitigated failure (Laird, 2003; Lyons, 2004).

Tunison and Noonan (2001) stated that the development of e-learning may have a significant impact on the lives of both students and teachers because it is a form of school improvement and innovation that confronts many of the short-comings of education. New developments in e-learning and increasingly sophisticated learning technologies are beginning to have a major impact in universities. It is clear that universities need to adapt to the impact of technology on learning. Communication technologies that are free from time or space constraints provide new challenges to universities on how courses should be organized (Jones & O'Shea, 2004). Learning in higher education is now presented with hardware and/or software tools that can allow institutions at this level to overcome some of the limitations associated with the lack of linkage between instructors and learners separated by time and place (Oh, 2003). According to Oh (2003), Tony Blair, the then U.K. prime minister once said, "Technology has revolutionized the way we work and is now set to transform education. Children cannot be effective in tomorrow's world if they are trained in yesterday's skills. Nor should teachers be denied the tools that other professionals take for granted." Furthermore, according to the E.A.SY. Project (European Agency for Easy access to virtual campus), institutions of higher education should provide information, training and counseling to students, students with special needs (disabilities), teachers/trainers, tutors, mentors, administrative staff through the effective use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in order to promote virtual mobility as a complement and/or alternative to physical mobility. …

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