Measuring the Economic Benefits of E-Learning: A Proposal for a New Index for Academic Environments

By Marengo, Agostino; Marengo, Vittorio | Journal of Information Technology Education, Annual 2005 | Go to article overview

Measuring the Economic Benefits of E-Learning: A Proposal for a New Index for Academic Environments


Marengo, Agostino, Marengo, Vittorio, Journal of Information Technology Education


Introduction--The Context

In the last five years, European Public Administration, in particular that within universities, has shown renewed interest in applications geared to information technology training. Its subsequent rapid development has helped accelerate and optimize knowledge of IT, overcoming the barriers of time and space which are characteristic of traditional training.

The European Union Council, during a meeting in Lisbon in 2000, recommended that national governments organize a rapid acceleration in IT training to adopt the levels necessary for the European society of the third millennium.

Following this recommendation, the European Community Commission adopted an initiative entitled "e-Learning--considering tomorrow's training". All member states were asked to "persevere in efforts to integrate information and communication technologies in teaching and training" and to "take advantage of the potential of internet, multimedia and virtual learning systems to realize in as short a time as possible an improved and permanent education."

These measures, initially aimed solely at strengthening infrastructures and equipment, are increasingly directed towards other areas; teaching content, ensuring quality and standards, training the trainers themselves, organizational changes, the transformation of education and training processes and the training and re-skilling of public sector employees.

Study Objectives and Methodology

The principal objective is to set up a possible action plan which indicates both the pros and cons of the use of IT in the strategies, services and products to be used from a cost point of view.

The authors considered that in the late 1980s Gartner examined the full costs related to desktop technology, and Ted Bullen, a strategic consulting manager at IBM, laid out the specific costs for the lifecycle of a PC including planning, purchasing, deployment, support, asset management, and disposal.

This will enable an evaluation of the Return On Investment (ROI) using the new concept of Yield Index "e-lYI" (e-learning Yield Index), introduced in this study. These results should interest any Faculty or University which is planning to introduce e-learning methodology to its didactic organization.

The Yield Index "e-lYI" suggests an innovative way to evaluate the implementation of e-learning methodologies into campus based environments; and still the new index will help to manage the transition from the "classical" University structure to the innovative structure needed by the e-learning implementation.

In this study, a Pilot Course will be taken into consideration and Critical Success Factors will be defined, factors innate in any Blended course.

In the subsequent phase, costs will be estimated and the ROI and "e-lYI" assessed for an e-learning course. It should be borne in mind that the costs of planning and operating such a course, as well as those of its methodology evaluation, could be much lower if a Faculty decided to standardize this method and use the competencies acquired for other courses offered.

The pilot course was based in a remote locality: how will the cost and ROI differ if the course is Blended rather than Face-2-Face (F2F)? How can a Faculty decide which course is more appropriate? How can the Yield Index e-lYI be used to understand whether such a change will be successful from a quality and economic point of view?

It must be seen through the e-lYI that the choice of an e-learning based course is a positive one for the administration. What would be the end result if a Faculty decided to establish a series of Blended courses (rather than a single one)? Would the ROI increase or decrease? What would happen to the e-lYI?

Furthermore, the management of a University needs to allow for increasingly more budget cuts. It would therefore be extremely interesting to consider the ROI in a University that decided to adopt e-learning practices for institutional training through the Open Source Learning Management Systems. …

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