Web Triad: The Impact of Web Portals on Quality of Institutions of Higher Education-Case Study of Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Popovic, Ales, Lindic, Jaka, Stemberger, Mojca Indihar, Jaklic, Jurij, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology
Educational institutions are facing intense pressure to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness demonstrated in a measurable increase in student and faculty achievement. Institutions are also forced to adapt to the quickly changing environment (growing student population, greater community responsibility, cultural changes, lifelong learning, greater technology accessibility, new entrants and stronger existing competition). A factor of big influence is heterogeneity (students, their information and telecommunication equipment, their ethnologic background, knowledge). Disappearing borders and uniting Europe, the idea of perfect faculty and students' mobility, competition in the field of education, etc. are becoming important factors even in countries where this had not been the case before.
To be competitive, institutions of higher learning must constantly venture into new and innovative methods and radically change the educational outlook. They are forced to adapt the knowledge and experience from the business world. They need to realize that it is not just core functions but also the supporting functions that need to be addressed. New approaches to teaching pose challenges and opportunities to both faculty and administrators. E-learning as seen today is mostly related to, or even based on, the use of high technology (high bandwidth, new powerful hardware and software). Another important issue is a lack of IT resources in educational institutions, both in the form of technical staff and technology.
In the next section of this paper, we tackle the peculiarities of the educational environment in light of e-learning. In section 3, we present a model that illustrates the impact of web portals on the quality of institutions of higher education. Section 4 presents a case study of our institution in which the presented solution was carried out. In the last section we summarize our experiences and emphasize critical success factors for successful development, implementation, and use of the presented solution.
Educational Environment and E-Learning
E-learning is an upgrade to teaching and learning. In its broadest definition, e-learning includes instruction delivered via all electronic media including the internet, intranets, extranets, satellite broadcasts, audio/video tape, interactive TV, and CD-ROM (Govindasamy, 2002). If we redefine this definition, we would define e-learning as the use of the Internet and other related technologies to deliver, support, and enhance teaching, learning, and assessment. But there are several obstacles in the way of introducing e-learning in higher education institutions. We can divide them into technology-based and culturally-based. Technology vendors are focusing mainly on high technology solutions that offer interactive learning materials, usually in the form of multimedia and lectures delivered via video conferencing. The key difference between traditional class-based educational process and e-learning process lies in the medium carrying the educational process (Hamid, 2001). In a traditional environment, a teacher has full control over educational environment whereas in an e-learning environment from pedagogical viewpoint this is not the case due to smaller possibilities of adaptation.
As already mentioned, there are several issues related to e-learning focusing on these topics. The first issue is technology-based. Although the penetration of broad bandwidth connections to the Internet is rising, it is still not high enough to allow us to base e-learning on it. In the USA, more than 67% of users are still connected to the Internet with connection speed up to 56Kbps (Web Site Optimization, 2003). In Slovenia only 21% of users are using broadband connections (Slovenian Ministry of Information Society, 2004). There are also other technology-based obstacles, such as the need for special software and/or hardware. Special software is usually needed for creating multimedia-learning materials. …