Your institution may have already adapted their business models to incorporate online learning, but it might not be the result of a coherent strategic or planned approach.
Online learning activities often emerge in pockets within an institution. Departments that have a history of providing distance learning courses are likely to be leading the way and probably incorporate online approaches.
Distance learning markets are predominantly postgraduate and often related to professional qualifications. This high profile, demand-led type of provision can result in the development of separate institutional systems and services to ensure that workplaces, which may be paying for courses, get the level of service that they require.
Your institution may already have these and decide to keep them separate from the undergraduate provision. Distance learning teams are likely to have considerable knowledge and experience that could feed into other courses that want to incorporate online elements.
Developing a business case
When individuals or departments introduce online learning, they may have had to navigate around, or even circumvent, several obstacles at an institutional level. Senior managers need to be involved, understand the benefits and be prepared to support system, policy and procedural changes.
Your institution should develop a clear business case for online learning that:
- Identifies various possible business models
- Outlines the benefits to different stakeholders
- Links proposals to the institutional vision and aims
- Considers the operational and resourcing aspects
- Offers an implementation plan.
Strategies and policies
Your institution should consider the impact of online learning on support services, administrative mechanisms and different staff across the organisation. It also needs to incorporate online learning into existing strategies and policies or create new ones.
For example, your institution may have a strategy for implementing educational technology, which could include online learning. Putting it in institutional strategies sends out clear messages to staff about institutional commitment, and suggests that appropriate support mechanisms will be in place to support staff through transitions.
Taking a strategic and integrated approach to online learning means that your institution has to acknowledge how complex this may be - from changing IT policies to supporting curriculum change, or even expanding the student demographic.
It also requires a coherent, institution-wide approach to managing change – and senior managers may need to adopt less risk-averse attitudes.
Your institution needs to provide appropriate and equitable support for online students and understand the staffing and wider resourcing implications. This includes technical, educational and pastoral support, covered in our accompanying guide, curriculum design and support for online learning.
|Barriers||What you can do|
|Cultural resistance to change||Identify and appoint champions at all levels of the institution|
|Adopt a coherent managing change programme|
|Embed online learning in institutional strategies and policies|
|Provide staff training and support|
|Recognise online teaching approaches in staff appraisal mechanisms|
|Institution is unaware of the benefits for different stakeholders||Develop a business case for online learning; provide staff engagement activities, training and support|
|Learn from external stakeholders, such as industry and professions|
|Learn from past, present and future students|
|Learn from other institutions|