Evaluating E-learning in Higher Education

Dr Gunilla Mårald

Technology-enhanced learning has become an essential part of the learning process for today’s students. In order to improve and expand e-learning solutions in higher education, it is crucial the address the various needs and opinions of students who use them. At ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN, Dr. Gunilla Mårald from the Umeå University in Sweden will present a study about the students’ perspective on ICT in higher ed


The main intentions of the study carried out by Dr. Gunilla Mårald from the Umeå University were to evaluate how students experience the benefit of IT-supported education and to investigate the students’ reasons for canceling courses. Additionally the project team from Umeå University wanted to explore the changes in different actors’ attitudes towards ICT in higher education between 2003 and 2006.


The data for the study was collected at the Swedish Net University. This online university is a collection of IT-supported higher education distance courses offered by various institutions of higher education in Sweden. Currently there are 35 universities and university colleges involved. Distance courses within the Swedish Net University can be organized in different ways; the colleges themselves choose how they design and deliver their distance courses.


Why students choose e-learning varies. Looking at the Swedish Net University, it is important to recognize the difference between students who learn predominantly online and those who use e-learning as a complement to their education on campus. “You do not find the typical distance student but a lot of different student categories”, Dr. Mårald points out “These different student categories may have divergent views about the main advantages of ICT-supported distance learning.”


The study shows that with the establishment of the Net University, Sweden reached new groups of students, especially people who don’t have the chance to enjoy an education on campus due to other obligations like part-time jobs or children. Flexibility is one of the most important demands of this student category, but this demand can sometimes be one of the toughest challenges for universities. It is important to find a balance between the call for flexibility by one student category and the desire for pedagogical and social value of learning processes. “Some of the courses that the Swedish Net University offers are totally net-based; the students do not need to come to the college for compulsory meetings. Dr. Mårald explains. “Other IT-supported courses may include compulsory meetings” Although these meetings can offer great value in terms of social interaction, they are not embraced by all students. Striking a balance between different demands of students and at the same time ensuring high-quality education must be one of the goals of a successful implementation of ICT in higher education.


To find out more about the study and the specific needs and demands of different student categories, you are cordially invited to take part in Dr. Mårald’s session at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN.

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