As it has become clear today, education is global in the same way as economy. This is due to faster knowledge spreading, as well as usage
of new technologies. As any external influence to the system in equilibrium, the impact of foreign educational institutions to the educational market in Slovakia
will bring new challenges but new risks too. As it has been mentioned above, the e-education implementation is long-term process. Even if the final goal is to
offer some courses world-wide, we start at the Slovak universities to apply the e-education at the Slovak market mainly. To create the e-education system
efficiently, it is advantageous to negotiate between universities with the similar courses to establish a common core of curricula. In this way the number of
students using the same education tools will be increased and the expected investments of effort and money will be efficient. It is not easy to accept this concept
of common core for universities. We have a specific situation in Slovakia. Based on new Act on Higher education the number of study branches should to be
reduced. Big discussion about it is going on. It will be good, if the subject of the e-education is included in this discussion. The individual approach cannot be
successful enough. In accordance to that it can be assumed, that larger step towards the e-education may be done only by the mutual co-operation of universities.
It will be necessary:
- to identify education processes which will bring the biggest progress by using of the e-education principles
- to develop a new pedagogical approach for the e-education implementation in internal or external forms
- to understand the new teacher’s role
- to analyse human resources, and the existing infrastructure
- to develop a complex methodology how to implement the e-education to the existing university education system
It is not possible to implement the e-education simultaneously at all universities, and pilot projects are running on several universities at the present time.
However it will be necessary to have some coordination to identify barriers, and to propose how to overcome then, regardless their source. This may concern
methodology, human resources and infrastructure.
It would be ideal if the methodology came first, and afterwards step-by-step implementation followed it. It has been planned by the Slovak Ministry of Education
to develop a strategic plan for the IT implementation at universities, and one part of it will be oriented to the e-education. Parallel projects for the e-education have
been supported. At the University of Zilina, we follow two different approaches. Due to requirements on the fast implementation, which is important from psychological
point of view, existing courses like Cisco Networking Academy and IBM e-business Academy have been implemented. From our perspective it is also important the fact,
that these courses were implemented concurrently at two other Slovak universities. This creates opportunities to co-ordinate also other courses in a bachelor study. Parallel
to that, new multimedia courses on subject in which the departments have a strong scientific background were developed.
IMPLEMENTATION OF ELECTRONIC SUPPORT OF EDUCATION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ZILINA
We have used the general methodology to the implementation of the e-education service. Some experience obtained during this experiment is described below.
Specification and Description of e-Education
University uses the following documents as a starting point:
- eEurope+, Action Plan prepared by the Council and the European Commission.,
- Recommendations given by EUA in last four years.
The Action Plan for eEurope+ activities brings specific e-educational actions together with a complementary e-education initiative that is being launched. The
e-education will encompass eEurope targets in an educationally oriented framework and will address the request to adapt European education and training
systems to the knowledge of society.
Forecasting and Planning of the e-Education
The ideas of the mentioned documents lead us to consider the implementation of the e-education service as the main item of the global university strategy. Therefore
the university management has developed a strategic plan, and offered it to general discussion. The implementation of the e-education leads university staff to new
roles and unknown activities. To make these new roles more advanced, it is very important to explain all reasons why e-education and why this strategic plan has been
Technology of the e-Education Specification
Comparing the e-education with “stone universities”, we can see a new business model of education. There are new players in the e-education, and the roles of the
players are changed. The following table shows the new structure of the players in the e-education.
TABLE I: E-EDUCATION VALUE CHAIN
Design and implementation of the e-education
Allocation of budget covering higher starting costs
Diversification of budget sources
Taking more responsibility for the content (course coordination)
Generating of multimedia courses according to given scenarios
Creation of a new education management system
Finding a new model of student tasks
Distance helping for students
Knowledge of most relevant electronic information source
Building up and operation of network infrastructure including servers
Low end client equipment
Authoring systems for multimedia courses creation
Building and operation of courseware server
Building and operation of authoring systems
Cooperation with content creators and scenarios creators
Service operation and maintenance
Students authorization and authentication
This change of players and roles will bring change to the university staff structure, establishing new positions and change in teaching methodology. Each position in
the new value chain has to be described by activities and interfaces. New roles implementation to the existing structure creates several problems: communication is
running within established groups, which is not effective in a new structure, people obtain new tasks without discarding the old ones, etc. On the other hand, the university
transformation has to be realized. Based on that the university has prepared a new status in which new tasks given by the e-education are also reflected.
When information and communication technologies are used in the existing educational process, they do not bring necessarilly a new solution of education. They only
replace former manually or mechanically done activities that improve the quality and effectiveness of the educational processes. To bring new solutions and inovations
is necessary to rebuilt the existing educational process. For this purporse a business process reengineering methodology can be used. The process of education is
important from the teacher’s point of view, namely in the sub processes:
- process of teaching,
- process of study materials preparing,
- process of examination.
We have analyzed the educational process at our university using structural analysis based on flow graphs for different levels of details. For each process an information
flow chart has been designed.
New process Design or Process Redesign
For creation of new educational process needs we need to identify barriers, and propose their overcoming, according to possibilities, which are given by the
implementation of new information & communication technologies. The inputs to the new processes design are:
- critical analysis of the existing processes in education
- understanding of the new information and communication technology possibilities.
The new process creation is possible based on the application of a reengineering method, problem analysis and the formation of a problem hierarchy together with
the knowledge of opportunities that information & communication technologies provide.
The procedure of new processes design includes:
- definition of crucial processes parameters
- the implementation of new information and communication technologies impact and its evaluation,
- alternative solutions design,
- solutions evaluation, and selection of the most appropriate one.
Preparation Feasibility Conditions
Anyhow progressive the e-education might be, there is always a possibility that many of teachers will not accept it enough. A new way of thinking is required for all
players in the new value chain. They have to change their behaviour which they used without the e-education, and transfer their knowledge and experience from the
traditional education into the e-education. If they are not familiar with the principles of the e-education, it is very probable that they will try to prevent the changes. They
want to prevent them, because they do not understand new requirements. If all players see their roles in the new educational process, then they will accept changes
and they will more actively participate. It is necessary to start soft processes supporting creativity, like brainstorming, supporting common goals of the university,
supporting culture of the university. Collective responsibility for general success of the university can be motivating. But building up the new organisation culture is a
User Requirements Specification
The users of the e-education technological systems are teachers, students and administratve staff. Priority and perspectives of students, teachers and administrative
staff are different, and it seems to be a never-ending story to find a consensus. It is not possible to implement all aspects of the e-education immediately at university
as whole. The following functions were specified as the most important:
- making study material public
- communication with students
- study management
- testing of knowledge
- exam management
- courses evaluation by students
Technical Structure Design
Learning Management System Moodle as “open source” creates the base of the e-education system at the university. This system provides an access to knowledge
testing system, exam management system as well as course evaluation system. This system fulfils the basic requirements of teachers and students. Institute
responsible for implementation of ICT in to university processes has developed based on previous design of new processes software and hardware environment,
which has included this open source system in to system, which supports utilisation of ICT in administration of education. Now we can speak therefore about e-university.
We have been testing the e-education system since the winter term of academic year 2003-04. Full system is accessible on http://vzdelavanie.utc.sk.
Information and communication technologies bring new tools to education. To highlight their impact comparing with non-electronic tools, term e-education is used
nowadays. This term will probably disappear when these tools will be such as natural part of education technology as for example books are currently. In the meantime,
many universities have implemented these tools to their education. We can see many pilot projects at universities, but from our perspective, blank experiment cannot be
used as a method for a mass implementation. Methodology of e-education implementation has to be developed. We propose basis of such methodology based on
three-partial systems.. We have recognised that using this methodology gave us more certainty in the complex task of the e-education implementation. We have also
learned that e-education implementation is not a single-shot task, but it continues in spirals. It was happened when for example a complex learning management
system (LMS) was replaced by simple, tailor-made LMS as a starting solution, to attract more teachers to play this game with us.
Faculty of Civil Engineering, University of Zilina Slovakia