In the current economy, employees’ skill, innovation, and expertise form the cornerstone of profitability and economic growth. This, in turn, increases demands for a highly educated work force and for continual development of employee skills. In 1995 the U.S. Department of Education reported that only 21 percent of American adults over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. As a result, non-traditional students are entering post-secondary schools in all areas of study, including business and management, to meet employer demands. In addition to a growing number of non-traditional students, more traditional students are participating in post-secondary education as well. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the percentage of high school graduates who enrolled in higher education increased from 49 percent in 1980 to 65 percent in 1995. The influx of students and the intensified demands of the job market call for new strategies and practices for education. The fertile environment for innovation and change in business education and training is a response to these demographic and economic shifts.
Technology such as PCs, cellular phones, and the Internet have quickly penetrated the American landscape. The PC has become as ubiquitous as the telephone. According to Merrill Lynch (The Book of Knowledge, 1999), there is one PC for every 1.3 employees in the United States. And Forrester Research estimates that 60 percent of U.S. households will have a PC by 2002. The estimate reaches 70 percent for households with children. Internet usage reveals the most explosive rate of growth: According to the International Data Corporation, Internet usage is expected to grow from 14 million people in 1995 to 320 million people in 2002.
The widespread use of computer networks and information technology (computing,
communication, and data management) is evident from increasing levels of investments in technology. According to Merrill Lynch (1999), capital expenditures in corporate information technology grew from 5 percent in 1970 to 50 percent in 1997. Information technology is dramatically changing the way organizations are structured, managed, and operated, as well as changing approaches to the development and delivery of products and services. For example, new organizational and businessrelated practices, such as e-commerce, are even prevalent at highly traditional companies. As organizations and the economy change, business schools are under increased pressure to produce qualified graduates adept to excelling in a highly technical environment. The ability to use computer networks for collaboration, creation, and knowledge acquisition is a basic requirement for participation in the IT-focused economy. Students must be exposed to technology-intensive environments as part of their formal educational in order to develop the requisite skills for the job market.
In addition to the increasing demand for post-secondary education from Americans, an increase in demand from the global market for higher education at American institutions is anticipated. American institutions of higher education—particularly business schools—are widely viewed as the finest in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 450,000 foreign students studied in the U.S. during the 1995-1996 academic year. It is estimated that for each foreign student currently studying in this country, three other foreigners would want to study here given the resources or access.
Domestic and global demand for post-secondary business will attract new forms
of competition from both traditional and non-traditional sources. Many traditional, campus-based business schools are embracing information technology to enhance the effectiveness and reach of their degree programs. Furthermore, for-profit providers (as demonstrated in the opening vignette of this section) are rapidly appearing as market opportunities expand. According to an estimate from Merrill Lynch (1999), education (including K-12, post-secondary, and professional training) represents nearly 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, yet it represents only 0.2 percent of the capital
market. Such a significant disparity between demand and supply will provide
advantageous opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs.
The motivation for innovation in post-secondary business education is clear and
compelling. Many business schools and organizations are re-examining management
programs, and most are viewing advanced information technology as a key educational resource. However, the approach to change is unclear, and many factors need to be considered. For example, what is the role of information technology in business education? And how can barriers to change be reduced? To answer such pertinent questions and to avoid “re-inventing the wheel,” we should examine effective and thoughtful technology-mediated learning initiatives. This benchmarking study is a step toward that goal.
The purpose of this multi-organization benchmarking study is to identify and
examine innovations, best practices, and key trends in the area of technology-mediated learning (TML) in order to enhance business education management programs. The areas of focus include strategic and organizational issues, technology and the learning process, technology and the teaching process, and TML assessment and performance evaluation. This study affords participants the opportunity to examine the issues and challenges of implementing TML initiatives. Fifty institutions—schools/colleges, businesses, and government agencies—participated in the study by attending a series of planning sessions, completing data-gathering surveys, and attending or hosting onsite interviews. Six organizations were identified as having exemplary TML initiatives and were invited to participate in the study as benchmarking best-practice partners.
The following areas of focus define the content and structure of the TML benchmarking study. Sponsors collaborated with a project team from APQC and AACSB and subject matter expert Alavi to refine this scope.
- Link vision and goals for TML to organizational vision and strategy.
- Identify strategic drivers for TML, like market positioning, growth, competitive advantage, student recruiting, and employer expectations.
- Find new and reallocated resources for initial development and ongoing support of TML.
- Examine organizational culture and structural issues regarding innovative uses of technology in education. Technology and the Learning Process
- The role of technology in the learning process
- Forms and configuration of learning technologies
- Modalities of learning
- Managing student expectations
- Student support
- Student demographics: university-based, corporate-based, lifelong students,
alumni, and age groups Technology and the Teaching Process
- Role of technology in the teaching process
- Changing roles in the teaching process: instructor, content expert, technical expert, instructional designer, and orchestrator
- Instructor incentives/rewards for change
- Instructor support
- Instructor demographics
TML Assessment and Performance Evaluation
- Achieving strategic/organizational TML goals
- Learning and behavioral outcomes of TML
- Productivity/cost issues of TML
- Maintaining long-term success and quality
- Assessment of technology performance
- Assessment of process issues
STUDY KEY FINDINGS
The findings of this study are reported in the four categories of the study scope.
Technology and the Learning Process
Technology and the Teaching Process
TML Assessment and Performance Evaluation
Benchmarking: The Systematic Transfer of Best Practices As organizations looked for ways to survive and remain profitable over the past decade,
a simple but powerful strategy called “benchmarking” evolved. Benchmarking is the process organizations use to learn. A good, working definition is “the process of identifying, learning, and adapting outstanding practices and processes from any organization, anywhere in the world, to help an organization improve its performance.” The underlying rationale for the benchmarking process is that learning from the principles and specifics of best-practice cases is the most effective means of developing successful practices.
The most important aspect of benchmarking is a twofold flexible approach. First, benchmarking is not a fixed technique imposed by experts, but instead a process driven by organization participants. Second, benchmarking is not a prescribed solution to a problem, but instead a process through which participants learn about successful practices in other organizations and then draw on those cases to develop solutions that are most suitable for their own organizations. Benchmarking is not copying, networking, or passively reading abstracts, articles, or books. It is active learning, as demonstrated in the following description of the consortium methodology. Benchmarking is not simply a comparison of numbers or performance statistics. Numbers are helpful for identifying gaps in performance, but actual-process benchmarking identifies the hows and whys for performance gaps and helps organizations perform at higher levels.
Summary of Consortium Benchmarking Methodology
There are two primary phases in the consortium benchmarking methodology:
1. select best-practice partners and
2. learn their principles and specific strategies.
A listing of the sponsor organizations in this study, as well as the best-practice (“partner”) organizations that were benchmarked for their innovation and advancement in technology-mediated learning.
- Executive Summary
A bird’s-eye view of the study, presenting the key findings discovered and the methodology used throughout the course of the study. The findings are explored in detail in following sections.
- Key Findings
An in-depth look at the 20 key findings of this study. The findings are supported by quantitative data and qualitative examples of practices employed by the partner organizations.
- Partner Organization Profiles
Background information on the partner organizations, as well as their innovative technology-mediated learning practices.