This is the third article in the series of evolving an IT plan for distance learning. The second article addresses the ‘what’ of the plan. The definition of the challenges and where the plan is going. Here this article will address the issue of inculcating a mechanism for identifying expected outcome and evaluation procedure in the IT plan of the distance learning institution.
I will be making reference to Gervan Fearon Problem Analysis approach to strategic and operational planning in his Presentation paper to the National Open University of Nigeria on Strategic and Operational Planning (April 2005). The method embrace the use of some significant issues raised in the last article ‘online education – Evolving an information technology plan for distance learning (2). The idea here is to cross-reference expected outcomes and results from the plan aims with the evaluation procedure. This is to help the evolving and dynamic nature of Information technology and adapt them accordingly so that the plan will not become obsolete few months into implementation.
At this stage the definition of outcomes, results and the goal of the plan would have been established, this now gives a good leeway for the Evaluation Mechanism. To explain this further, i was involved in a project where we are to convert some education contents into audio files and the windows media format. This was the agreed cost-effective format in the IT plan, but we made some adjustments as MP3 came into limelight which is better in terms of compatibility and storage capacity. I remember converting a whole course in windows media format of 2.7GB programe into MP3 not taking more than 200MB! Below are other specific considerations and established relations within and among the entities defined, in the equation of distance learning IT plan that should go into the evaluation and measurement of the goals the plan seek to achieve.
- What is the communication plan for communicating the distance learning IT plan, expected outcomes and measurement of success to applicants, students, academic and non academic staff and stakeholders?
- How does this outcomes and the evaluation mechanism relate to the academic, administrative, students, learners support services?
- How does this outcomes and the evaluation mechanism relate to the three areas of teaching, research and service?
- Identify five key outcomes of the IT plan where four of the outcomes are common across program, course and/or administrative units one is unique to the program, course and /or administrative unit.
- How will the results of the measurements of success be communicated each year to the defined entities, stakeholders and through the governance structure of the university hosting the distance learning institution?
- What is the objective of the key messages of the IT plan to the applicants, students, academic and non academic staff and stakeholders?
- How is the local, regional, international and government community involved in the communication plan and evaluation of success of the school and/or administrative unit?
All the above questions must be answered. So the IT plan must inoculate this into the mainstream of the process. This will make sure that IT plan will always be geared towards distance learning and not the adoption of the information technology itself. To implement this, there should be a table for each scope specifying the deliverables, schedules, responsibilities etc all these can be measure as the items are quantifiable and can be assess numerically. For the communication aspect, communication mechanism must be in place in the implementation of the plan to enhance feedback, information and communication flow for effective continuity of the plan.