E-learning for Leadership Development
Increasingly sophisticated and widely available, “Web 2.0 technology” is transforming e-learning and providing students with the networking and peer support benefits of a “virtual cohort”.
The traditional view of e-learning focuses on delivering information and study materials via electronic means so that knowledge transmission is achieved through an on screen version of the paper based training manual. The transition to an e-learning delivery for leadership and management education has been understandably problematic - due to the complexity of the subject and the need for interpersonal skills development – and has therefore met with resistance from many quarters.
But the increasing sophistication and widespread availability of so-called “Web 2.0 technology” which allows participants to collaborate on-line in knowledge construction and to add their own analysis, permits the deeper learning one would expect of a leadership development programme and overcomes many of these objections.
In 2007 NHS Education for Scotland sought a university partner to deliver postgraduate education to 150 senior healthcare professionals across Scotland in a way which would encourage group networking but remove the time and cost implications of campus-based delivery. The challenge of bringing together a geographically diverse cohort and effectively instilling leadership competencies at a distance was one that Leicester Business School was keen to take on.
The Postgraduate Certificate in Frontline Leadership and Management makes use of an existing “virtual learning environment” (Blackboard) where both digital text books and screen-based materials are accessed, and weekly activities direct students to further internet based resources. In addition, participants are encouraged to participate in on-line discussions, sharing their work experiences, developing case studies and commenting on journal articles.
In the Leading and Managing at a Distance module, Web 2.0 technologies are explored as tools for both managing a virtual team and as resources for collaborative learning. Participants contribute to a regular blog reflecting on their learning on the course; they have the opportunity to work together on activities using a wiki and can incorporate their learning from these activities in their final assignment, bringing in a range of media such as video, slide shows or audio recording.
Throughout, participants are encouraged to develop personal learning pages – a private “home page” on their computer which collects together all of their research and resources using RSS feeds and social book marking tools such as de.licio.us.
Programme Leader, Jane Challinor, comments: “The aim is for the technology to facilitate both individual reflection and the sharing of knowledge and expertise among members of the learning community. The programme aims to develop highly relevant technological skills, an understanding of the value of collaboration and a commitment to their own continuous learning, in the leaders of tomorrow."