Executive Summary

Purpose of the Book

This book examines strategies and actions that support the integration of technology into the core activities of universities and colleges. In particular, it explores ways to transform teaching and learning through the use of technology.

Context for the Book

Technology is an essential component of any modern post‐secondary educational institution, not only for supporting administrative activities, but also increasingly for the core activity of teaching and learning.

Although the core missions of universities and colleges are even more relevant today, radical change is needed in their organization and their design and delivery of teaching, if they are to respond adequately to the challenges they are facing. The integration of technology, and its use to transform teaching and learning, are key strategies for such change.


The book draws heavily on information collected from case studies of 11 public sector post‐secondary educational institutions, six in southern Europe and five in North America, including seven campus‐based universities, two community colleges and two open universities. All the cases were chosen because of the stated intention of the senior administration in the institutions to make technology integration an important goal.

We examined a number of indicators of technology integration and on this basis, we ranked the eleven case studies by the extent to which technology had been integrated within the organization. This enabled us to look for strategies and activities in the top ranked institutions and compare them with the strategies and policies used in the lower ranked institutions. We also compared strategies across the 11 institutions with our analysis of the challenges facing higher education institutions, and in the final chapter we make a number of recommendations for change in the institutional management of technology, to support a more radical transformation of teaching and learning to meet 21st century needs.

Main Findings and Recommendations

Institutional planning and strategy (Chapter 4 and 9)

In general, institutions were too cautious in their goals for technology. In particular, most seemed content to use technology to enhance traditional classroom teaching, rather than to use technology to transform the way teaching is designed and delivered. Using technology to enhance classroom teaching merely adds cost to the system, with no measurable learning benefits. Most of our case study institutions had no institutional plan for learning technologies. Institutions were not usually clear enough about the different goals for learning technologies. When defined, they were not usually stated in measurable terms.


1. Set ‘innovation in teaching’ as a priority goal in the Academic Plan. Fund, evaluate and reward it.

2. A high level Technology Committee (see Organizational Structure below) should be mandated to develop long­term goals and strategies for learning technologies. As well as supporting innovation in teaching, we suggest the following as possible long­term goals for learning technologies:

  • Increasing flexible access for a more diverse student body
  • Increasing interaction between instructors and students, and allowing for more individualization of learning
  • Developing student skills in identifying, collecting, analyzing, and applying knowledge
  • Teaching students how information technology can be used within a particular professional or subject domain
  • Using technology to support the development of 21st century skills of independent learning, initiative, communication, teamwork, adaptability, collaboration, networking, and thinking skills within a particular professional or subject domain
  • Greater cost­effectiveness: more students at a higher quality and less cost through the use of technology.

Institutions should track and measure their performance on such goals.

Leadership (Chapter 4)

Leadership is critical for technology integration, but rather than a strongly directive leadership from an individual, it needs to be of a style that facilitates a collective approach to the setting and implementation of goals. In particular, all the executive team need to be on the same page regarding the need for change in teaching, and the importance of technology for transforming teaching and learning. They also need to understand the financial implications when making this commitment. The key role for the executive is to ensure that there is a comprehensive governance strategy in place for technology, which includes its use for teaching and learning.


3. All the executive should actively promote the importance of technology for transforming teaching and learning, through public announcements, the strategic plan, and personal example in decision­making about resources.

4. The senior executive team should guide, facilitate, and be responsive to the wide range of technology decision­makers within the organization.

5. The senior executive team should develop a clear, coherent and comprehensive governance structure for technology decision­making and policies. The design and maintenance of this governance structure should be a direct responsibility of the senior executive team. (For more detail, see Chapter 9)

Planning at the program level (Chapters 4 and 9)

Generally, there was a lack of imagination by both instructors and administrators about the potential of technology for teaching and learning. A critical area for developing vision for the use of technology is at the academic program planning stage, when programs are being planned or renewed following review. Choice and use of technology is best made at the program planning level. This means integrating decisions about technology with other academic decisions, such as content, method of teaching, and how the program will be delivered (the mix of face‐to‐face, hybrid and distance learning).


6. There should be in place an annual program planning process that is integrated with the allocation of resources/financial plan. As part of this process, program proposals should contain a clear vision of how the program will be designed and delivered, including the use of technology.

Organizational structures (Chapter 5)

Organizational structures to support the use of learning technologies have evolved over time in a somewhat ad hoc way in many institutions. The main development has been the growth of learning technology support units, either central or located within large faculties, with professional staff to support the design and delivery of technology‐based teaching and learning. These units are increasingly being integrated with faculty development and distance education activities and units.

A single technology project (such as the development or adaptation of software for teaching) was sometimes the main strategy for learning technologies in some of the case study institutions. Technology projects work best when they are part of a more general strategy for technology implementation that includes training of instructors, and a focus on teaching and learning. In our case studies, these single technology projects were not successful in bringing about sustainable e‐learning.

Technology for teaching and learning is now used throughout the institution. This has led to a range of committees and decision‐making bodies for the management of learning technologies, but rarely in a comprehensive or coordinated way. Because of the dynamic nature of technology, a governance structure needs to be designed that enables decisions about technology to be made on an ongoing basis. The structure should ensure that the right decisions are made by the right people at the right level.


7. The senior executive should put in place a comprehensive committee structure to support technology integration, and give the committees power to establish priorities and policies for technology integration. In particular, a high level Technology Committee should be established with a mandate to set strategic goals and strategies for technology (including learning technologies), allocate resources, approve projects, and evaluate the effectiveness of technology strategies. (See Chapter 9 for more details).

8. Institutions should create a unit combining faculty development, learning technology support, and distance education management, under a single Director reporting to the VP Academic, with an annual service contract to locate specialist staff in academic departments based on their annual academic plans. (The establishment and management of units located within large faculties may be more decentralized in very large research universities).

Quality assurance and evaluation (Chapter 6)

Quality assurance methods are valuable for accreditation agencies concerned about institutions using e‐learning to cut corners or reduce costs without maintaining standards. They can be useful for providing instructors new to teaching with technology, or struggling with its use, with models of best practice to follow.

However, the best guarantees of quality in e‐learning are a commitment by the leadership to supporting innovation in teaching, instructors well trained in both pedagogy and the use of technology for teaching, highly qualified and professional learning technology support staff, adequate resources (especially regarding instructor:student ratios), appropriate methods of working (teamwork, project management), and systematic evaluation. Generally, the same standards that apply to online learning should also apply to face‐to‐ face teaching.


9. Use standard methods of program approval, review and evaluation, slightly adapted for the special circumstances of online learning. Ensure that learner support is provided in suitable ways for off­campus students. Use a team approach, with instructional designers and web support staff, and best practice in online course design, for hybrid and distance courses. Ensure that the course design is adapted to meet the needs of off­campus learners. Begin applying some of these techniques to the re­design of large face­to­face classes.

Financial management (Chapter 7)

Because technology has mainly been added to conventional face‐to‐face teaching, rather than replacing activities or generating new revenues, because new categories of staff have been hired to support learning technologies, and because instructors have not been comprehensively trained in using technologies for teaching and are therefore spending more time on teaching, costs have almost certainly increased substantially. No institution had a handle on the true costs of teaching with technology. One problem is that post‐ secondary institutions do not usually track the costs of activities, such as programs. Activity‐based costing is essential to understand the true costs of learning technologies. Another way to control costs is to set standard workloads for instructors that apply to all forms of teaching.


10. The design of teaching needs to be changed to control costs and obtain the benefits when technology is introduced; merely adding technology on to old processes will not produce the desired benefits.

11. Traditional department­based financial reporting systems need to be combined with activity­based costing methods to enable the costs of different teaching models to be accurately analyzed. Details are provided in Chapter 7.

Organizational culture and barriers to change (Chapter 8 )

Senior administrators are often aware of the need to change, and would like to introduce some of the recommendations we are making, but are constrained by the barriers of organizational culture, and in particular strongly held beliefs by faculty about traditional teaching methods, the privileging of research over teaching, and the mistrust of formal training in teaching. These barriers will not easily be overcome by short‐term financial incentives, and may need strong external pressure, as well as strong internal leadership. Nevertheless, formal training in modern teaching methods is an essential requirement for the effective use of technology in teaching, as well as for ensuring the development of the kind of graduates needed in the 21st century.

Also, senior academic administrators rarely have any formal training in the management issues around technology decision‐making, and indeed sometimes have little familiarity with the technology itself.


12. All instructors who have regular teaching commitments should receive comprehensive training in teaching at a post­secondary level before appointment (even or especially in research universities), and continuous professional development that includes regular learning activities around new developments in teaching and technology.

13. All middle and senior managers/administrators should be provided with an individually adapted orientation program about technology issues and technology expertise available in the institution that could assist them with technology decisions within their area of responsibility.

14. Institutions need to find stronger incentives to encourage instructors to innovate in teaching, otherwise the investment in technology will be wasted.

Roles for government (Chapter 9)

In general, we support a ‘hands‐off’ approach by government in post‐secondary education, but there are some key roles for government that could immensely help the introduction of necessary changes that will support the effective us of technology for teaching in post‐ secondary education.


15. In consultation with institutions and other key stakeholders, governments should develop a strategic plan setting priorities and strategies for information and communications technologies for their post­secondary education system.

16. Governments should use funding to drive innovation in teaching and the use of technology within their post­secondary education systems. In particular, they should require all instructors with regular teaching loads to be qualified through a government­approved post­ secondary teacher training program.

17. Governments should create new post­secondary institutions based on hybrid delivery models with a footprint centered on but wider than the local community, with a focus on the development and support of local high tech industries.


This is a very brief summary of book. Each chapter provides a full discussion of the findings from our case studies, a discussion of the issues, and detailed recommendations.