E-learning and Sustainability in Higher Education: An International Case Study

By Pedro Isaias and Tomayess Issa.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

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The aim of this paper is to examine and investigate the challenges that higher education face to become more sustainable in their teaching and learning especially in Australia and Portugal. E-learning challenges have numerous concepts: i.e. 1) training and developing new e-learning skills for lecturers, and 2) enhancing pedagogic approaches to match the e-learning models. All these challenges have the role in supporting teaching and learning in the higher education and have ‘implications for sustainability’ (Attwell, 2004, p.7). These challenges will require time and enthusiasm to work with a ‘new collaborative model to devise and implement strategy, as well as for e-learning development at practice level, is a particularly challenging target in institutions with long-standing traditions of hierarchy’ (Gunn 2010, p.100 -101). A number of successful approaches were identified and implemented by talented lecturers looking for clarification to real educational problems. However, some of these approaches were recognized in their universities, as teaching and learning grants were awarded to enhance the adoption of these approaches in the future. These approaches were: firstly, discussion group forums using the FLECS facility - i.e. Blackboard at Curtin University, while Moodle Forums at Universidade Aberta (Portuguese Open University), to develop individual student learning and to reduce the raw materials between lecturers and students. The forum approach encourages collaboration and teamwork, creates connections and links with other students, enables the sharing of information, and enhances communication and interaction between the students. These benefits were imperative to develop students’ communications skills and learning of new materials, which will assist them to develop their skills as individuals, and be successful and confident in real life situations in the future.

Secondly, students’ assessments were uploaded to the FLECS facility for marking. Lecturers used two methods for marking: 1) adding their comments to the softcopy version and uploaded it once again to the FLECS facility, 2) using software i.e. ‘Audacity’ and ‘echo360’ to communicate with students by providing them with feedback on their assessments and uploaded these MP3 files to the FLECS facility. Furthermore, lecturers provided general assessment feedback for the benefit of the whole class, directed to all campuses, and weekly lecture summaries. This paper provides experimental evidence based on quantitative and qualitative data derived from informal and formal student’s feedback from 77 student evaluations and perspectives toward the IS6 and AP units (respectively in Curtin University and in Universidade Aberta). The findings indicated that win-win strategy was executed since lecturers were delighted that e-learning sustainability principles were flourishing in their teaching and learning approaches, since all communication between students were established via email or Blackboard at Curtin University and Moodle forums at Universidade Aberta.

Keywords: E-learning, E-learning Approaches, Sustainability, Portugal and Australia Higher Education

The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp.77-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 339.588KB).

Pedro Isaias

Professor and Director, Masters Degree in E-Commerce and Internet, Universidade Aberta (Portuguese Open University), Lisbon, Portugal

Professor Pedro Isaias is a professor at the Universidade Aberta (Portuguese Open University) in Lisbon, Portugal, responsible for several courses and director of the master degree program in Electronic Commerce and Internet since 2003. He is co-founder and president of IADIS – International Association for Development of the Information Society, a scientific non-profit association. He holds a PhD in Information Management (in the speciality of information and decision systems) from the New University of Lisbon. Author of several books, papers and research reports and headed several conferences and workshops in the information systems. He is a member of the editorial board of several journals and program committee member of several conferences and workshops. Currently he conducts research activity related to Information Systems in general, E-Learning, E-Commerce and WWW related areas.

Dr. Tomayess Issa

Senior Lecturer, School of Information Systems, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Tomayess Issa is a senior Lecturer at the School of Information Systems at Curtin University, Australia. In addition, she is a Postgraduate Course leader and Postgraduate Online Coordinator. Tomayess has vast experience in Australian tertiary education, teaching Usability and Human Computer Interaction, Social Network, Sustainability and Green IT, Networking and Operating Systems. Tomayess completed her doctoral research in Web development and Human Factors. As an academic, she is also interested in establishing teaching methods and styles to enhance the students’ learning experiences and resolve problems that students face. Currently, Tomayess is teaching undergraduate and postgraduate units at the School of Information Systems focusing mainly on usability, human computer interaction, web 2.0, web 3.0, sustainability and Green IT, Cloud Computing, networking and operating system. In recognition of her hard work and dedication, she received awards from the Curtin Business School and her school for her teaching. Tomayess participated in several conferences on Human Computer Interaction, Internet, teaching and learning, and published her work in several peer-reviewed journals. Tomayess is a member of an international conference program committee, and she is currently conduct research locally and globally in information systems, HCI, Usability, Internet, Sustainability and Green IT, social network and teaching and learning