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© 2006 The Author Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 38 No 1 2007 72–82 doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2006.00595.x Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Oxford, UKBJETBritish Journal of Educational Technology0007-1013British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 200520053817282Articles E-readiness model for higher education British Journal of Educational Technolo
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  © 2006 The AuthorPublished by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.  British Journal of Educational TechnologyVol 38 No 1 2007  72–82doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2006.00595.x  Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Oxford, UKBJETBritish Journal of Educational Technology0007-1013British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 200520053817282Articles  E-readiness model for higher educationBritish Journal of Educational Technology  Developing an e-readiness model for higher education institutions: results of a focus group study  Carlos Machado  Carlos Machado is a research associate at the Department of Social Research of the Vrije UniversiteitBrussel and has participated in projects funded by the European Commission since 1998. He is respon-sible for the introduction of learning technologies in five universities of Central Asia within the frame of a TEMPUS project called TOHOSTCA. Address for correspondence: SOCO-TESA, Vrije UniversiteitBrussel Pleinlaan 2 1050 Brussels Belgium. Telephone: +  326292164; fax: +  326292420; e-mail:carlos.machado@vub.ac.be  Introduction  This paper is the result of the author’s participation in a Tempus project, namedTOHOSTCA (Tourism and Hospitality Studies in Central Asia), whose main goal is themodernisation of curriculum in the field of tourism and hospitality, as well as theintroduction of modern learning approaches through new technologies in three coun-tries of Central Asia—the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. For the sake of clarification, the Tempus programme is an initiative launched by the European Com-mission and is adopted by the Council of Ministers of the European Union (EU) in 1990.The initial objective of Tempus was to support the reform of the higher education sectorof Central and Eastern Europe in the framework of the EU’s Phare programme to pro-mote economic and social cohesion in these regions. Thereafter, Tempus was extendedto the New Independent States and to Mongolia by a Council decision (93/1246/European Economic Commission [EEC]) in 1993. In this context, TOHOSTCA offers thepossibility for the previously mentioned developing countries to increase regionalcooperation and to improve technical and human resources within five of their highereducation institutions (HEIs) with the objective of building a common onlinecurriculum.Although technical resources and equipment have been provided for academic staff andstudents of these five institutions, creating online courses demands a reflection on theimportant interconnectedness between different elements. From a technical side, per-sonal computers and computer facilities have to be available and accessible. Crucially,links to the Internet also have to be guaranteed and regularly upgraded to enableacceptable levels of communication and collaboration between teachers and students.Furthermore, managers should plan and implement strategies that move ‘e-learning’to the mainstream of educational practice. However, any strategy that gives technologyan independent role as problem solver is doomed to fail (Lundvall, 2004). From aninstructional point of view, Betty Collis (1996) reminds us that ‘it is not technology butthe instructional implementation of the technology that determines the effects onlearning’ (p. 146). From a learner’s perspective, the final variable that influences the   E-readiness model for higher education  73   © 2006 The Author  learning effectiveness is undoubtedly the learning abilities of the student and the stu-dent’s involvement in the learning process. Indeed, the relationship between informa-tion and communication technologies (ICTs), institutional managers, instructors andend-users has not escaped unnoticed by other authors (eg, Hanft, Müskens & Terfehr,2002; Mattila & Hägerfors, 2004; Stansfield, Connolly & McLelland, 2004).With this idea in mind, the global concept of e-readiness—in other words, how ready acountry, region or society is in terms of ICTs—is brought srcinally into the educationalsphere. When HEIs in developing countries propose to introduce online practices, itcould be observed that educational managers may fear they are not ready for such animportant breakthrough. But how are they to know what being ready means? Gettingclear answers to this question could lead to a number of interpretations. Thus, it is thepurpose of this paper to reveal a primary model of e-readiness for the specific context of higher education. To validate the conceptual framework, a focus group was created toinvestigate whether the elements of the model—having been concealed from the par-ticipants—were identified, what variables were represented most effectively, what typesof key players were to be included and what subject areas or topics were most suited toan e-readiness approach. Before presenting the results and findings of the focus groupsession, we shall briefly describe the specific e-readiness model that has hereby beenconceptualised.  E-readiness: a conceptual framework for education  Literature on the notion of e-readiness has shown a range of assessment tools that havebeen developed to measure a country or an economy’s level of penetration of ICTs (DIT,2003; McConnell International, 2001; Sachs, 2000). These studies have predomi-nantly been focused on global tools for measuring the ‘digital divide’ between rich andpoor countries. Diverted from global perspectives, a second wave of e-readiness studieshas been introduced to specific ICT-related areas. Thus, in the context of electronicbanking, e-readiness is conceived as the function of the ability to pursue value creationopportunities (Maugis et al  , 2003); in the property world, to achieve e-readiness, fiveactions need to be taken. These are actions in the fields of innovation, flexibility andservice, connectivity, brand and location (Feenan & LaSalle, 2001); and within elec-tronic trade (Özmen, 2003), e-readiness is presented as a resource to be implementedin any enterprise. To understand e-readiness, in Özmen’s perspective, requires a three-step process. First, it is necessary to determine the processes through which an enter-prise makes use of its information, human, financial, physical and network resourcesin its business (marketing and production). Second, it must be calculated whether‘becoming electronic’ would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of these processes.Third, there is a need to measure whether the enterprise has the resources to enter intoan ‘electronic dimension’. Hence, the equation of ICTs plus e-skilled people seems to bethe formula towards e-readiness.Therefore, embedded in a second generation of studies, the model of e-readiness that ispresented in this study (see Figure 1) goes beyond the scope of global dimensions of e-readiness to apply this notion to the educational realm. Within a more specific   74  British Journal of Educational TechnologyVol 38 No 1 2007   © 2006 The Author  approach, e-readiness is conceptualised as ‘the ability of HEIs and the capacity of insti-tutional stakeholders (managers, key ICT persons, teachers and students) to generate(e-) learning opportunities by facilitating computer-based technologies’—in short, howe-ready a HEI is to benefit from educational technology (or e-learning). In this context,the major opportunities and challenges in realising e-readiness as a managerial toolwhen measuring the level of integration of ICTs is to achieve a strategy that is tailoredto meet the particular needs of local HEIs and individuals. Thus, educational managerswould be able to define who may benefit from an e-readiness instrument and to makeuse of it so as to take specific steps towards the effective and sustainable use of educa-tional technologies that would help their institutions realise established developmentgoals.Beyond the promises surrounding the introduction of new technologies, in general, andonline courses, in particular, it is important for HEIs to contemplate issues such asreadiness, effectiveness and expected benefits related to these technologies. Whilst it isacknowledged that the level of integration and utilisation of ICTs for teaching andlearning are dependent on external environments dominated by technological, socialand economic conditions, the values of reference for the model are taken from internalpolicies and institutional strategies. In terms of ability, when an HEI decides to introducenew methods of practice, developing at the same time new teaching capabilities, anumber of fundamental changes become apparent. For the Central Asian (CA) educa-tors, the concern relates to the adoption of new pedagogical approaches. Modernteaching practices and the shift in power relation between professor and student are  Figure 1:Measuring e-readiness in HEIs.HEI, higher education institution; ICT, information and communications technology; PC, personal computer. Key factorOutputThroughputsAbility of HEI stakeholders Changes in learning policies HEI current Policy HEI future Strategy Capacity of learning stakeholders Provision of ICT training Knowledge Teaching and learning styles Instructional methodology Technocultural acceptance Facility by learning technologies Introduction of PCsInfrastructure Network services Level of e- readiness Control for the ability, capacity and facility provided at an HEIFeedback Impact Example of inputs   E-readiness model for higher education  75   © 2006 The Author  challenging their traditions as academics. For the managers, the issue relates to imple-menting a change process that is sustainable, strategic and accepted in concordancewith current policies and regulations. In this sense, an aspect that needs to be consid-ered is that although the primary mission of a HEI—ie, the creation, preservation,integration, transmission and application of knowledge—is not changing, the particu-lar realisation of each of these roles is changing dramatically as it evolves into a globalknowledge industry (Duderstadt, 1997). People could learn and learn well withoutusing distant independent learning technology, but in a world driven by an ever-expanding knowledge-based economy, continuous learning, like continuous improve-ment, has become a necessity of life (Duderstadt, 1999). Thus, educational managersneed to contribute with forms of learning that combines the acquisition of market-driven skills (eg, IT skills) along with the maintenance of a cognitive context into whichthese skills can be related over time.In terms of capacity and facility, e-readiness is concerned with decisions about matterssuch as the provision of e-learning material and access for students (local and remote);the extent and acceptance of moves towards different cultural patterns in teachingsupport and student learning; the balance between alternative forms of organising andpresenting knowledge to students in such a way that they can find, select and use it (eg,the balance between teaching and learning styles, instructional methods, etc); and theinstitutional infrastructure and technical unit to support course instruction, coursedesign, networking operations, the use of virtual resources, electronic staff/studentexchanges and alternative methods of assessment.  Verification of the conceptual model: conducting a focus group session  With occasion of a recent TOHOSTCA project management meeting—in Finland,February 2005—it seemed that the best way to verify the integrative nature of theperviously mentioned model of e-readiness was to organise a focus group with the CAcoordinators and to explore how they could envisage some questions related to theintroduction of online courses for their institutions. If, on the one hand, one fundamen-tal issue in the field of educational technology is the role technology can play in improv-ing educational outcomes (Tiene & Ingram, 2001), on the other hand, the factorsrelated to the use of a technology innovation in a learning-related practice is the focusof attention of numerous studies (  inter alia  Collis & Jung, 2003; Collis & Pals, 1999;Collis & van der Wende, 2002) in which technological environment, educationalstrategies, ease of use, teacher and student engagement are all elements to be accountedfor, to a greater or lesser extent, in the implementation of an e-readiness measurementtool.The use of a focus group seemed adequate for a number of ‘good’ reasons. Focus groupinterviews have been extremely useful in market research studies and used to greateffect as a valuable tool for social researchers and other professionals regardless of particular fields of interest (eg, Curran & Downing, 1989; Frey & Fontana, 1993;Madriz, 2000; Powell, Single & Lloyd, 1996). For example, the use of this particularqualitative method may allow researchers to explore the reaction to ideas at various
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