Key issues debated at the Tata Interactive Systems’ Higher Education Forum

From: Tata Interactive Systems
Published: Mon Apr 10 2006

E-learning specialists from a number of higher education institutions including the London School of Economics, the Open University, De Montfort University, Cranfield University and Imperial College, London, debated key issues relating to e-learning within the higher education sphere at the Tata Interactive Systems Higher Education Forum. The Forum took place at the Tanaka Business School within Imperial College, London, at the end of March.

David Lefevre, senior learning technologist at the Tanaka Business School, began proceedings by outlining the lessons that his organisation had learnt from implementing pre-study e-learning programmes allied to its accounting courses.

Harish Ravat, a senior lecturer in the faculty of business and law at De Montfort University, examined the use and value of e-learning in the context of four types of online assessment:
• Diagnostic – to find out what students know.
• Formative – to support the students.
• Summative – to use the assessment as part of the students’ final marks.
• Synoptic – correlating each test’s result with the student’s marks for his/her entire programme of study.

The third speaker, Toby Thompson, of the Centre for Executive Development at the Cranfield School of Management – part of Cranfield University – explored the ‘knowledge interface frontier’.

"Those involved in e-learning are operating at the ‘frontier’ because this technology is still relatively new," said Thompson. "And, as history teaches us, living on a frontier can be dangerous.

"There are still many unanswered questions about e-learning, such as where is its place within ‘learning’; who owns it, and who should own it?

"We – the academics – tend to be the problem," he added. "We are used to operating in lecture theatres, which are designed to be operated by an ‘expert’ – and our students expect to be ‘taught’ – yet these are foreign concepts when it comes to e-learning.

"This technology is helping times to change. E-learning is helping students to move from being the consumers to being the producers of the ‘learning product’," Thompson said.

"We are getting a new type of student – who is completely ‘at home’ with technology," agreed Ravat, "and, having experienced e-learning at primary and secondary school, these students want to continue using e-learning in higher education. However, today’s academics may not be geared up to meeting the needs of this new type of student."

"Our experience of e-learning is highly positive," Lefevre pointed out, "and, among its ‘side benefits’, is that it has streamlined our administration. Faculty, administrators and students all now have access to a particular online course whenever they want it – thus reducing queries and, consequently, administration workload.

"Since introducing e-learning programmes as pre-course study material for the Business School’s students on both accounting and MBA courses – and allowing the students access to online tutors to help them – our lecturers have been impressed by the significant decline in students’ ‘silly questions’ which waste time in class."

The Tanaka Business School turned to Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) to build the online courseware for its ‘Weekend MBA’ programme. The programme comprises a number of ‘cycles’ within two blocks of study and each cycle begins with online learning, followed by a period of classroom-delivered learning and, finally, the application of that learning in a practical setting.

"We use e-learning to teach the basic facts before the students come to class," said Lefevre. "We’ve been delighted with the quality and content of TIS’s work – and there is no question that it is being highly effective helping the students to learn what they need to learn."

Notes for editors

About Tata Interactive Systems (TIS)

Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) is a global pioneer in e-learning, with more than 15 years of experience in designing and developing innovative and cutting-edge e-learning solutions. TIS is a part of the $18 billion Tata Group – one of the largest and most trusted business conglomerates in India.

TIS employs a global team of over 900 multi-disciplinary specialists – a unique mix of project managers, software engineers, instructional designers, content developers, visual designers and animators. Its service bouquet includes Simulations, Systems Training, New Hire Training, Business Processes and Skills Training, Regulatory and Compliance Training, Sales and Customer Service Training, Adaptive Assessments, Story-based Learning Objects, M-Learning and EPSS. TIS also has a K12 math practice and a K12 content practice, as well as having substantial experience in developing learning content and tools across keystages and subject areas.

Powered by creative talent, sound processes and technological excellence, TIS has developed e-learning solutions for more than 300 clients – including 50 Fortune 500 companies – across the US, the UK, Australia, Mainland Europe, Japan, UAE, Canada and India. Its client roster includes leading corporations, renowned educational institutions and government bodies such as American Airlines, British Airways, Citibank, Colgate-Palmolive, ExxonMobil, GE, GlaxoSmithKline, HP, McGraw-Hill, ntl, Orange, Pearson Education, Qantas, Qwest, Royal Mail, Swiss Re, UNICEF, University of Phoenix, University of Maryland and Vodafone, along with Hodder, Oxford University Press, Granada Learning, Nelson Thornes, Research Machines PLC, Compass Learning, Florida Virtual School, Harcourt, Prentice Hall and, in the government sector, BECTA, UFI and DODEA.

Apart from holding ISO 9001 certification, TIS is the only e-learning organisation in the world to be assessed at Level 5 in both the SEI-CMM and P-CMM frameworks. TIS’s quest for excellence is reflected in numerous prestigious industry awards, including a Silver Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Award 2005 and 2004, APEX 2005 Award of Excellence, BETT 2004 Best Product Award, and two Business World–NID Design Excellence awards.

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About the Tata Group

The Tata Group, established in 1904 by the great visionary Jamsetji Tata, is one of India’s largest and most trusted business houses. The group pioneered the industrial revolution in India by founding the first steel plant, power plant and chain of luxury hotels, to name but a few.

The Group employs more than 220,000 people in 93 companies across diversified industry sectors including steel, automobiles, cement, telecom and IT. Generating revenues to the tune of $18 billion per year – 2.9 % of India’s total GDP – it is recognized as a leader in several industry segments such as such as steel, power, software exports and chemicals. It is also the parent company to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Asia’s largest software producer.

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Further information from:
Alan Samuel, Tata Interactive Systems, 020 7905 0156,
Bob Little, Bob Little Press & PR, 01727 860405,
Company: Tata Interactive Systems
Contact Name: Bob Little
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 01727 860405

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