Schreurs, B. (ed.) (2010) Reviewing the Virtual Campus Phenomenon Heverlee Belgium: Europace
This book is essential reading for any student wishing to do research on e-learning. It provides a comprehensive analysis and discussion of the organization of online learning around the world.
The book is a result of an interesting process. It is really a report on the European Commission-funded project, ReVica. The project established an International Advisory Committee (I was one of 30), held several meetings to discuss the project, and used a wiki to build up its international case studies and provide evidence for its reports.
This book provides a thoughtful analysis of the slippery term ‘virtual campus’ (more used in Europe than North America) and defines it broadly enough to include most important online learning activities. It then provides a ‘helicopter view’ of virtual campuses around the world. At least as far as I can judge, the authors have included all the major developments in virtual learning initiatives. This chapter includes an interesting analysis of the influences of the Bologna process and the European Commission on virtual campus developments in Europe, and how this differs from other parts of the world.
I found the chapter on critical success factors very interesting, particularly the discussion of methodology in defining critical success factors, In the same chapter on critical success factors there is also an interesting discussion of different approaches to change management, a critical factor in integrating technology within institutions.
However the end result on critical success factors is not convincing. For instance, while I would agree that an appropriate financial model is critical, it doesn’t really define in concrete terms what an ‘appropriate’ model would be. The problem with the critical success factors set out here is that, although I wouldn’t disagree with any of the 17 listed, there is such a wide variety of organizational forms for online learning that any generalization that applies at a ‘critical’ level for all forms is likely to be too generalized and abstract to be useful. Nevertheless, the chapter provides a good base for developing critical success factors for particular sub-categories of virtual learning organizations, especially if these broad factors can be operationalised in more detail.
Despite these criticisms, this slim volume (180 pages) is one of the best summaries of the worldwide state of e-learning today and well worth reading. The book can be downloaded for free from: http://revica.europace.org/ReVica Online Handbook.pdf