Higgins, A., Prebble, T. and Suddaby, S. (2008) Taking the Lead: Strategic Management for e-Learning Wellington NZ: Ministry of Education/Aotearoa, National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence

This project developed a set of resources and tools that will assist institutional leaders to plan and manage their use of e-learning more strategically. The study attempted to identify the issues of significance for which institutional leaders must take direct responsibility. The  issues are expressed as questions that leaders should be asking of their institutional strategy, policy and practice. Case studies illustrating a number of these strategic options are drawn from across the New Zealand tertiary education sector.

Resulting from this study, the authors developed a two page ‘briefing document’ for senior administrators which provides them with a set of questions for them to consider under the following headings:

  • strategy
  • structure
  • resourcing
  • decision-making
  • selecting technologies
    • strategy questions
    • staff development questions
    • marketing questions
    • finance questions
    • technology questions

For the full questions, go to: http://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/takingthelead and click on ‘2 page summary (pdf)’.


This is an excellent document, and they suggest a good set of questions. However, although the questions are a necessary starting point, I believe that additional training is also needed. if senior and mid-level administrators are to answer these questions effectively, they must have the information needed to answer the questions, or know where to get it, or have in place a process whereby all the stakeholders are involved and can agree a decision.

Furthermore, administrators need to have some criteria or framework for assessing the information collected. For instance, if an academic department insists that a new learning management system is required, but the IT department says that this merely duplicates existing technology and adds extra costs, how can this conflict be resolved? Administrators need to have means by which to bring all the interested parties to the table, and know enough about the technology (and teaching and research requirements) to be able to assess competing views if agreement between the parties cannot be reached. In my next blog, I will suggest how this knowledge be acquired by institutional administrators.

I was also interested to learn from this report that the New Zealand  Tertiary e-Learning Research Fund, has been funding research in this area since 2003. Each year applications are sought against a number of identified research themes. In most years these themes have included mention of funding models, leadership or institutional strategy, as well as a focus on pedagogy, staff development and technology. However, each year the funding awards committee has been disappointed by the almost total absence of applications exploring these more strategic themes. Therefore they actually commissioned this study.

First, it would be nice to have a national or even a provincial e-learning research fund in Canada; second, it would be even better to have a body that has the leadership to commission research in areas that are needed, as distinct from what individual academic researchers believe to be important. Well done, New Zealand!


  1. Tony, I stumbled across this while googling a reference of yours about the cost of educational television. Thanks for the very positive comments and the suggestion that CEs need some help and training in answering our questions. Andrew Higgins and I will get an opportunity to test the framework shortly. Ako Aotearoa is sponsoring us to visit a number of NZ polytechnics and universities to run some workshops with their senior teams. That will take place once Andrew returns from riding his motor bike from Brisbane to Perth.


    Tom Prebble


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here