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The System-wide Approach from Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative


The effective deployment of ICTs in schools and indeed in any setting is a complex affair that goes beyond purchasing hardware and software. The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI) has identified several key elements that must be considered if the deployment of ICTs is to have meaningful impact. These components must all co-exist; none is optional and together form a system. This system should be comprehensive, demand driven, capable and efficient and well coordinated.

The following system-wide approach to deploying ICT is excerpted from Deploying ICTs in Schools: A framework for identifying and assessing technology options, their benefits, feasibility and total cost of ownership by GeSCI
A new approach

Once a country – or a school district or even an individual school – has decided to invest in ICTs, it must choose how to go about it. Choosing a technology platform is like making any other major investment, such as buying a home or a car. You decide what you would like, work out what it takes to supply that, and see whether you can afford it. If you can, you go ahead, if not, you adjust your plan.

The framework and corresponding system-wide approach is based on 3 key considerations that arise directly out of some of the major problems facing the deployment of ICTs in schools today:

  • Focus on educational objectives ICTs are a tool and not an end in themselves. What tools one chooses to use for any given task depends on the task and anticipated outcomes and not the capabilities of the tool. In the same regard, choosing and deploying ICTs for education must stem from the desired educational objective and outcome.
  • Target system-wide approach Purchasing and installing the ICT platform in schools is not the end of the story but rather a part of an integrated (wide) system that requires that a plan be developed in advance, ICTs purchased and installed, training conducted, provisions for user support, technical support and maintenance made and continuous assessment and evaluation conducted to ensure that educational objectives are being met. While GeSCI advocates the use of a system-wide approach designed to extract full impact from deploying ICTs in schools, this document focuses on the benefits, feasibility and costs associated with the deployment of ICT platform. It does explore in some detail and assesses the types and options of education content, initial and ongoing user training and support of teachers, technical support and maintenance. It does not however discuss management, monitoring and support in any detail. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) tools however capture all the components of the system-wide approach. It is important to recognize that there are relationships between the various components and the educational objectives as shown in Figure 4. These relationships have an impact on making choices of ICT platforms and are explored in detail in the next few chapters.
  • Consider benefits, feasibility and long term costs Benefits and feasibility of both the technology selected and the overall approach to deployment should be considered along with the long term costs of introducing ICTs in schools. It is dangerous to focus on the immediate or initial costs such as those for buying and installing computers in a school lab without considering the long term recurring costs, which are usually much higher than the initial or immediate costs. The feasibility of any given ICT is important to determine whether that particular ICT is applicable in a given context irrespective of the inherent benefits. Feasibility is usually influenced by local conditions. For example, the lack of wired telecommunications infrastructure at a remote village may mean that the only connectivity options are satellite or none at all. Or, cultural considerations such as teachers’ lack of readiness to use technology in the classroom may mean a deployment of technology in teacher offices only.

The Strategy

Drawing from the considerations above, a strategy to select and deploy ICTs in schools has 5 key steps:

  1. Define the educational objectives: what are you trying to achieve with the technology?
  2. Design suitable “e-school model(s)” that best achieves these objectives: who uses/ will use the ICTs, where do they use it, how many devices are deployed, what basic functionalities should it have and what content and applications accompany the devices? Note that a school may implement more than one e-school model to achieve its objectives.
  3. Pick the specific technology platform (what hardware, software, connectivity and services to buy?) along with the necessary content and applications, user training and support and maintenance and technical support that suit this model and the educational objectives to be achieved.
  4. Work out how much this technology will cost, not merely to buy in the first place, but throughout the life of the project. In addition to the initial purchase of the equipment and other costs such as telecommunications and modifications to physical school infrastructure, this TCO should include all the accompanying components of the system-wide approach: content and applications, user training and support and maintenance and technical support.
  5. Compare this TCO to the budget. If it is within the budget, you can move forward to design a strategy around the chosen technology platform. If it is too expensive, you must go back and review the earlier choices, starting off with your selected technology platform and then the e-school model. Finally, if the cost is still too high, you must go all the way back to your educational objectives, and make compromises until the TCO falls to an acceptable level.

Remember that every stage of this process will be shaped by local conditions and constraints, which could influence or limit the choices at any point of the approach. As you will have undoubtedly have noted, the approach to choosing an e-school technology strategy is a complicated one and does not necessarily have a “right” answer.

In fact, the reader may well have come across numerous other frameworks that strive to achieve the same goal. Therefore the approach described above is not meant to be a definitive one, but merely one that we have found to be useful in guiding our thinking.

We will now consider each of these steps in more detail in the succeeding chapters of Deploying ICTs in Schools. Chapter 2 considers each of the 5 steps in the strategy in more detail. Chapter 3 provides a detailed assessment of the possible e-schools models and technology options and Chapter 4 presents the electronic tools that accompany the framework and discusses how they can be used in the selection of technology options.

Excerpted from Deploying ICTs in Schools: A framework for identifying and assessing technology options, their benefits, feasibility and total cost of ownership by Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative

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4 Responses to “The System-wide Approach from Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative”

  1. Clayton R. Wright

    The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI) presents an excellent model for the deployment of ICTs so that they would have meaningful impact. Below is a series of questions that I use to evaluate distance education (and ICT) programs in various countries including those in Africa and Southeast Asia. If you substitute distance education with the term “information and communication technologies (ICTs)”, you could use the questions to guide ICT implementation and/or evaluation. I am sure that there are other similar lists in use around the world, but this is my version.Evaluating Distance Education Programs – Items for ConsiderationClayton R. Wright, PhDPurpose:To assess whether a distance education (including e-learning and online learning) or distance training program is accessible, appropriate, effective, affordable, and accepted.In order to complete this assessment, we need to determine answers to these basic questions:. What rationale was established for the program?· What has the program achieved? What worked and did not work?· Are the achievements congruent with the rationale?· What changes should be made to improve the program? What recommendations are feasible given the current environment? What conditions need to change before other recommendations can be implemented?Institutional, Ministry, or Business Priorities and Policy Directions· Rationale for the program and its fit with current provincial, national, and/or business priorities· Impact the program has or will have on local communities or business and/or the province, or nation· Fit with institutional or business goals, vision, and policies, e.g., openness, accessibility, equality, and internationalization or global reach· Existing opportunities for individuals to upgrade themselves and/or obtain accreditation in the community, business, province, or country. What is the competition?· Rationale for selecting a distance delivery mode for this course or program. Is this rationale congruent with the mission of the institution or business?· Cost effectiveness of the distance learning program· Commitment of the institution or business to the program· Concerns the institution or business may have with the current program. What are the sources of this concern? Are the sources reliable? Are the concerns widespread? What indications are present that the concerns are valid?· Extent to which the institution, at all the appropriate levels, is committed to changeContinued…

  2. Clayton R. Wright

    Administrative Structures· Centralized vs. decentralized structures, pros and cons for the given situation· Administrative structure of the program and the interconnections among academic and service departments. Are the linkages set out in policy or are they primarily dependent on the willingness of those in the linked positions to collaborate?· Administrative capabilities regarding planning, communication, support, and monitoring. Do they have the expertise and resources required to conduct their administrative work effectively?· Financial capabilities of the administration. Are adequate financial resources available to administer the distance education program and do administrators have control over the resources that they require?· Willingness of administration to operate in a transparent manner; to listen to and respond to faculty, staff, and student concerns, especially the concerns raised by students in rural areas; to provide needed resources; and to adjust to changing circumstances· Capability of the administration to make decisions and to act expediently· Presence of job descriptions for each type of personnel involved in the administration, development, delivery, and support of the program. Do the job descriptions contain the mission of the institution or business, tasks to be performed, the percentage of time to be spent on each task, the level to which each task is to be performed, the number and type of positions that report to this position, how individuals will be evaluated, the immediate supervisor, and the conditions under which an individual may be reprimanded or dismissed?· Collaborative initiatives administration has fostered in an effort to involve various stakeholders and to use limited resources wisely· The accreditation procedures that are accepted by students and the community. These may involve provincial, national, or international bodies.· Faculty, full-time vs. part-time/contract personnel and their connection with the academic department or business unit and service departments· Student recruitment process. Emphasis placed on how it is administered to attract those in rural areas or small centres of a company’s operation and to provide students with accurate information that they can use to make a decision about their educational or training pursuits.· Registration procedures that are accessible, simple, and flexible to meet the needs of distance or independent learners· Procedures employed to give recognition for prior learning. An indication that potential students have been informed of the existence of a prior learning program.· Fee payment methods and scheduling that are accessible, flexible, and affordable· Library and learning resources – accessibility, variety, depth, and currency· Counselling and guidance – accessibility, variety of services including job placement· Help desk services including availability and type of services offered; training for help desk staff; the existence of problem-solving rubrics· Possible re-configurations of the existing administrative structure in order to gain an increase in effectiveness and efficienciesContinued….

  3. Clayton R Wright

    Learner, Graduate, and Non-Graduate Profiles· Profile of the learners including past, current, and future students. Particularly, their age, gender, current educational level, where they live, and competencies or current employment or position within the company. The primary focus is to gather student data that will enable administrators to track trends and predict future possibilities rather than to focus on one individual.· Completeness of the information program personnel have regarding the attributes and circumstances of the learners and the availability of this information· Perceptions students have about the current program – both positive and negative· Challenges learners face with the existing program, such as accessibility and the feeling of isolation· How the challenges faced by learners can be addressed. If technology is employed as part of the solution, will the learners have the knowledge/experience and technical competencies to use it effectively? Will the learners have access to the technology?· An indication of whether the graduates would recommend this program to their colleagues· Privacy policies and care taken to limit access to sensitive information.Employers of Program Graduates· Profile of those who hire graduates, e.g., position, type of institution or company, size of company· The attributes employers are seeking in graduates· Shortcomings of the existing program as perceived by those who hire graduates· The induction or training programs employers must implement in order to address the shortcomings of the program· Suggestions regarding how the existing program could be improved by those who hire graduates· An indication of whether the employers will continue to hire program graduatesProgram Design and Development· Structure of the academic program and its congruency with local or national needs as well as its flexibility to achieve learning outcomes· Clarity of the learning objectives and learning outcome statements as well as whether they are suitable for the intended audience and the content to be studied· A qualitative determination of whether the content of the program meets the needs of the learners and those who hire graduates· A quality assessment of the learning materials to ensure that the objectives are congruent with the instructional/learning strategies and assessment procedures and that they engage the learners· Contextualization of the material to ensure that it meets the needs of all learners particularly those in rural areas or those who live in foreign countries and may have different life experiences than those who live in urban areas or in one nation· Packaging of the materials for delivery to a rural or international audience· Use of media or technology, particularly how it facilitates learning and supports interactivity, and its appropriateness for use in a particular social, economic, and geographical context· Adherence to intellectual property laws and the treatment of the work of others· The assessment component of the learning program including its congruency with the learning objectives and the number and feasibility of formative and summative assessments· Quality measures that are used in course design and development including the review process that ensures that the materials are accurate and current, e.g., the use of editors and external content reviewers· Suggestions for improving the quality of the learning materials in order to address the needs of the students and ensure the stated outcomes of the program are metContinued…

  4. Clayton R. Wright

    Program Delivery· Program delivery process and procedures including the quality assurance systems that are in place prior to the distribution of materials· Delivery mode of the materials and its appropriateness for the audience and congruency with the instructional intent· Record keeping procedures that track the distribution of resources and the progress of the learners· Distribution of materials in a timely manner and the arrival of the resources in a useable form at its destination· Emphasis program administrators place on learning support· Role and effectiveness of the learning or study centres and their staff· Distribution of learning centres and their accessibility to learners· Availability of learning resources· Extent and quality of learning support including communication options available to students who need to contact faculty, tutors, counsellors, registration personnel, library resource staff, help desk staff, and their peers· The identification of students who fall behind on their studies and the timely and effective support that is provided to these students· Turnaround time for student feedback· The type of feedback provided to learners. Is it constructive, positive, and nurturing? Is detailed feedback provided?· Administration of assessments with due regard to security and timelinessHuman Resources· An assessment as to whether current staff are experienced and qualified for their positions· Hiring procedures that are fair and transparent· Faculty and tutor issues regarding workload, professional development, and support received from administration· Recognition and reward systems available to faculty, tutors, and staff· Recruitment and training of faculty, tutors, and staff· The support provided to faculty, tutors, and staff who work in rural areas or overseasQuality Assurance· Quality assurance methods or systems that are in place and their relationship to future planning· Mechanisms used to collect information from various stakeholders and to provide feedback to stakeholders· Visibility of the quality assurance system and its associated criteria or standards· Faculty and staff buy-in to quality· Affiliation and accreditation issues as they relate to quality assurance· Improving the existing quality assurance methods with particular emphasis on the collection, analysis, and use of data to improve operations especially in rural areas and/or overseasOverall Recommendations· Is the program accessible and appropriate for the intended learners?· Does the program meet its overall objectives? Is it effective?· Is the current program affordable and sustainable?· Does the program have credibility with the learners and prospective employers?· What, if anything, needs to be done to improve the current administration, development, delivery, and assessment of the program?· Are there suitable benchmarks which could be employed?If you use any of the items above, please note its source and as a professional courtesy, please let me know how you adapted the above list and where you used it. Thus, I may be able to improve the list and its applicability to more diverse situations. Thank you for your co-operation.


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