E-learning and leadership

Student thesis: Master programme thesis

  • Henrik Wisbech
4. term, Master of ICT and Learning (MIL) (Continuing education) (Continuing Education Programme (Master))
The main issue of this thesis is if and how e-learning can be used as an integrated part of leadership (or management) education. The case study is a part-time leadership education for managers in Danish local authorities (abbreviated DKL) consisting of three modules, where focus is on the first module, The Personal Leadership. The students are all managers or su-pervisors with a professional background as for instance engineers, teachers, social workers or office workers. I define e-learning as a learning environment, where ICT and face-to-face elements are de-signed as a coherent unity. This opposed to distance education, where the face-to-face ele-ments are negligible, and to ICT-supported education, where there is no didactical integration of the two parts. My theoretical foundation – as well as the theories behind DKL - can be termed (social-)constructionism. I view meaning as an entity constructed and negotiated in social systems with the means of communication. Meaning can be regarded as a common interpretation within the particular social system of the state of the world, and has reduction of complexity as the central issue. With reference to Lars Qvortrup’s works I view knowledge, learning, and leadership as shar-ing common ground, and with a Luhmannian concept of systems and communication I have established a starting point for a concept of genuine collaborative learning within a Danish tradition of project pedagogy and communities of practice, both with respect to learning (DKL), and leadership (the managers actual working community). My empirical basis is the first three classes of DKL-students (approximately 30), who started in February 2004. I have had access to their use of a particular Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called DKL-Groupcare, all students have been called for to answer a questionnaire (an appeal roughly two thirds accepted), and I have made two group interviews: One with five students and one with the three teachers. Based on the above-mentioned theoretical and empirical foundation I conclude that e-learning can improve leadership education and indeed education, where relational compe-tences are being focused upon. If this conclusion shall prove valid however, a number of im-portant issues must be taken into consideration: ¨ The ICT-part of the learning environment must be technically stable, simple and ad-justable to individual needs. ¨ There must be a high degree of trust between students (and teacher) if written com-munication about what is often regarded as personal issues shall be possible. ¨ A common language to express reflections must be developed, and the ICT-part must facilitate a multi-faceted communicative spectrum. ¨ Teachers and students alike must be trained in the possibilities and potentials of asyncronous and syncronuos communication via the Internet. This training must be consistent with the general pedagogical thinking. ¨ The didactic design of the learning environment in general, and the ICT-part in par-ticular, must reflect the background and qualifications of the specific group of stu-dents. ¨ The pedagogical and didactical approach to the face-to-face and ICT-parts of the learning environment must be coherent. My aim have not been to design a VLE for DKL according to the conlusions above, but I do highlight a few possible developments: ¨ A flexible interface being able to reflect the most important issues for the individual student at the actual learning stage. ¨ Incorporation of RSS-feed technology to ensure that all students are aware of news from the learning environment. ¨ Integration of graphical elements in asyncronous and synchronous communication. These elements shall not be developed as a means of eliminating the difference between face-to-face and ICT parts of the learning environment. That is neither a feasible nor desirable ambition. On the contrary is it extremely important to realize, that this difference is exactly what makes the qualitative improvement in learning – and ultimately leadership – possible. It is, so to speak, the difference, that makes the difference.
Publication date2005
Number of pages90
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 6141131