It is essential for a business model that there is a product (a course or programme) that fulfils a need for a costumer (a learner) in such a way that he/she wants to purchase it (by signing up for the course/programme). Therefore the production of the course/programme, it's delivery to the students and the ways these are going to be serviced, plays a decisive role for the decision a university has to take, when it enters into provision of lifelong learning.
Evaluating Production Requirements
In relation to production and delivery of courses/programmes, servicing of lifelong learning students and their recruitment, the following questions should be answered:
Do we have the key competences in-house to produce the courses and programmes we plan to offer (key resources)?
Or do we have to go into partnership with other educational institutions (key partnerships)?
Are we able to finance the development of courses/programmes in a period prior to delivery?
Are we willing to run the risk of investing in a course that will not attract a sufficient number of students?
Do we have the communication and service infrastructure in place in order to deliver the course and serve groups of students studying on a part-time basis and at a distance?
Are we able to facilitate collaboration and communication among the students and between students and tutors/teachers?
Are the staff familiar with the pedagogical potential of using social software to function in an on-line learning environment?
Are we able to recruit these new segments of students by advertising the courses/programmes (key activities) or do we have to outsource this activity (key partners)?
Questions relating to production requirements:
The money available and the size of the student audience heavily influence the choice of educational format.
Catchment Area Size Impacts Offerings
Universities in large countries (e.g. Germany, Russia and Turkey) or those offering programmes for huge language communities (e.g. Spain and United Kingdom) are more likely to recruit bigger audiences for their courses.
Consequently, they are able to invest more resources in the form of money and manpower in the development of new courses than institutions in smaller countries serving smaller language areas.
The open universities in Europe invest many resources in producing the educational material for self-learners with a combination of new written textbooks, additional course books with relevant articles, CDs with audiovisual material and interactive learning objects and/or dedicated course web-sites – all kept together by an instructive study guide. Furthermore, a network of study centres that offer tutorials, and/or on-line tutorials support the delivery.
Mixed-mode universities in smaller countries (e.g. Belgium, Denmark and Sweden) have to find other ways to fulfil the same needs for upgrading the workforce in their area and for offering lifelong learning in less costly formats. An often-used concept is to organise the educational material in a "pick and mix" or "cut and paste" way. Texts, video & audio materials and open source interactive resources are collected on the course web-site and presented to the students through an elaborated study guide.
This concept may not be as thoroughly thought through from a pedagogical point of view as the one presented by big open universities, but it is far cheaper than producing every educational unit from scratch. Furthermore it is possible to produce a course or module faster within the pick and mix concept. The final finishing of a course or module may be postponed until a few months before delivery when the registration of students for the course is known.
Also on delivery, mixed-mode universities have to be very cost conscious. Often delivery will incorporate some face-to-face seminars in combination with on-line discussions and guidance. Increasingly, social software is incorporated in order to create a dynamic learning environment for the lifelong learners.
It also plays a decisive role whether the university has research and teaching expertise among its staff and whether courses and programmes are already on offer within the area for full-time students on campus, or it has to hire new experts.
When choosing the educational format for a course or programme the following issues should be considered
Choice of Educational Format
When choosing the educational format for a course or programme the following issues should be considered:
How many resources – both in terms of money and manpower – are available for preproduction of educational material?
How much self-produced educational material is it possible to provide for the course/module?
Does the course/programme include some hand-on experiments to be carried out in special laboratories? Does that require agreements with other institutions?
How much manpower – professors, lecturers and tutors – will be involved in the delivery of the course/programme and for how many working hours?
Does the university have the technological infrastructure (on-line communication and management systems) and the pedagogical expertise to offer the course/programme as e-learning (broadly understood as both delivery of course material, student support and on-line collaboration)?
Does the targeted student population have the sufficient IT-knowledge to be taught on-line or is an introduction to computer-mediated communi¬cation needed?
Are the lifelong learners recruited from a closed geographical area that will make it possible to organise the delivery as a combination of face-to-face seminars and e-learning?
Is the course or module part of a degree programme (formal learning) to finish with an exam or is it a part of a non-formal offer to upgrade citizens in general? This will influence the way learning tasks are incorporated into the delivery – e.g. numbers of assignments.
Determining the best educational format:
Considerations on Production and Delivery
When planning for the production and delivery of lifelong learning programmes, universities need to consider elements such as: key resources, key activities and key partnerships.
Key resources can be physical, intellectual, human or financial. Universities need to also consider key resources that partners may contribute with. The motivation to establish partnerships may be to acquire particular resources and activities, or for example to reduce the risk associated with a new venture.
Activities needed to produce a lifelong learning programme can be quite diverse and may for example be directly related to production of learning materials, marketing materials etc ( see market relations) or be associated with the platform or network that is needed to deliver the programme. Furthermore, there would be a need for support of students throughout any planned programme, and it is natural to assume that an informational component would also be required prior to the start of any course.
EXAMPLES OF PRODUCTION AND DELIVERY
Context and Inspiration
In an effort to provide context and inspiration to the users of this site, selected examples of university programmes exhibiting excellence or innovation or indeed delivery of strong performance within specific or diversified markets, can be found in examples of implementation, in the popups on the right side of this page.
The popups are based on information provided by the partners and furthermore elaborated upon in the context of business models, particularly with regard to the production and delivery relations aspect.
They provide examples of implementing production and delivery aspects within lifelong learning programmes.
From these popups you are also able to access a synthesis of the individual case studies, that are also accessible via Examples of Implementation.
Masters programme at Aarhus University:
an example of face-to-face seminars in combination with on-line discussions and guidance
Katholieke Universiteit, Belgium:
a non-formal offer to upgrade medical practitioners through a collaborative distance learning course.
Serving a large and geographically disparate student audience through television