Continuing on the theme of policy and practice, I found Conole’s essay on An International Comparison of the Relationship between Policy and Practice in E-learning (2007) an informative read. Conole examines drivers that influence how technology is applied in Higher Education (HE) in the UK and Australia, weighs the pros and cons of e-learning, as well as makes recommendations for effective policy practice. Although this essay was written in 2007, many of the points Conole raises remain relevant. In this post I’ll address the main points Conole explores and reflect on the current situation on e-learning policies in the UK.


1.   Demand for E-learning

Developments in technology and changes in society influence policies in education towards e-learning. Technological growth is ascribed to factors such as the advancement of the internet – see blog post here for the E-Learning timeline. From a societal perspective, the increasing trend for people to change careers has created a greater demand for continual professional development resources.


2.   Policy Drivers

Conole identifies the following common drivers in HE policies in mainly the UK and Australia towards e-learning:

  • Targets for widening participation
  • Trend towards lifelong learning
  • Quality assurance
  • Increasing demand for competency-based learning
  • Emerging new global markets


3.   Advantages versus Disadvantages

On one side, developments in e-learning create opportunities for new methods in delivering education. These developments can be used to widen access to education, personalize learning and create niche markets for continual professional education. On the other hand, increasing focus on e-learning poses questions on how it should be regulated, how individual rights will be protected, as well as whether current academic staff are equipped with the skills necessary to use e-learning tools.


4.   Future Policy on E-Learning

In spite of the increased funding and interest in e-learning technologies in the last 20 years, Conole argues that decision-making by senior management has been pragmatic rather than informed. This is attributed to limited research in the field of e-learning and, as a result, a lack of theoretical models for senior management to base their decisions for e-learning policies on. To address this problem, Conole proposes investment in further research in the field.


5.   Where are we now?

At a glance, many of the issues Conole raises remain relevant today. I conducted brief research into the status of e-learning policies in the UK and found evidence of continual investment and interest – no surprises there. What did surprise me though was the lack of detail I could find on e-learning policies since the launch of the Industrial Strategy for Education (2013) and the establishment of the International Education Council (2013). Although the Industrial Strategy focuses on developing transnational education and Mass Open Online Courses to mention a few key points, details regarding how these will be implemented and the supporting rationale did not show up. At a glance support and investment for e-learning technologies in the UK remains enthusiastic (hooray!). What remains unclear is what technology will be used and how – the search for this information continues. 

The International Education Council mentions the UK's leading role in e-learning technologies, but doesn't go into details.

The International Education Council mentions the UK's leading role in e-learning technologies, but doesn't go into details.


Conole, Gráinne. "An international comparison of the relationship between policy and practice in e-learning." Handbook of e-learning research (2007): 286-310.