2006, Volume 18, Number 2, 89-96 ISSN 1812-9129
The Pedagogical Challenges Facing French Business Schools in the Implementation of E-learning Initiatives Peter Daly
EDHEC Business School, Lille-Nice
This paper will reflect on the pedagogical challenges facing French Business Schools in the implementation of e-learning initiatives. I will show that the top French Business Schools are not the main providers of e-learning in business education, as the task is mainly assigned to private companies or government-subsidized organizations. Some fragmented e-learning initiatives do exist but the usefulness of this technology to enhance the learning and teaching experience is often overlooked in a drive to provide e-learning at all costs. I will argue that elearning development should be grounded in a comprehensive pedagogical framework. The various challenges facing educators will be analyzed, such as their epistemological beliefs, their roles as teachers, their ability to create a community of inquiry, and their ability to choose pertinent knowledge. In order to put learning on the agenda in French higher education and help the educator understand how students learn, a more detailed understanding of the generational characteristics of student cohorts, their epistemological beliefs and conceptions of learning, as well as their learning styles and preferences is advocated.
E-learning in France For some, e-learning means a fully online course; for others, it means the use of a course management system. For the purpose of this paper, the European Union definition of e-learning will be employed: “Elearning means using new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning by facilitating access to facilities and services as well as remote exchanges and collaboration” (EC Publication, 2003, p. 3). While this definition is quite broad, it does contain some key concepts such as quality of learning, facilitation, exchange, and collaboration. Therefore, this definition presupposes that the learner is at the center of the learning event facilitated by an educator in an exchange of knowledge that is acquired via collaboration. Ledru (2002) set out four dimensions of e-learning: pedagogical and psychological; technological; economic and legal; and organizational and change management issues. If we apply these four dimensions to e-learning implementation at French Business Schools, we can see that the technological dimension is the only one to have received any serious consideration with business schools investing massively in learning platforms such as Blackboard®, WebCT, or Crossknowledge. While they may purport to be involved in e-learning, a closer look at the French e-learning market tells a different story. At the moment, the main provision of e-learning in France is divided between: (a) e-learning in firms, offering customized content developed internally or by large companies and then outsourced to private suppliers and (b) e-learning provided by the central government or by regional and local authorities or associations receiving government subsidies. In the first sector, termed here as the private elearning market segment, Gil (2003) provides an impressive list of the major players such as software
editors (e.g. Sybase, Lotus, Oracle); publishing houses (Foucher Editions d’Organisation, McGraw Hill, Ziff Davis); consultancy firms (Arthur Anderson); TV channels (M6, France 5); and startups (SABA, Centra, Online Formapro), all of whom are vying for a slice of the e-learning market. However, many of these providers lack credibility as they are not attached to a reputable business school or university. In France, e-learning in business education will not be successful unless the major players (Grande Ecoles, i.e. public or private higher education institutions that admit students by competitive examination...