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How E-business can provide a sustainable framework for online learning in the vocational education and training arena

conference contribution
posted on 2001-01-01, 00:00 authored by John Mitchell
The author undertook a major national study of e-business for the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) from November 1999 - February 2000, resulting in the report E-competent Australia: The Impact of E-commerce on the National Training Framework (ANTA, 2000; available at http;:// This ANTA study and other research by the author show that e-business will eventually have a significant impact on the Australian economy, on industries, organisations, occupations and education and training organisations. From April-May 2000, the author is undertaking a major study for the Commonwealth Government (DETYA): a scoping study of e-commerce in the education and training sector (higher education, VET, schools) of Australia.

This paper starts where the ANTA study (Mitchell 2000a) and the DETYA study stop, by exploring the implications of e-business for online learning systems. E-business will eventually impact not only on the organisations providing online education but on their online learning systems.

The paper is based also on research by the author for a Doctorate in Education within the Faculty of Education at Deakin University that commenced in 1997 and is continuing. The research for this paper involved a review of national and international developments in ebusiness, relating them to online learning systems.

This paper traces the origins, definitions and drivers of both e-business and online learning systems in the 1990s, showing how e-business principles and strategies in the future will have a beneficial impact on online learning systems, even if online learning systems eventually lose their identities as separate from the rest of the organisation.

An e-business focus for online learning systems would start with an understanding of the customers' needs; would find a customer-centric solution, not a technology-centric solution; would empower the customer; would provide sufficient and multiple types of support for the customer; would provide quality and skilled input; and would provide cost effective, reliable and accessible technology.

This vision of an e-business approach to training varies greatly from the traditional business model for the delivery of training, particularly by VET Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). The traditional business model includes real estate prices dictating location of campuses; architecture dictating class sizes; industrial relations dictating the number and length of sessions and prescribing tight role descriptions; queues of students enrolling in February and July each year; and students seated in teacher-dominated classrooms. In contrast, an e-business basis for RTOs would involve the use of electronic communication to improve business performance, improve the use of existing resources, enhance existing services and increase market reach.

An e-business model for RTOs would include the following features: the development of new relationships with customers, using electronic communication to strengthen the relationship; the pursuit of new student markets; and the development of new relationships and alliances between providers. In this new arena of potential and threat, of disintermediation and reintermediation, there will be new roles for new intermediaries; and there will emerge new ways of supporting teaching and learning. Progressive education and training organisations will realize the potential offered by e-business and enjoy the fruits of reintermediation.



Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia. Conference (15th : 2001 : Sydney, N.S.W.)


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Sydney, N.S.W.

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Sydney, N.S.W.

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Publication classification

E2 Full written paper - non-refereed / Abstract reviewed

Copyright notice

2001, ODLAA


M Mahony

Title of proceedings

ODLAA 2001 : Education odyssey 2001: Continuing the journey through adaptation and innovation : collected papers from the 15th Biennial forum of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia

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