Institutions that plan to offer large scale and professional online education need an
administrative system which is integrated with the web. To accomplish this, institutions may
follow several strategies. The simplest strategy is probably to collaborate with an institution
that already has a functional administrative system. Another solution, which requires more
technical competence, is to develop an in house system based on common Internet services.
The third option is to purchase a standard system for online education. These standard systems
are continuously being improved, but they may still need much local adaptation. They may
only meet some of the administrative needs, and they could place some pedagogical
limitations on the courses.
A discouraging, but important observation is that a number of institutions do not use the web
for administrative purposes. Outsourcing is an option that does not seem to be much used,
only one instance was identified. Many of the institutions have developed in house
administrative solutions in combinations with standard Internet software. The standard
administrative systems that were mentioned in the interviews were FirstClass, WebCT, and
Advertising and Financial Issues
It is implicit in many of the interviews that advertising of programs and courses is an
important function of the web services.
The tuition fees for web courses seem to vary considerably among institutions and courses.
Some courses are free and open to everyone, and others seem to have full or partial external
funding. One may ask how many of these initiatives that will continue when the external
funding ceases. The institutions that operate with tuition fees seem to have fees that are the
same or not very different from fees in traditional courses. The analysis has revealed few, if
any, examples of institutions with substantial income from student fees. Likewise, there seem
to be few institutions that can claim that provision of web based courses has been an
economic success, if they disregard external research and development grants.
The tutors seem to be both part time teachers that are engaged just for the online courses and
full time teachers that also teach some online courses. It is also interesting to observe that
distributed experts and students take part in the tutoring.
An analysis of the interviews indicates that the tutors at least conduct the following functions
which are extracted from the statements below:
Organizational functions: structure discussions, pacing, put forward initiatives
Social functions: monitor groups
Intellectual functions: answer questions, guiding students on the Internet
Assessment functions: give feedback to assignments, correct submissions
Human tutoring seems to be much more common than machine tutoring, but some institutions
include machine tutoring in addition to human tutoring. Most institutions seem to combine
individual tutoring with group tutoring. The focus between the two could however vary.
Online teaching is in many courses supplemented with face to face meetings, video or audio
conferences, or telephone contact.