In all these institutions, the terms virtual or online university seems to be used to introduce an
ambition rather than to describe the reality. None of these institutions seem to provide enough
online courses and support services that this analysis would characterize them as virtual or
online universities. These and other institutions that have ambitions to become virtual
universities may study Massey and Curry s (1999, viii) ten critical success factors in building a
1. Clearly define the mission of the Virtual University. If it is part of an existing
university, ensure that the Virtual University fits and supports the institution s
overall mission (for example, does it support faculty renewal, an institution s
commitment to access? Revenue goals?).
2. Provide adequate capital to finance start up and growth.
3. Define the institution s competitive advantage (price, quality, identifying a niche
program, client service, convenience?)
4. Identify the primary client groups and the complete programs that meet their needs.
5. Invest in top quality offerings by employing first rate faculty, first rate learning
technology and approaches and by continually monitoring quality.
6. Use a learner (client) centered pedagogical model.
7. Develop sound marketing strategies for growth (International markets? Offerings
of new programs? Developing a new client base?)
8. Create a common learning delivery approach through faculty training and
institution wide platforms.
9. Provide comprehensive administrative resources for students and instructors.
10. Implement centralized service standards to ensure responsiveness.
The institutions categorized as universities offer web courses from a number of institutes or
departments. From the catalogue entries and the interviews, it is hard to find universities that
have succeeded in carrying out a broad strategy or policy to offer web based courses. This is
supported by Massey and Curry (1999, ii) in their competitive analysis of key institutional
providers of post secondary education:
The biggest surprise in studying this group of providers, particularly pronounced in the
single institution providers, was the lack of an institutional strategy for online learning
initiatives. Institutional strengths and market research did not appear to play a role in
decisions on what programs to launch online. Very few providers have set aside capital
to finance an online strategy and most were bootstrapping online initiatives from
foundation grants and online program revenues.