Benchmarking e-learning

Benchmarking e-learning

Benchmarking is a management tool that has been applied in many areas of business but it is only in 2005-06 that there has been immense growth in its application specifically to university use of educational technology, initially in New Zealand ( [ Marshall, 2005] ), then in Europe including the UK under the auspices of the Higher Education Academy [] and most recently spreading to the US. Benchmarking e-learning is now seen in the UK as a key enabler of change in universities - some 40 universities and university-level colleges [] , around one quarter of all relevant UK institutions, are now starting work on this, with a further 12 having recently completed a pilot exercise [] .

It is possible to trace some early work on benchmarking e-learning in universities back to 1996 - on dimensions of virtuality in [ virtual universities] - but the first work under the name of benchmarking appears to have been in the 1999-2002 era on the BENVIC project [] and some specific benchmarking activities in English colleges.


In addition to the above remarks, for a more general history of e-learning including key dates of benchmarking e-learning events see the History of virtual learning environments.


ACODE is the eponymously named benchmarking scheme under development by the Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning, whose web site is at

Development of this started in 2004 as a pilot project. There is a [ project page] with a useful history and several key documents. The scheme is now available in [ draft form] while it awaits final external peer review.

It is a criterion-based system where criteria (divided into eight main benchmark areas) are scored on a 1-5 scale with the help of scoring statements. It takes a relatively wide view of e-learning, ensuring linkage with general learning and teaching, with IT and with staff development processes. The use of the word "alignment" in several criterion scoring statements suggests that it has been affected by the MIT90s approach described elsewhere in this article.

Other information

* There are ACODE [ press releases] of 18-19 May 2006 and 16-17 November 2005.
* A potential ACODE scheme is mentioned in a [ presentation] by Paul Bacsich in November 2005 at the University of Sydney, significant because [ Bacsich] is a benchmarking analyst also cited in one of the ACODE press releases.
* An ACODE [ statement] of January 2006 notes that in "December 2005: Dr Stephen Marshall (Victoria University of Wellington) surveyed members on how well supported students are with regard to IT support and access to helpdesk". Analysis of his institutional affiliation and email address makes it clear that this is the Dr [ Stephen Marshall] the author of the [ e-Learning Maturity Model] methodology for benchmarking e-learning.


BENVIC is a methodology for benchmarking e-learning developed under an EU project, also called BENVIC (in full, Benchmarking of Virtual Campuses) in the era 1999-2001. There is a project web site still at – but it has not been updated since February 2002. The BENVIC consortium was led by [ UOC] , the Open University of Catalonia and had a strong set of partners (including University College London in the UK). However, for various reasons including retirement of key staff the work does not seem to have continued – or least web searches indicate that follow-up work is not evident.

The BENVIC system has eight core "meta-indicators". These are:

  • Learner Services
  • Learning Delivery
  • Learning Development
  • Teaching Capability
  • Evaluation
  • Accessibility
  • Technical Capability
  • Institutional Capability

All of them, with the exception of Accessibility, are the kind of top-level groupings that one finds in other methodologies. UK readers should also note that Accessibility does not mean only the narrow sense of [ SENDA] but also covers many aspects of [ Widening Participation] .

Each of these eight meta-indicators is associated with a range of assessment measurements (indicators) which enables BENVIC users to carry out an initial benchmarking diagnostic. The assessment measurements are comprised of three types:

  • structural measurements
  • practice measurements
  • performance measurements.

There are in total 72 structural and practice indicators – which is rather more than in many systems but less than some others. Whether or not this is an issue depends crucially on how difficult it is to score these indicators and whether they are all "compulsory".

Indicators (other than the performance ones which are metrically based, i.e. numeric) are scored on a scale of 0-2. Many other systems use a scale of 1-5, but one could use a natural mapping of 0 to 1, 1 to 3, and 2 to 5.

There is a [ more detailed analyis] of BENVIC on the web.


CHIRON is an EU-funded project (under the Leonardo programme) whose aim is "to develop reference material presenting and analysing research outcomes, experiments and best practice solutions for new forms of e-learning, based on integration of broadband web-, digital TV- and mobile technologies for ubiquitous applications in the sector of non-formal and informal life-long learning". There is a CHIRON web site at They tend to use the phrase "u-learning" rather than "e-learning", where "u" denotes "ubiquity",

As part of this brief, CHIRON appears to be developing a benchmarking methodology. This is specifically referred to in [ Work Package 7] .

There are 11 criteria, divided into a total of 216 indicators. The criteria are as follows:

  • 01 Goals and Objectives of the course (12 indicators)
  • 02 Institutional Support (14 indicators)
  • 03 Course Development (50 indicators)
  • 04 Course Structure (12 indicators)
  • 05 Course Content (25 indicators)
  • 06 Teaching/Learning (19 indicators)
  • 07 Student Support (18 indicators)
  • 08 Faculty Support (4 indicators)
  • 09 Evaluation and Assessment (24 indicators)
  • 10 Accessibility (26 indicators)
  • 11 Language (12 indicators)
Most of the indicators are best described as specific and rather detailed e-learning standards and guidelines (for example on house style, usability, etc). The remaining few are drawn from a range of sources, including from the [ Quality on the Line] criteria developed in the late 1990s by the [ Institute for Higher Education Policy] in the US.


ELTI is the name of one of the methodologies that was trialled in 2006 in the UK [ Higher Education Academy Benchmarking Pilot] , by three universities:

  • University of Bristol
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

The version of ELTI on which the trials were originally based is the revised 2003 JISC version held at the JISC site The document [ ELTI Audit Tools] is the most directly relevant to what is commonly accepted as benchmarking, especially section 1 on so-called "Institutional Factors"; however, one at least of the pilot sites took a broader view.

The UK view of ELTI is given in the entry for [ ELTI] in the [ Higher Education Academy Wiki] .

Further details

The ELTI audit was originally developed as part of a JISC project and was designed to inform the process of embedding learning technologies, assist in developing appropriate institutional structures, culture and expertise and to encourage cross boundary collaboration and groupings.

The ELTI approach focuses on:

* 3 general areas for exploration: Culture, Infrastructure, and Expertise
* 12 key factors are identified, 4 in each area
* Up to 10 indicators are agreed, to reflect institutional context, for each factor
* Indicators are expressed as positive statements, which can be assessed according to a 1-5 scale but can also include qualitative statements.

During the e-Learning Benchmarking Pilot the three institutions used the tools and produced alterations and their own contextualised indicators. The three institutional blogs are at:

  1. [ University of Bristol blog]
  2. [ University of Hertfordshire blog]
  3. [ University of Wales Institute, Cardiff blog] .

Further reading for UK HE newcomers to the ELTI framework

  1. "Higher Education Academy e-Learning Benchmarking Project Consultant Final (Public) Report", Peter Chatterton, September 2006 - available at In this crisp 13-page report the main section of relevance to methodology is Section 3 (especially pages 7-8).
  2. "Benchmarking e-learning: Embedding Learning Technologies Institutionally (ELTI)" - [ a series of Reports] from the University of Hertfordshire. This is a comprehensive and rather daunting set of reports with a mass of information. From the narrow standpoint of methodology the most useful are:
    * "Guide to Proforma Spreadsheets", available at This is an introduction to the next document.
    * "UH Benchmarking Report - Annexe" (of spreadsheets), available at This has a series of Excel spreadsheets including a comprehensive revision of the ELTI audit tool with amended questions (including some new questions and many revised questions) and scoring statements.
  3. A department-based revision of the ELTI survey available via the [ University of Bristol blog] or directly at

eMM (e-learning Maturity Model)

The phrase "eMM" is the commonly used abbreviation for the longer phrase e-learning Maturity Model. The E-Learning Maturity Model (eMM) is a quality improvement framework based on the ideas of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability dEtermination) methodologies. The underlying idea that guides the development of the eMM is that the ability of an institution to be effective in any particular area of work is dependent on their capability to engage in high quality processes that are reproducible and able to be extended and sustained as demand grows.

The eMM provides a set of thirty-five processes, divided into five process areas, tha define a key aspect of the overall ability of institutions to perform well in the delivery of e-learning. Each process is selected on the basis of its necessity in the development and maintenance of capability in e-learning. All of the processes have been created after a rigorous and extensive programme of research, testing and feedback conducted internationally. Capability in each process is described by a set of practices organised by dimension.

The eMM supplements the CMM concept of maturity levels, which describe the evolution of the organisation as a whole, with dimensions. The five dimensions of the eMM are:
# Delivery
# Planning
# Definition
# Management
# Optimisation

The key idea underlying the dimension concept is holistic capability. Rather than the eMM measuring progressive levels, it describes the capability of a process from these five synergistic perspectives. An organization that has developed capability on all dimensions for all processes will be more capable than one that has not. Capability at the higher dimensions that is not supported by capability at the lower dimensions will not deliver the desired outcomes; capability at the lower dimensions that is not supported by capability in the higher dimensions will be ad-hoc, unsustainable and unresponsive to changing organizational and learner needs.

Full details of eMM can be found at the master site Updates and discussion appear on the [ eMM Blog]

Version 2 of eMM has changed considerably from the Version 1 of 2003, as noted at

Note that the eMM and associated documentation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

The eMM is being trialled in the Higher Education Academy Benchmarking Pilot, by the University of Manchester. Additional projects applying the eMM are underway supported by the Scottish Funding Council in Scotland and ACODE in Australia. Development and application of the eMM in New Zealand was supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Education Tertiary E-Learning Research Fund.


E-xcellence (pronounced “E-excellence”) is an EU-funded project run by [ EADTU] (the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities) with the assistance of 12 other partners. It has a project web site at

E-xcellence started in January 2005 and is due to conclude in November 2006, with a major launch at the [ EADTU conference] in Tallinn, Estonia, 23-24 November 2006. Originally E-xcellence was not envisaged as a benchmarking methodology but as a quality monitoring tool, but at arbout a year into the project there was a shift in emphasis and benchmarking is now one of the aims envisaged for E-xcellence. In fact there are three orientations of the methodology:

  • Assessment tool (at both institutional and programme level) (i.e. benchmarking)
  • Quality improvement tool (internal quality care system)
  • Accreditation tool for accreditation

Expected outcomes include:

  • List of criteria for "good" e-learning (i.e. setting standards of excellence and indicators for validation)
  • Manual on good practices (a web-based guide)
  • Quality assurance system (internal validation based on the standard of excellence)
  • Reports on pilots which will test the validation approach
  • Establishment and training of a visitation team both for quality assurance and for accreditation (to be seen as distinct procedures)

There is little public information so far but it is believed that the basis of the E-xcellence benchmarking methodology is as follows:

  1. Based on criteria, with (at the time of writing) 20 "threshold" criteria and a further 30 "excellence" criteria
  2. Each criterion is a bundle of indicators
  3. Criteria are not yet scored, but this may be added by the time of the final release
  4. The threshold" level can be determined by a self-audit, but the "excellence" level requires in addition a visit from an expert team.


IQAT - pronounced "eye-cat" - is a newish benchmarking and quality enhancement methodology developed by [ Hezel Associates] , a well-known firm of e-learning consultants, in conjunction with a number of university partners. Unlike most benchmarking methodologies it even has its own [ web site] . The methodology was formally launched in June 2006.

It describes itself as "a web-based tool to track and benchmark institutional data systematically across time and among peer institutions".

The work is being done in partnership with [ NUTN] , the National University Telecommunications Network, and with sponsorship from Cisco Systems. NUTN has for some time had a major interest in quality and more recently benchmarking, as demonstrated for example by the topics and speakers at their [ 2006 conference] . In particular there was a [ launch presentation] of IQAT. One of the leading organisations in NUTN is [ Michigan State University] , who have a leading role in organising an upcoming (October 2006) conference on quality in Beijing, China, entitled the [ First International Forum on Online Education: Quality Assurance] , with a range of quality and benchmarking experts as speakers.

However, probably since it is a commercial and proprietary tool, little further public information appears to be available on IQAT. There are some resources and a glossary on the IQAT site but these appear in the main to be "about" distance learning not about "benchmarking" it, with the exception of a report entitled [ The Status of Benchmarking at Higher Education Institutions] (in the US).


MASSIVE is an EU-funded project coordinated by the University of Granada - the web site is at

The prime aim of the project is to design a model of support services for European universities engaged in e-learning. This is being done in a cooperative way involving a large network of organisations, the members of the MASSIVE consortium, tothether with stakeholders not directly participating in the project, who liaise via a Strategic Advisory Committee. The university members of MASSIVE include:

  • Universidad de "Barcelona"
  • University of "Bergen"
  • "Budapest" University of Technology and Economics
  • University of "Edinburgh"
  • EuroPACE and its member universities
Student involvement is handled via ESIB, the [ National Unions of Students in Europe] .

A key outcome of MASSIVE is to a promote a peer review evaluation approach, based on models widely tested in the university partners. Via Peer Review Visits, those in charge of the best support services practices will help each university to refne and improve their support services for e-learning. At this point the project becomes very similar to a benchmarking project.


The MIT90s framework has been used by the University of Strathclyde (one of the 12 institutions in the [ Higher Education Academy Benchmarking Pilot] ) to assist in the structuring of its approach to benchmarking e-learning. For details of its use in Phase 1 see the [ Higher Education Academy Benchmarking Wiki] entry for [ MIT90s] .

The framework was developed by Michael Scott Morton as part of the work of the "MIT90s" initiative which flourished at MIT in the early 1990s. Michael Scott Morton is now Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The work is cited under various names: it is correctly entitled "The Corporation of the 1990s: Information Technology and Organizational Transformation", edited by Michael Scott Morton with an introduction by Lester Thurow (Oxford University Press, USA), published February 1991, ISBN 0-19-506358-9.

There has been some confusion over the correct name of the initiative and the framework. Readers will find "MIT 90s", "MIT90" and even "MITs 90" in various references.

The MIT90s framework has been central to a number of JISC and related studies (including from DfES) on adoption and maturity. In UK post-16 e-learning terms, probably the most successful use of this is in the [ RAIIE] study led by David Nicol of the University of Strathclyde, funded by JISC during the period April 2003 to May 2004, which produced a final report "A Framework for Managing the Risks of e-Learning Investment". There is also a substantial strand of work in Australia associated with the names of Philip Yetton, Anne Forster, Sandra Wills and others, some of it funded by DETYA. This also used the concept of "strategic aligment" described below.

The MIT90s initiative developed several companion pieces of work o which two are from Venkatraman: "transformation levels" and "strategic alignment". Professor N Venkat Venkatraman is now Professor of Management at Boston University School of Management (and also a visiting professor at London Business School) but was at the Sloan School of Management at MIT during the period of relevance. His work on "IT-Induced business reconfiguration" is Chapter 5 (pages 122-158) of the main book referred to above.

The Venkatraman thesis is that business use of IT passes through five levels, differing in both the degree of business transformation and in the range (and amount) of potential benefits. The levels are:

  • Localised exploitation
  • Internal integration
  • Business process redesign
  • Business network redesign
  • Business scope redefinition.
Levels 1 and 2 are called "evolutionary levels" – levels 3, 4, and 5 are called "revolutionary levels".

This has been applied to educational systems, especially in the schools sector, by Becta and DfES.

In passing, it is interesting that this is one of the first situations where a 5-point scale has been used in a situation akin to benchmarking.

The MIT90s framework could have relevance to [ e-benchmarking frameworks] . In particular, the [ latest version (2.0)] of the [ Pick & Mix] methodology uses the MIT90s framework for tagging its criteria in the Pick&Mix 2.0 release of which a beta description is now [ available] .

Further reading

In addition to the work from the University of Strathclyde - see their [ benchmarking blog] for details - there are four main papers/reports that newcomers to the MIT90s framework are advised to read:

  1. Wills, Sandra, "Strategic Planning for Blended eLearning", paper presented to the IEE conference "ITHET06", Sydney, July 2006, available at This is a succinct description of an application of the MIT90s approach in a university.
  2. Yetton, Philip et al., "Managing the Introduction of Technology in the Delivery and Administration of Higher Education", DEETYA, available at If you have time just to read just one longer report, read this one.
  3. Uys, Philip, Towards the Virtual Class: key management issues in tertiary education, PhD dissertation, Victoria University of Wellington, 2000, available at See in particular chapters 2 and 10. This dissertation describes the value of the MIT90s framework in structuring and analysing a large implementation action research programme – and the heuristics derived. It is, along with the work of Wills, one of the few examples of serious feedback into the MIT90s framework.
  4. Segrave, Stephen, Holt, Dale and Farmer, James, “The power of the 6three model for enhancing academic teachers’ capacities for effective online teaching and learning: Benefits, initiatives and future directions”, "Australasian Journal of Educational Technology" ("AJET") 21(1), 2005, available at This is a good read useful as a modern confirmation of the relevance of the MIT90s framework.

The original MIT90s book is:
* Scott Morton, Michael S. (ed), The Corporation of the 1990s: Information Technology and Organizational Transformation, Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-19-506358-9. It is still an excellent and quite fast read.

To fill in further details readers are also referred to:
* Pennell, Russ, and Wills, Sandra, “Changing horses in mid-stream: a new LMS plus improved teaching”, "Ausweb06", available at
* Venkatraman, N. and Henderson, J. C. "Strategic alignment: Leveraging information technology for transforming organizations", "IBM Systems Journal" Vol. 32, No. 1, 1993, available at

A book of great interest for those interested in seeing a comprehensive framework based on MIT90s is:
* Ford, Peter, et al., "Managing Change in Higher Education: A Learning Environment Architecture", Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press, Buckingham, 1996, ISBN 0-335-19792-2 (hardback). This describes the OPEN"framework", developed by ICL in part based on MIT90s thinking, and its application to IT-driven change management. It was popular in JISC circles, in particular the [ MLE Steering Group] , but there is no information on the web about its actual use in specific universities.


OBHE is an eponymous benchmarking methodology run by OBHE, the [ Observatory on Borderless Higher Education] . The Observatory is a joint initiative of ACU, the Association of Commonwealth Universities and Universities UK, the association of all UK universities. The Observatory is now 100% funded by subscriptions and consultancy, and has over 130 institutional subscribers from more than twenty countries. It offers a wide range of services of which benchmarking is one. Within the benchmarking offering is a range of sub-offerings, of which one is deployed for the Higher Education Academy clients.

The OBHE methodology is a collaborative benchmarking methodology where a group of institutions get together and jointly agree relevant areasa of interest (in this case, within the e-learning space) and in a later phase, look for good practices. A succinct description of the variant of their methodology used for the Higher Education Academy Benchmarking Pilot is [ here] .

The methodology goes back to benchmarking work done for European and Commonwealth universities in the 1990s. A related study to the Higher Education Academy Pilot is the work done for OECD to produce the report "E-learning in Tertiary Education: Where Do We Stand?" As reported in the [ Proceedings of the OECD Conference on Post-Secondary E-learning] , "This was based on a detailed, qualitative survey of current e-learning practice in 19 institutions of higher education in North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. The information gathered through this survey was complemented by quantitative data collected by OBHE from the 500 members of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and of Universities UK."


Pick&Mix (in the past called "Pick & Mix" with spaces) is the name of one of the methodologies being trialled in the Higher Education Academy Benchmarking Pilot, by three universities:

  • University of Chester
  • University of Leicester
  • Staffordshire University
The version of Pick&Mix on which the trials were originally based is version 1.0, first described in a public domain document from the [ ALT-C 2005 conference] and refined slightly to [ version 1.1] for the Higher Education Academy. During the pilot, after the criterion-setting phase, this was updated to [ version 1.2] .

The release being offered to HEIs for Phase 1 is version 2.0. A beta version of this is described [ here] .

Version 2.0 has benefited substantially from input from the pilot user group of the Universities of Chester, Leicester and Staffordshire, who share in the moral rights of authorship. Released versions of Pick&Mix are in future to be put into the public domain via a Creative Commons license (as was version 1.0 and a summarised literature search).

Pick&Mix was first developed in 2005 after an [ extensive literature search] to suit the needs of Manchester Business School for a comparative methodology for benchmarking e-learning, and a beta version of 1.0 used for a study of 12 comparable institutions to Manchester Business School. The full study is and remains confidential to MBS but a presentation of the highlights was made at the [ University of Sydney] in November 2005.

Further information on Pick&Mix including a range of presentations and papers, and material on related methodologies, within the "critical success factors" tradition of benchmarking can be found [ here] .

The recognised abbreviation for Pick&Mix (e.g. as used in tables) is "PnM", although "P&M" is sometimes seen also.

Specific countries

New Zealand

They are using the eMM methodology.

United Kingdom (UK)

In universities, the Higher Education Academy is deploying a small number of methodologies. See their [ benchmarking page] for an entry point to material.

The Higher Education Academy benchmarking blog can be accessed at

The [ Higher Education Academy benchmarking wiki] is also available - please note that this is oriented to material relevant to UK higher education.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужен реферат?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • History of virtual learning environments 1990s — In the history of virtual learning environments, the 1990s was a time of growth, primarily due to advent of the affordable computer and of the Internet.1990s1990* Formal Systems Inc. of Princeton, NJ, USA introduces a DOS based Assessment… …   Wikipedia

  • History of virtual learning environments — A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a system that creates an environment designed to facilitate teachers in the management of educational courses for their students, especially a system using computer hardware and software, which involves… …   Wikipedia

  • E-learning Maturity Model — The E Learning Maturity Model (eMM) is one of a number of e learning benchmarking methodologies used internationally. eMM is a quality improvement framework based on the ideas of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and SPICE (Software Process… …   Wikipedia

  • Archipelago Learning — Archipelago Learning, Inc. Type Public Traded as NASDAQ: ARCL …   Wikipedia

  • Australian Flexible Learning Framework — The Australian Flexible Learning Framework is a national strategy collaboratively funded by the Australian Government and all Australia s states and territories. It is intended to provide the vocational and technical education (VTE) system with e …   Wikipedia

  • Education for Chemical Engineers — ECE is [ IChemE’s] online journal, launched in May 2006 at [ lang en.html ACHEMA] .With a remit to publish education research papers, resource reviews and teaching and learning notes, ECE is… …   Wikipedia

  • Continuous improvement process — A continuous improvement process (CIP or CI) is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek incremental improvement over time or breakthrough improvement all at once.[1] Delivery (customer valued)… …   Wikipedia

  • Performance measurement — with a process is the complement to process execution. Based on measured performance, the feedback control loop may be closed. The metrics to assess performance is set according to a determined econometric model. The expected best result is… …   Wikipedia

  • Jack Grayson — Infobox Person name= C. Jackson Grayson, Jr. caption= birth date= birth date|1923|8|8|mf=y birth place=Fort Necessity, Louisiana, USA dead=NO death date= death place= occupation= Productivity and quality improvement champion spouse=Dr. Carla O… …   Wikipedia

  • KPQM — Wissensmanagement [ ˌmænɪdʒmənt] (englisch knowledge management) ist ein zusammenfassender Begriff für alle operativen Tätigkeiten und Managementaufgaben, die auf den bestmöglichen Umgang mit Wissen abzielen. Beiträge zum Wissensmanagement –… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”