“Ethicultural” Sensitivity in E-Learning: Discussing Lusíada Universities Empirical Findings

Nuno Sotero Alves da Silva, Simon Rogerson and Bernd Stahl


Nowadays connectivity and interactivity proclaims a tremendous impact on educational process, transforming curriculums, learning materials and pedagogical strategies. Thus, Web based educational delivery platforms are enabling students to receive and interact with educational environment, and to engage with teachers in unmistakable new ways, making possible the transfer of traditional instruction. Nevertheless, e-learning models implementation demonstrate that a simple transfer of traditional practices, do not fully exploit capabilities for transforming and enhancing educational environments (Mason, 1998), namely effectively and efficiently customising and personalising learning (Silva et al., 2009) worldwide.

This paper aims to discuss some empirical evidence about e-learning technological implementation of Lusíada Universities in Portugal (Europe) and Angola (Africa) using a multiple case study analysis. Furthermore, education is recognized as central to sustainable economic and social development, for individuals to escape from the viciousness of poverty (Dhanarajan, 2002). So, educational challenges (ethical and cultural) in Africa are enhanced when compared with European educational environments and consequently, higher levels of loyalty and commitment are necessary (Curran, 2008) regarding Kantian and Aristotelic fundamental conceptions, and the role of university in society (Brey, 2004).

The following diagram demonstrates the underlying operations concerning the case studies:

Once the objectives are clear, we remember the first co-author theoretical research framework regarding successful ethical and cultural development of e-Learning technology within universities (Silva, et al. 2008). Such framework distinguishes three technical phases regarding project implementation analysis (Technological Infrastructures and Services, Knowledge/Content Management, and Computer Mediated Communication), and a strategic one. Similarly to other worldwide educational institutions Lusíada universities have embraced global learning, requiring an observation concerning applied flexible learning programs, diversity and multiculturality (Rutherford and Kerr, 2008), which progress will be under analysis throughout the several phases of the framework. For that, is necessary attend to different curriculum planning due to language and culture dimensions (Spector, 2009). Moreover, the necessity of including ethical consideration in e-Learning is clear, since Stahl (2002) identified some moral problems (power, privacy, monitoring, surveillance, access, opportunity cost, and awareness) that should be considered.

Given the theoretical basis, as well as the nature of the study, qualitative approach was chosen because it allows obtaining in-depth, “rich” data directly from participants (Karpova, Correia and Baran, 2009). The empirical evidence can be broadly classified as interpretive IS research (Klein and Myers 1999), as a consequence of the iterative process between field data and theoretical model evolved in a longitudinal time frame, providing a “thick” description of participants’ experiences (Walsham, 1993), assumptions, beliefs, and desires. Such methodology implied data collection through semi-structured interviews, field notes, documents, participant observations and some historical stories. In addition, we have also collected data through direct observations, archival records, and focus groups.

The key organizational position of the first co-author within Lusíada Universities organizational context (ICT manager and lecturer), suggests that the relationship between institutional and research boundaries justify the words “Action Case” (Braa and Vidgen, 1999) to reflect a method that is a hybrid of action research (Lewin, 1946), and soft case study (Walsham, 1993), improving the trade-off between intervention to problem solving and interpretation.

In order to highlight an empirical data analysis and interpretation of the data collected over 4 years, the value of hermeneutics perspective was considered potentially very relevant during the systems implementation, trying to make the sense of the whole, and the relationship between people, organization, and information systems. As a result, interesting findings will be presented in a comparative analysis for each case study and comments will be welcome.


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