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A Comparative Analysis of E-Learning Policy Formulation in the European Union and the United States: Discursive Convergence and Divergence


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This study developed a framework that compares the content and purposes of “federal” level European Union (EU) and United States (US) e-learning policy to ascertain trends, patterns, and points of convergence and divergence across the years 1994–2010. It reveals that the EU and US are applying similar rhetoric for policy framing, justification, provisions, mechanisms, and incentives for e-learning. However, the actual policies vary due to the structural differences between the governing regimes. This research also suggests that more rigorous analyses of educational policy can contribute to our understanding of the intersectionality of policy development and educational regulation at local, regional, and transnational levels.
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Comparative Education Review, vol. 58, no. 1.
2013 by the Comparative and International Education Society. All rights reserved.
Comparative Education Review 135
A Comparative Analysis of E-Learning Policy Formulation
in the European Union and the United States:
Discursive Convergence and Divergence
This study developed a framework that compares the content and purposes of “federal”
level European Union (EU) and United States (US) e-learning policy to ascertain trends,
patterns, and points of convergence and divergence across the years 1994–2010. It reveals
that the EU and US are applying similar rhetoric for policy framing, justification, pro-
visions, mechanisms, and incentives for e-learning. However, the actual policies vary due
to the structural differences between the governing regimes. This research also suggests
that more rigorous analyses of educational policy can contribute to our understanding
of the intersectionality of policy development and educational regulation at local, re-
gional, and transnational levels.
The proliferation of information communication technologies (ICTs) has
prompted governing bodies to develop e-learning policies. Brown et al. (2007,
i) identify three common stages across international contexts: The first occurs
“as governments act to make e-learning possible, the second as they work to
integrate e-learning into the education system, effectively, to mainstream e-
learning [and in] the third stage a transformative role for e-learning is seen.”
The coinciding emergence, timing, rhetoric, and strategies employed in e-
learning policy in both the European Union (EU) and the United States
(US) are evident. As a consequence of the growing global scope of social
and public policy issues, the EU and the US governments are prompted to
respond with economic, environmental, security, and other policies that ap-
pear, around the world, to be similar. There is a growing body of literature
comparing EU and US policy responses regarding a number of transnational
This study offers a comparative analysis of e-learning policies devel-
oped in the EU and the US and aims to establish a coherent framework for
a policy comparison between the two governing bodies.
Received February 8, 2012; revised February 7, 2013; accepted September 19, 2013; electronically
published December 3, 2013
McKay (1999, 2005); Kelemen (2000); Hoornbeek (2004); Mendez (2005); Obinger et al. (2005);
Mendez and Mendez (2009).
136 February 2014
Kingdon (1984) suggests that policy change comes about when three
streams—problems, politics, and policies—connect. Kingdon’s approach em-
phasizes that while the three streams may be operating independently of one
another, all three need to come together in order for new policy to emerge.
In the case of the emergence of e-learning policy, the initial conditions of
the rapid development of ICT in society posed a new problem and challenge
for governing bodies, causing them to reconsider their present education
policies. The result was the drafting of new policies regarding the more
programmatic integration of ICT into education systems.
Given the limited research literature comparing education policies be-
tween European countries and the US in this regard, the aim of this study
is to compare the development of e-learning policy, looking at the EU and
the US as comparable “federal” political entities and units of analysis. As a
governing body, the EU’s increasing competence in educational matters has
created a space for policy making that is more characteristic of a political
assembly resembling a federal approach to education. In this sense, the EU
and the US can be viewed as comparable entities. European e-learning pol-
icies can be examined in a manner that takes into account the increased
powers of decision making of the EU; e-learning policies in the US can be
examined in a manner that takes into account the fact that, when it comes
to education policy, the US itself is a loosely federated system of states that,
when seen as such, can be rather more readily compared to the EU.
Echoing Salajan’s (2007, 2013) explication of e-learning policy in the
EU, and building on McMillan Culp et al.’s (2003) analysis of 20 years of
education technology policy in the US, this research provides a comparative
overview and analysis of the development of EU level and US federal-level
policies on e-learning. It offers a historical overview and analysis of the de-
velopment and trajectory of e-learning policy on both sides of the Atlantic,
and its importance rests in its ability to observe trends in e-learning policy
making among comparable governance structures. It is premised on the idea
that comparable political entities respond both similarly and differently to
intraneous and extraneous stimuli in the politico-economic environment,
and, in turn, they indirectly influence each other in attempting to shape the
development of e-learning and education policy globally (Valentine and De
2002; Howlett 2009). It helps us begin to understand how tenable macro-
level systems’ responses are to shifts in the globalizing world of education
but also how parallel multilevel political structures are competitively posi-
tioning themselves within a global “policyscape” and are indirectly influenc-
ing each other over time. In succession, the term e-learning will be addressed
to provide an instrumental definition for the purpose of policy analyses. Next,
the rationale for employing the EU and the US as comparable units of analysis
will be revealed. Then, the analytical framework and procedures are outlined.
Comparative Education Review 137
Finally, the comparative analyses and some interpretations of the coextensive
evolution of e-learning policy in the EU and US are offered.
E-Lear ning Defined
Because e-learning is an elusive term that may be understood and em-
ployed differently in varying contexts (Guri-Rosenbilt and Gros 2011), it is
important to clarify the term as applied here. While the comparison of policy
can be difficult, especially when definitions and understandings of e-learning
differ, an operationalization of e-learning in terms related to macro-level
policy is required. E-learning is conceived of here as an amalgamation of
tangible and intangible elements of infrastructural development, policy for-
mulation, and educational planning working in concert for the systematic
incorporation of ICT in education. Drawing on the work of Oblinger and
Hawkins (2005) as well as Andrade et al. (2008), an instrumental definition
is proposed that confirms the notion that e-learning is primarily a mechanism
for the informed integration of ICT into teaching and learning but is op-
erationalized in policy through providing for and supporting systems, pro-
cesses, and products that make such integration possible.
1. Systems. Whether we speak of physical computing infrastructures and
networks or the curricular structures enabling learner access to ICT-
mediated education, we think of systems put in place for the purposeful
delivery of media-rich educational content.
2. Processes. The processes to which we refer comprise the educational
transformations facilitated by ICT, both in terms of encouraging the
refinement of instructional methodologies and in regards to the pro-
cedural or technical requirements for the mainstreaming of ICT in
3. Products. Digital learning materials as well as the qualitative results of
their utilization in education constitute products of ICT integration. By
extension, this is to further say that the accumulation of knowledge,
ideas, values, beliefs, and skills mediated by these applications are prod-
ucts that bear the indelible mark of digitization.
With this understanding of e-learning pertaining to policy development in
mind, a description of the rationale for the comparative framework analysis
of EU and US e-learning policy may be provided.
The European Union and the United States as Comparable Governance Regimes
It is necessary to provide a rationale for this comparative analysis, and
some clarification as to why the EU and US as “federal” governing bodies
can be taken as comparable units of analysis in regards to e-learning policy.
138 February 2014
Research in this particular subfield of comparative education, when available,
continues to take a primarily cross-national approach, placing the US side-
by-side with the national subunits of the European continent.
Not only is
this approach unbalanced, but it also appears to ignore the process of har-
monization that has taken place over the last decade in European education.
Nevertheless, simply stating that the US and the EU are comparable in e-
learning policy dynamics does not represent a sine qua non justification.
An understanding of these two polities as comparable systems of gover-
nance is better served if they are situated within a larger discourse related
to policy making in network governments (Koch 2007) or in multilevel gov-
ernance systems (Hooghe and Marks 2003). In a departure from comparisons
at subsystemic level (Marks 1997b), it could be argued that differences be-
tween the EU and the US as regimes of governance represent variances along
a dimension that is common to them at a fundamental level. As Marks (1997a,
3) suggests, “the goal of comparison is to find intelligible patterns of com-
monality beneath apparent diversity.” The emergence of a distinct European
polity has been extensively theorized, dissected, and deconstructed by schol-
Furthermore, the notion that the EU represents an entity in its own
right has already been advanced in the area of political science dealing with
European integration (Caporaso et al. 1997).
It may be argued that the EU has evolved in the shadows of an elusive
form of federalism from its very inception. In its idealistic goal for an “ever
closer union,” the Schumann Declaration (Dinan 2005) appears prima facie
to have drawn some inspiration from three very similar words enshrined in
the US Constitution, which called for a “more perfect union” (Koch 2007,
169). To some degree, the apparent one-way causality between these two
polity-building metaphors is reinforced by Koch’s contrasting relationship
between the US’s “divided federalism” and the EU’s “network federalism”
(2007, 169). Similarly, Glencross (2009, 27–28) pits the “dual federalism”
characteristic of the US against the “joint federalism” of the EU. Nonetheless,
conceptualizing the EU’s development around the US as a fixed point of
reference in terms of federal governance provides, at best, a limited per-
spective of EU governance. It oversimplifies and obscures the complex dy-
namics of European regime construction and the fact that the US has gone
through different phases in the consolidation of its system of governance.
The US federal arrangement is still evolving (Vause 1995) and has been
referred to as a sui generis system (Menon and Schain 2006).
In fact, hints of a presumable influence of governance philosophies across
the two polities, as they evolve in parallel, appear in the comparative fed-
eralism literature. Vause (1995), for instance, alludes to the adoption of the
Carr-Chellman (2004); Curran (2004); Hansson et al. (2005); Anderson et al. (2006); Bachmann
et al. (2009); Sulcˇicˇ and Lesjak (2009).
Haas (1958); Hoffman (1966); Moravcsik (1998); Dinan (2005); Hix and Høyland (2011).
Comparative Education Review 139
subsidiarity principle in some judicial matters related to the Commerce
Clause in the US and to a process of “creeping federalism” in the EU (78).
Mirroring this possibility, Vause also recognized the potential for the EU,
through its subsidiarity principle, to become a more federal political system
resembling the US. In a similar vein, Koch (2007, 181) asserts that “US
federalism does not exist in isolation, and comparisons to other forms of
federalism might have been useful,” in an allusion to an emerging semblance
of federalism in the EU.
Without minimizing the marked differences in the political systems of
the EU and US, the argument is that both entities, as “compound polities”
or “separation of powers federal systems,” present similar functions and pro-
cesses in their instruments of governance with mixed outcomes (Kelemen
2000, 2003).
The Context of E-Learning Policy
Policy making occurs in varying political, social, cultural, and economic
settings that affect how policies are developed and implemented. In order
to understand the emergence of e-learning policy, the sociohistorical contexts
within the EU and the US are succinctly described below.
EU Historical Context
The distant origins of e-learning policy in the EU can be traced to the
so-called Bangemann report, which first outlined a strategy for Europe to
tackle the challenges of an emerging information society. A short chapter of
the report made specific references to the incorporation of ICT in the de-
livery of distance education services proposing to “extend advanced distance
learning techniques into schools and colleges” (European Commission 1994,
26) and advocating for the “development of a trans-European advanced net-
work . . . linking universities and research centers across Europe, with open
access to their libraries” (27). It is telling that this initial report on the
information society took as its point of reference developments in the US,
making very thinly veiled references to Europe’s laggard status in comparison
to its trans-Atlantic counterpart in telecommunication services and computer
access in the general population.
In the realm of e-learning, the Bangemann report influenced the EU’s
resolve to reduce the gap with the US at the same time as the concept of
information society was adopted as the key term around which the actions
and objectives of the ensuing policies would revolve. An initial attempt at
developing a policy direction for e-learning at the European level came in
1996 (Salajan 2007), with the European Commission’s document “Learning
in the Information Society,” an action plan that sought primarily to promote
the interconnection of schools to knowledge networks at the community
level between 1996 and 1998 and to develop a European market for edu-
140 February 2014
cational multimedia content. Not incidentally, this document contained an
explicit mention of the efforts well underway at the time in the US to build
the “information superhighway,” a notion figuring prominently in the Clinton
Administration’s initiative titled “The Technology Literacy Challenge” (Eu-
ropean Commission 1996).
The next decade would see the European Commission taking an in-
creasingly more active role in defining and formulating e-learning policies.
Thus, in 2001, the 3-year “eLearning Action Plan” focusing on expanding
infrastructure, providing ICT training for teachers, developing high-quality
multimedia services, and cooperation among actors at local, regional, mem-
ber state, and community levels (European Commission 2001). The docu-
ment continued to note the EU’s disadvantaged position in relation to the
US, partly given as a rationale for the community to step up its efforts in
the promotion of ICT in education (Salajan 2007). Building on the success
of the action plan, the commission drafted the “eLearning Programme,”
which was operational between 2003 and 2006. While a more formalized
document published in the EU’s official journal, the “eLearning Programme”
contained a number of upgraded objectives from its predecessor policy ini-
tiative. Thus, broadband internet infrastructure, the reduction of the stu-
dent/computer ratio across the community, the creation of virtual campuses
and interuniversity links, as well as the provision of training for teaching staff
in the use of technology were the main targets of the program. The impor-
tance of the policy itself was now evident in the dedicated budget it received
from the EU.
The latest policy document subsumes e-learning objectives into the wider,
more comprehensive “Lifelong Learning Programme” (LLP), covering the
2006–13 time frame. Also a formalized policy instrument, the LLP subsumes
the EU’s largest programs in education, such as ERASMUS, Socrates, Leo-
nardo da Vinci, and so on. Each subprogram is complemented by an action
line designed specifically to infuse ICT in the activities of the said subpro-
grams. As such, e-learning became embedded in a much larger array of
educational contexts with social ramifications beyond the basic need for
infrastructure development. This overview of the gradual evolution of the
European Commission’s main policy instruments in e-learning denotes a
genuine concern on the part of the EU to maintain a competitive edge in
the ever-changing global economy driven by developments in ICT innovation.
US Historical Context
US federal policy language identifying the need to more systematically
address technologies (ICT and computer-mediated technologies) within the
context of education appeared in 1983 in the federal report A Nation at Risk,
where it was recommended that computer science become one of the Five
New Basics to be covered in public education. In 1988, the US Congress
Comparative Education Review 141
Office of Technology Assessment issued the paper “Power On! New Tools
for Teaching and Learning,” and in 1989, the National Education Goals were
established by President Bush, also highlighting the need to incorporate more
technology into American education. In early reports, emphasis was placed
on the development of infrastructure and the installation of hardware in
schools, and data collection and evaluation were centered on the physical
access to computers and access to the Internet.
With the development and increased availability of lower cost technol-
ogies, the use of technology in schools broadened throughout the 1980s.
Technology-enhanced distance learning evolved into what was eventually
termed e-learning (USDoE 1996; Schlosser and Simonson 2009). In 1993, the
US Department of Education (USDoE) created the Office of Educational
Technology (OET), and the first National Education Technology Plan
(NETP), titled Getting America’s Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the
Technology Literacy Challenge, was issued in 1996. In the federal reports gen-
erated in the late 1990s, the concept of accessibility was expanded, referring
to appropriate content, technology support and training, and the ability to
effectively use the technology for teaching and learning.
While major investments had been made in ICT infrastructure and the
1996 Telecommunications Act provided discounted e-rates for Internet access
in schools, the concept of the e-rate was expanded in 1998 with the recog-
nition of the importance of continually improving access to ICT. At the
beginning of the millennium, online learning became a primary focus for
policy and a target for funding streams. The USDoE (2000) responded with
its second NETP, titled E-Learning: Putting a World-Class Education at the Fin-
gertips of All Children, shifting the focus from hardware and infrastructure to
content, pedagogy, and the enablement of online learning. Regional con-
sortia were supported, and a number of large-scale projects were formed
through FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Higher Education) grants with
the aim of discovering best practices in e-learning and online education (King
and Griggs 2008). While much of the activity surrounding educational tech-
nologies occurred across federal agencies, the USDoE’s NETP documents
serve as key elements in understanding the trajectory of e-learning policy
development in the US. These NETP documents were issued in the years of
1996, 2000, 2004, and 2010.
Comparative Analytical Framework
Document Selection
The analytical process was conducted in three phases. Initially, an exten-
sive literature search for scholarly work on e-learning policy and identification
of key policy documents, commissioned papers, and relevant agency and
organization reports in the EU and the US was performed conjointly by the
researchers. The variety of sources and policy documents were independently
142 February 2014
Fig. 1.—Historical timeline of key e-learning policy documents in the European Union and the
United States.
selected and reviewed by both researchers. As the emergence and similar
timing of federal-level policy development surrounding e-learning policy was
notable, a detailed timeline of the history and evolution of e-learning policy
was created independently for the EU and for the US as a means of incor-
porating and comparing the historical progression of policy within both
governing bodies. The simplified timeline in figure 1 below provides a graph-
ical representation of the sequencing of policy documents on both sides of
the Atlantic.
In identifying the source documents needed for this analysis, the re-
searchers considered of primary importance the origin and scope of these
documents. Consequently, the documents had to satisfy three main condi-
tions for analysis: they had to originate from federal-level education agencies,
they had to pertain specifically to e-learning, and they had to be tasked
expressly toward developing e-learning action plans and educational policy.
Thus, from the historical review and in applying the three established criteria,
the following EU documents were selected and examined: “Learning in the
Information Society” (1996–98), the “eLearning Action Plan” (2001–3), the
“eLearning Programme” (2003–6), and the LLP (2006–13). Using the same
criteria, each of the US NETPs, published respectively in 1996, 2000, 2004,
and 2010, were selected. A complementary factor in focusing on these par-
ticular documents was the similarity of timing on each side of the Atlantic.
The ultimate purpose of examining the selected documents is to look at
the framing, provisions, dynamics, and instrumentation of outlined initiatives
for ICT integration into education. The objective of the e-learning policy
review is to evaluate, in comparison, the extent to which e-learning, and e-
learning policy more narrowly, were considered across the progression of
policy documents, the areas of emphasis in policy formulation in support of
mainstreaming e-learning, and how the e-learning policies have shifted over
time regarding the integration of ICT in education from a federal policy
perspective. For each of the policy documents, and to the extent that the
identified policy facets allow, the study considers the emphasis on e-learning
Comparative Education Review 143
policy in each of the documents, particularly in respect to policy framing,
policy dynamics, and policy instrumentation.
Policy Content Analysis
Across the many areas of content analysis, one of two distinct approaches
can be taken. One can take the approach of context discovery, or an inductive
approach, where researchers explore textual content for broad patterns,
themes, narratives, images, rhetoric, and qualitative characterizations in order
to develop thorough descriptions or to generate new theories (Reischenbach
1938). Researchers may also seek to take a deductive approach in applying
already established models or coding systems to selected content, also known
as context of justification, to see how they play out within a defined context.
These two approaches are complementary, in that they help generate theories
as well as evaluate them within different contexts. For the purpose of this
analysis, we chose the latter approach, by adapting a model of policy com-
ponents and applying it to the content of the selected documents.
There are many different approaches to analyzing policy. Hardee et al.
(2004) outline a policy circle model comprising six policy components. Ac-
cording to Hardee et al., the main components of policy include: (1) the
problems that require attention, (2) the people who participate in the de-
velopment of policy, (3) the process of policy making, (4) the price tag, (5)
the instrumentation of the policy, and (6) the programs and products re-
sulting from policy. These policy components, or policy facets as we call them,
constitute the first part of the coding system that was applied to the selected
policy documents.
For the comparative content analysis (Adger 2006; Shuy 2006; Wilson
2006), these facets based on the Hardee et al. (2004) model were further
refined and adapted, which were then used to develop a data analysis rubric
of the identified key policy documents. In sum, nine facets of federal-level
policy for sustaining e-learning integration were identified and adapted. This
second phase of analysis consisted of uniting the heretofore mentioned e-
learning definition as areas of policy focus—or the systems, processes, and
products of policy—in conjunction with the nine policy facets that provide
for and sustain more comprehensive e-learning integration. The nine specific
facets through which the goal of e-learning integration is pursued are detailed
in table 1. Each facet, noted with “F” and a numeric suffix, is defined ac-
cording to the focus of the particular policy dimension it addresses.
These identified policy dimensions were used in the creation of a data
analysis matrix that guided the comparative content analysis of the selected
EU and US policy documents. These policy provisions, or facets, were placed
in the vertical plane in the matrix. In addition, the three areas of policy focus
based on the e-learning definition outlined above were placed in the hori-
zontal plane. In addition to the structure of the matrix, the appendix contains
Examples of Coded Content for Each Policy Facet
Policy Provisions Text Code Examples of Text from Selected Documents
F1 Requisite infrastructure—improving access and
EU06P526p2biii “It must have an appropriate infrastructure, in particular as regards in-
formatics and communications”
F2 Software, materials, and product development US10Pxxip2 “Design, implement and evaluate technology-powered programs and
F3 Transforming teaching and learning (technology/
information literacy, support, professional devel-
opment, etc.)
US10Pxxip4 “Ideas and best practices that emerge from these convenings will be
shared throughout our education system”
F4 Multiple funding streams and sustainability EU06P53S14p1L1–3 “The indicative financial envelope for the implementation of this Deci-
sion for the period of seven years as from 1 January 2007 is set at
EUR 6 970 000 000”
F5 Multiple stakeholders, public and private inter-
ested groups, entities, institutions
EU01p4L79–80 “Partnerships between the public and private sectors will continue to
be established”
F6 Development of consortia and institutional/re-
gional agreements, collaboration and coopera-
EU06P61S33p3a–b “(a) multilateral projects, as referred to in Article 5(1)(e), aimed at
the development and distribution, as appropriate, of innovative
methods, contents, services and environments; (b) multilateral net-
works as referred to in Article 5(1)(e), aimed at sharing and ex-
changing knowledge, experience and good practice”
F7 Increasing and/or diversifying research, evalua-
tion, and assessment
US10Pxp2 “We also should implement a new approach to research and develop-
ment (R&D) in education that focuses on scaling innovative best
practices in the use of technology in teaching and learning, transfer-
ring existing and emerging technology innovations into education,
sustaining the R&D for education work that is being done by such
organizations as the National Science Foundation, and creating a
new organization to address major R&D challenges at the intersec-
tion of learning sciences, technology, and education”
F8 Promotion of wider education reform processes US10Pxxp9 “Rethink basic assumptions in our education system that inhibit lever-
aging technology to improve learning, starting with our current
practice of organizing student and educator learning around seat
time instead of the demonstration of competencies”
F9 Social issues, more inclusive society, societal bene-
fits, social model, social progress, individual
EU06P54S12a–c “(a) promoting an awareness of the importance of cultural and lin-
guistic diversity within Europe, as well as of the need to combat rac-
ism, prejudice and xenophobia; (b) making provision for learners
with special needs, and in particular by helping to promote their in-
tegration into mainstream education and training; (c) promoting
equality between men and women and contributing to combating
all forms of discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, reli-
gion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”
146 February 2014
actual codes assigned in the different policy dimensions for EU’s LLP (2006)
and the US NETP (USDoE 2004) documents. While coding on the two
documents resulted in two separate matrices, for ease of presentation, the
two matrices were merged into a single appendix at the end of this article.
This phase of analysis consisted of a dual, independent, and parallel
content analysis of the key documents using the developed data analysis
rubric in order to filter the policy document language. The “matrix” assisted
the researchers in identifying which dimensions of policy were emphasized
in each of the identified documents. Each line of text in each policy doc-
ument was analyzed and labeled (coded) according to the varying categorical
dimensions in the rubric, locating the text by policy facet and focus of process.
For coding examples, see table 1.
Each of the policy documents was coded in this manner, and each of
the locating codes for each line of text was recorded and entered into the
analysis rubric, where the numbers of codes were then summed as a rep-
resentation of policy emphasis in each of the defined dimensions. After the
researchers independently coded each policy document in this manner and
entered the codes into a separate matrix for each document, they met to
come to an agreement on the differences in line coding. The researchers
reconciled differences in coding by returning to the policy documents, dis-
cussing the policy text, and reaching agreement for each code. The coding
and subsequent quantification of the policy facet references within the texts
allowed patterns of policy focus between the EU and the US to be identified
and compared. The tables containing these summed references were then
used to compare policy development over time and between the EU and the
US policy documents (see table 2 for quantified policy references).
The purpose of filtering the policy language of the documents by policy
facet and focus was to identify patterns and discover both convergence and
divergence in policy progression. By convergence, we mean that the emerging
e-learning policies’ intent in both the EU and US are developing in similar
ways with similar purposes or emphases. By divergence, we refer to the unique
policy developments that are attributed to the particular context in which
they emerged. Thus, one can observe at the systems policy level in the analysis
rubric (table 2) that the EU and US diverge in certain policy avenues, while
they converge in others. For instance, the numbers of coded references
indicate that the EU paid more attention to fostering consortia and insti-
tutional collaboration (F6) than the US. In turn, the US placed more im-
portance on infrastructural development than the EU (F1), understandably
so, as each European member also has national policies in place for these
purposes. Conversely, the EU and US appear to converge in their intents to
transform teaching and learning (F3) and in promoting wider educational
reform (F8). The same convergence can be detected in the two polities in
the social dimension (F9). It can be noted that, at times, the quantified codes
Analysis Rubric Resulting Patterns
Systems Processes Products
Avenues 96 01 03 06 96 00 04 10 96 01 03 06 96 00 04 10 96 01 03 06 96 00 04 10
F1 5 60 115134210800112 22 3000001
F2 1 20 0171 6513206122163 9031303
F3 5 97 564210121417121520721216414003
F4 3 41 71133 707511494 20 2000000
F5 0 70 6751 867531681 50 2002000
F6 3 8510110 5310219452 40 8721100
F7 4140 553316311955134181 6723001
F8 0 37 8018210250232 30 2100000
F9 3 65149621521061491 10 3103000
Source.—For EU documents: European Commission (1996, 2001); European Union (2003, 2006). For US documents: USDoE (1996, 2000, 2004, 2010).
Note.—Policy avenues designated are defined in table 1 and ordered vertically in the first column. Levels of policy orientation within policy avenues (Systems r Processes
r Products) are shown horizontally for both polities. Years of publication (with “19” and “20” prefixes removed) of policy documents in each polity are given in the third row.
148 February 2014
register a slight dip from the initial documents, only to rebound in later
iterations of policy.
The final phase of analysis consisted of applying Mendez and Mendez’s
(2009) conceptual framework of comparative federalism to structure and
organize the researchers’ interpretations of the patterns and findings from
filtering the policy documents. We utilize Mendez and Mendez’s (2009) con-
cepts of policy framing, policy dynamics, and policy instruments to organize
our comparison of EU and US e-learning policy content. Policy framing refers
to the perceived internal and external threats to a polity that motivate de-
cision makers in that polity to devise policies that will address those threats.
Policy dynamics refers to how the various actors in a polity interact and assign
themselves responsibilities in the course of policy development. Policy in-
struments are the vehicles that transpose into practice the goals of the polity
through reasoned action and expressly stipulated objectives (Mendez and
Mendez 2009). This interpretive framework provides the overarching struc-
ture that brings policy patterns and historical developments together for the
policy comparison and discussion in the next section.
Findings and Discussion
The coetaneous evolution of e-learning policy in both the EU and the
US suggests a global stigmergy (Harvey 2010) in policy development. In the
case of EU and US federalized e-learning policy development, in light of our
content analysis, stigmergy appears to play a key role where one acting body
provides a stimulus stigma, either directly or indirectly, that entices other
actors to respond and continue developing more strategic and coherent
policies. The similarities and timing of developments of e-learning policies
in both the EU and the US suggest that each actor is answering the other’s
response to the shifting competition of the global environment.
For example, the 1996 NETP maintained a parochial tone, whereby the
2000 NETP document (USDoE 2000) references international progress in
e-learning policy development as resources to be drawn upon for the strategic
As the American education system is beginning to realize the impact of technology
on teaching and learning, other countries are making significant commitments to
the use of technology for education. . . . Nothing less than the ability of the American
workforce to remain competitive in the global economy is at stake. (34)
Other opportunities to increase our understanding of student assessment include
participating in international comparative work currently underway. These cross-
national studies, led by the International Association for the Evaluation of Edu-
cational Achievement (IEA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD), provide unprecedented opportunities to learn from the
experiences of other countries that are also engaged in efforts to improve student
assessment. (43–45)
Comparative Education Review 149
In the 2004 NETP, the tone changes, focusing on national examples and the
implications of the national No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, with
only one brief mention of maintaining a competitive edge internationally in
funding education (USDoE 2004, 12). In the 2010 NETP, international ref-
erences are made again, where the US is mentioned in comparison to other
countries in terms of student scores in different subject areas, and China
and East Asian nations are referenced in their performance in STEM (sci-
ence, technology, engineering, and math education) and technology-related
fields (USDoE 2010, 22), various uses of instructional technology and e-
learning in Singapore are mentioned (29), and the United Kingdom in its
use and dissemination of digital and multimedia resources for educators is
highlighted (46).
The EU’s 1994 Bangemann report noted: “Finally, the report emphasizes
the urgency of adopting its recommendations. The race is on at global level,
notably US and Japan. Those countries which will adapt themselves most
readily will de facto set technological standards for those who follow” (Eu-
ropean Commission 1994, 1b). A list of policy initiatives and country de-
scriptions pertaining to e-learning are mentioned in European Commission
(1996, 19–20): “In Europe and throughout the world many countries, such
as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, the Nordic countries and
also the United States and Japan, have recently launched initiatives to connect
schools to communication networks, train teachers and develop software to
meet pedagogical needs” (5). In European Commission (2001), e-learning
initiatives in other countries are referenced again: “The time has come to
launch an eLearning Action Plan, as a tool to help practical players and
decision-makers by presenting options and explaining the possible ap-
proaches on the basis of examples of experience from both Europe and
beyond” (5). The rhetoric, policy language, timing, and evolution of EU and
US e-learning policies suggest that they are not being developed entirely in
isolation, but rather coterminously within the broader global policyscape.
However, while comparative policy analyses reveal similarities in overall policy
objectives, it is also important to explore how these approaches take on
different meanings within the different contexts.
The reciprocal policy response pattern between the EU and the US is
circumscribed by a larger process of policy borrowing, studied in comparative
education research, that occurs in global educational policy formulation as
a consequence of economic competition, political change, or shifting re-
gional and local configurations (Phillips and Ochs 2003). While the two
political entities examined here—the EU and US—do not fit neatly into the
traditional mode of policy borrowing in the sense of cross-national attraction
dynamics, their actions in emulating one another’s policy impulses do con-
form to a certain degree to the “externalizing potential” (Phillips and Ochs
2003, 453) concept. In this instance, we are not witnessing policy borrowing
150 February 2014
in terms of precise and specific educational actions or practices, but an impetus
to borrow the intent of policy making in response to a competitor’s advances in
the global competition for intellectual capital. That is, the EU and US appear
to feed on one another’s guiding philosophies (neoliberal economic com-
petition), goals, strategies, and processes (Phillips and Ochs 2003) in con-
structing e-learning policies that set one polity on par with the other in this
competitive environment. This phenomenon is further informed by Steiner-
Khamsi’s (2006) analysis contending that “borrowing does not occur because
reforms from elsewhere are better, but because the very act of borrowing
has a salutary effect on domestic policy” (671). Furthermore, the initial delay
in EU e-learning policy development also conforms to a modified version of
Steiner-Khamsi’s (2006) late adoption thesis by which the EU appears to have
joined the e-learning policy formulation race at a time when the US may
have begun to experience policy definition fatigue in this respect.
While the EU has continued to progress its e-learning policies, the US
finds itself in the position of having to reevaluate, reinvest in infrastructures,
and reformulate its e-learning policy approaches after a recess of nearly a
decade. The 2010 NETP document renames a “comprehensive infrastruc-
ture” as an essential component of e-learning policy: “Although we have
adopted technology in many aspects of education today, a comprehensive
infrastructure for learning is necessary to move us beyond the traditional
model of educators and students in classrooms to a learning model that
brings together teaching teams and students in classrooms, labs, libraries,
museums, workplaces, and homes—anywhere in the world where people have
access devices and an adequate Internet connection” (USDoE 2010, p. xii).
This generates the question of whose policy is responding to whom and
to what initial conditions, and which acting body is providing the stimulus
stigma that entices other actors to respond and continue developing policy?
It is the guiding question for this study, which seeks to develop new patterns
of thinking about policy responses involving federalized national and “trans-
national policy communities” (Bennett 1991), as comparable units of analysis.
The rest of this article covers the themes revealed through the comparative
policy analysis. Thematic headings representing the three elements of the
federal comparative framework, that is, policy framing, dynamics and instru-
ments, each contain a pair of subthemes related to convergent and divergent
trends, respectively, in e-learning policy formulation in both polities.
Policy Framing
Convergent Themes
When it comes to e-learning policy framing, the EU and US discourses
converge on two distinguishing lines: the global competitive environment
and higher education institutions as innovators. These trends may be exac-
erbated by the mutual drive in both polities to develop sustainable and viable
Comparative Education Review 151
economies in the long run. On both sides of the Atlantic, e-learning policies
address the competitive pressures of the global economy in similar ways.
In the US, in placing new ICT in the service of the economic develop-
ment, the successive iterations of the NETP progress from identifying the
knowledge-driven economy as the standard to which the American society
should strive to promoting a more encompassing role of ICT in the overall
educational landscape aimed at maintaining American economic prowess.
For example, the 1996 US NETP document states: “As the nation responds
to this technological revolution, it also faces a major educational challenge.
Our economy is characterized by rapidly changing technologies and increas-
ing international economic competition. . . . Success as a nation will depend
substantially on our students’ ability to acquire the skills and knowledge
necessary for high-technology work and informed citizenship” (USDoE 1996,
7). While the first three NETP documents (USDoE 1996, 2000, 2004) were
exclusively oriented toward serving the needs of the primary and secondary
education, with NETP 2010 (USDoE 2010), the federal administration ex-
pands its purview to sustain the idea of increased university enrollments and
completion rates as the guarantors of America’s continued economic pres-
ence on the world stage. It is through this lens that the NETP documents
consider that the only sustainable way in which new generations of educated
professionals exit universities equipped with the most compatible skills for
the new technology-rich economy is to transform higher education into in-
cubators of research and knowledge generators through encouraging the
purposeful utilization of new digital multimedia in the university setting.
In the EU, while the e-learning policy documents under consideration
here directed ICT implementation at all educational levels, the instruments
consistently upheld the notion that the ultimate aim was to foster the emer-
gence of the most competitive knowledge society. Similar to the NETP in
the US, the EU documents progressively espouse the idea that higher edu-
cation is the cornerstone of a renewed effort in bringing about that increased
competitiveness of the European economy on the world stage. The EU con-
siderably changes tone in the latest policy document, the “Lifelong Learning
Programme.” Thus, it seems to adopt a similar stance to the US in seeking
to raise the profile of European higher education institutions to the status
of world-class universities after which developed and developing countries
should model their own higher education systems. For example, as stated in
the EU 2001 and 2006 policy documents:
“The intention is to involve education and training players, as well as
the relevant social, industrial and economic players, in order to make
lifelong learning the driving force behind a cohesive and inclusive society,
within a competitive economy” (European Commission 2001, 2).
“The general objective of the Lifelong Learning Programme is to con-
152 February 2014
tribute through lifelong learning to the development of the Community
as an advanced knowledge-based society. ...Inparticular, it aims to
foster interchange, cooperation and mobility between education and
training systems within the Community so that they become a world
quality reference” (European Union 2006, 48).
In addition to the two main themes under the dimension of policy framing,
the e-learning policy documents on both sides of the Atlantic sustain strong
strands of inclusiveness in education systems and society, though these take
distinctive forms in the EU and the US and are framed quite differently.
Policy on both sides addresses problems of social exclusion and the need to
improve access to education, educational technology, information, and re-
sources more equitably in society.
Divergent Themes
It becomes clear that e-learning policy becomes a middle ground where
economic and social policy meet and are negotiated within the context of
broader global competition. The differentiation between the narratives of
world class as leading the world on the US side, and world class as under-
standing, engaging with, and sustaining the world, on the EU side, is no-
ticeable. There are also distinguishable contrasting themes between com-
petition and cooperation, as well as between education for national
supremacy and education for global interdependence (Alexander 2010). The
US aims to reestablish its leadership role internationally, whereas the EU’s
objective is to foster the cooperation and collaboration of many states re-
“Nothing less than the ability of the American workforce to remain
competitive in the global economy is at stake” (USDoE 2000, 34).
“Our leadership in the world depends on educating a generation of
young people who know how to use technology to learn both formally
and informally” (USDoE 2010, 4).
“The contribution of eLearning towards achieving and developing the
educational objectives of eEurope consists in establishing a framework
and programme for cooperation between the relevant Community de-
partments and the Member States” (European Commission 2001, 4).
In the US, it is of interest that the themes of social accessibility, equity, and
inclusiveness continue to be framed as individual issues for US citizens, where
technology offers personalized, individualized, and flexible solutions for in-
dividual learners. While the social context of accessibility and the social issues
that contribute to the lack of access to education have been addressed in
the literature for decades, these themes are not framed as social issues to be
Comparative Education Review 153
addressed in US policy, but rather technology is presented as a means for
solving individuals’ problems with lack of access: “The FCC now refers to
‘digital exclusion’ as what must be overcome....Asweusetechnology to
reach all learners, the following groups need special attention: Low-income
and minority learners; English language learners; learners with disabilities;
early childhood; adult workforce, and; seniors” (USDoE 2010, 20–21). While
the gap is acknowledged, instead of addressing the social dynamics that create
barriers to accessibility and contribute to exclusion, technology is being pre-
sented as a solution for education reform hedging the social and cultural
structures that reinforce the inequities long detected in the education system.
Though the language is strong in terms of aiming to provide better service
to underserved populations (see esp. USDoE 2010) through education tech-
nologies, the social issues leading to their exclusion are not addressed.
The EU’s e-learning policy offers a strong narrative of inclusion, primarily
emphasizing social cohesion and cooperation across member states and
tersely touching on the ability of all individuals to take equal advantage of
ICT in education in European society: “The Lifelong Learning Programme
shall have the following specific objectives...tocontribute to increased
participation in lifelong learning by people of all ages, including those with
special needs and disadvantaged groups, regardless of their socio-economic
background” (European Union 2006, 48–49). E-learning policy is primarily
being leveraged to foster mobility, cooperation, exchange of ideas, and, most
importantly, the cultivation of a European identity, so inclusion takes on a
different flavor in the EU policy documents. The facilitation of mobility across
all sectors in the EU is emphasized as a means of promoting economic
flexibility as well as fostering a European culture and social cohesion. The
discourse of the EU e-learning documents is reaffirming education as a public
good and a public responsibility. These are the means to the end of improving
system coordination and enabling flexible learning paths throughout the
EU. The language in the European documents is much more focused on
social systems and seems less concerned with the specific technological means
of supporting these.
Policy Dynamics
Both governing bodies seem, on the surface, to formulate policy mech-
anisms intended to encourage and facilitate voluntary compliance with the
outlined goals and e-learning action plans, but these are exercised differently
in the EU and the US. While there are analogous calls for increased inte-
gration of ICT in education and more programmatic approaches to e-learn-
ing policy, and both polities rely on similar rationale, rhetoric, and justifi-
cations for e-learning policy, the EU and the US conceive of, operationalize,
and implement policy in very unique ways as a result of differing political
pressures and distinctive institutional settings.
154 February 2014
Convergent Themes
Both systems attempt to develop a broad range of e-learning policy that
can be integrated across agencies as overarching frameworks and guidelines
for independent states who are attributed the responsibilities of integration
and implementation. Both governing bodies aim to provide common defi-
nitions and goals in the face of competition and leverage similar funding
mechanisms to catalyze the development of e-learning expertise, the con-
vening of multiple stakeholders, and the generation of cooperation between
states and institutions:
“The contribution of eLearning towards achieving and developing the
educational objectives of eEurope consists in establishing a framework
and programme for cooperation between the relevant Community de-
partments and the Member States” (European Commission 2001, 4).
“Since the objective of this Decision, namely the contribution of Eu-
ropean cooperation to quality education and training, cannot be suf-
ficiently achieved by the Member States . . . and can therefore, by reason
of the nature of the actions and measures necessary, be better achieved
at Community level, the Community may adopt measures, in accordance
with the principle of subsidiarity as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty”
(European Union 2006, 48).
Both federalist systems also urge voluntary compliance of the states, although
the US has various mechanisms to intently exercise power by relying on other
government agencies to provide incentives and tie-ins to funding for com-
pliance, meaning the EU must rely more on indirect means and soft power.
For example, in the 1996 NETP, the following funding sources were named,
representing the diverse avenues for influence of the US federal government:
“Nationally, about $3.3 billion was spent on technology in the 1994–95 school
year with projected annual growth ranging from 11 to over 15 percent per
year. While exact data are unavailable, approximately one-fourth, or $800
million, comes from federal sources, including Title I (formerly Chapter 1),
Title VI (formerly Chapter 2), the Eisenhower Professional Development
Program, the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), and other programs”
(USDoE 1996, 28). While the US may appear to have more means of ensuring
compliance, it is not to be forgotten that education policy is not centralized
in the US, and federal mandates are clearer for primary and secondary
education, but much less so for postsecondary and higher education.
Divergent Themes
In terms of implementation, the system dynamic discussed above may
indicate that the EU will have more success with the horizontal integration
across agencies and states (consistently embedding e-learning objectives
Comparative Education Review 155
across the LLP and its subprograms), but that the US may be more successful
with vertical integration and getting the e-learning policies to “stick,” as they
are tied into other federally mandated standards and funding. The relatively
coordinated planning in the EU may provide advantages in the formulation
stage, especially regarding even implementation. The EU also appears to be
less prone to shifts due to electoral politics as in the US, enabling the EU
to continually improve and develop more comprehensive e-learning policy.
That said, the EU’s success depends on whether the member states adopt
and effectively implement the EU policies, which occurs more consistently
in some places than others (however, this can also be said between states in
the US). The EU effectively has no oversight tools to ensure consistent im-
plementation within member states, and policies may not always be trans-
posed and implemented as desired, whereby the US federal government has
power and authority over all coordinating policy areas and can better leverage
this authority. A stronger, top-down approach like this potentially lends to
consistency in US policy in general; however, this is weak within the realm
of education policy, and the political pendulum in the US undoes some of
this authority as well. This may lead to more consistent implementation in
the future and may eventually lead to stronger oversight, but the focus ap-
pears to be relatively narrow. However, e-learning policy within both polities
appears to be increasing in scope across education sectors, and becoming
more programmatic in that it proposes paths of action for ICT implemen-
tation at targeted system and subsystem levels.
Policy Instruments
It is interesting to note that US e-learning policy had an early jump-start,
as early as 1988 in fact, but has since been prone to pendulous, American
bipartisan politics. The US leaped ahead with e-learning policy in the 1990s,
with a seemingly cohesive and programmatic plan in 1996 and 2000, only to
lose momentum at the turn of the millennium with the 2002 national shift
in focus to NCLB and the accountability movement. It was during this time,
from 2001 on, that the EU began to quickly move forward with its e-learning
policies, which are increasingly strategic, embedded, and of increasing scope,
with the most important documents emerging in 2001, 2003, and 2006. As
the EU has continued to steadily develop its e-learning policies through the
LLP, the US responded with its 2010 document that has once again catalyzed
e-learning policy on the other side of the Atlantic and put forth the call for
a more integrated and programmatic approach.
Convergent Themes
In the US, while a fair amount of e-learning policy has been developed
at the federal level, the primary responsibility for education lies with indi-
vidual states, and each state approaches its obligation to educate its residents
156 February 2014
individually. It follows, then, that the policy and practice of e-learning in the
US differ from state to state, in spite of federal-level e-learning policy and
initiatives. As US educational policy is not as centralized as in other countries
and regions, in many ways it relies on the diffusion and adoption of policy
and practice through state and individual institutions. Still, it seems that there
is movement toward more coordinated efforts on the part of the DoE to
develop more common and interoperable approaches that would eventually
apply to all states, and the guidance of the federal government has become
much clearer and more influential over the progression of the past four
NETP reports, as the quotes below suggest:
“Consequently, this report does not lay out a single, prescriptive course
of action. Rather, the report provides a national strategic framework
that outlines the limited but important federal role as well as ideas for
how states and local communities can develop their own plans to use
technology to increase student achievement” (USDoE 1996, 9).
“Section 2422 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act specifies that
the secretary shall update and publish, in a form readily accessible to
the public, a national long-range technology plan that describes how
the secretary will promote...theuseoftechnology to assist in the
implementation of state systemic reform strategies” (USDoE 2010, ii).
In the EU, recent developments indicate a move toward instituting more
formal e-learning instruments that appear to parallel the division of juris-
dictional powers evident in the US, but premised on careful negotiations
between the EU and member-state levels. The “Learning in the Information
Society” and, more explicitly, the eLearning Action Plan” were the first foray
of the European Commission into proposing a concrete e-learning policy
that was distinctively European in scope and complementary to the member
states’ national plans for the implementation of technologies in education.
Not having a dedicated budget line from the European Union undermines,
to a certain extent, their force of persuasion, but they compensate in ad-
vocating for e-learning actions at the European level by striking a cooperative
tone in acquiescing to the primacy of member states’ priorities in this field:
“The proposed Action Plan explains how eLearning fits into the context of
eEurope, identifies the areas in which it will contribute, and mentions the
programmes and instruments that will enable EU Member States and other
European countries participating in these programmes to act” (European
Commission 2001, 2). The eLearning Programme,” though more succinct
than the “eLearning Action Plan,” was a much more prescriptive and concrete
document endowed with substantial power to influence efforts to incorporate
e-learning in the EU’s educational apparatuses. The direct budgetary pro-
vision from EU funds lent the eLearning Programme” a level of authority
Comparative Education Review 157
on par with instruments that benefited from similar allocations of money
from the community coffers. Furthermore, the legal character of the e-
Learning Programme” was reinforced through explicit references to related
programs and to what could be called the fundamental law of the European
Union, that is, the Treaty on the European Union. In a similar vein, the
“Lifelong Learning Programme,” the current policy instrument encompass-
ing a broad range of educational objectives for the European Union, is
steeped in legalistic language particular to EU official documents. While no
longer represented by a specific program, e-learning actions are embedded
within the Lifelong Learning Programme,” which contains provisions for
ICT integration supporting, enhancing, and complementing its subprograms
(e.g., SOCRATES, Leonardo da Vinci, ERASMUS). In this sense, e-learning
is streamlined with other policy instruments, both complementing and sup-
porting them in the overall goal of social responsibility and economic com-
Divergent Themes
It is quite clear that the EU and the US reports are generated for very
different constituencies. In the US, the NETP documents continue to outline
a broad vision, provide common definitions and understandings, and inform
and educate technology directors and educators who work at the state and
institutional levels. While the 2010 report displays a broader scope and a
more programmatic approach, it basically serves the same function as the
1996 NETP.
In the EU, the gradual formalization of e-learning actions from the
eLearning Action Plan” to the “eLearning Programme” and “Lifelong Learn-
ing Programme” suggest that these policies represent a normative approach
to establishing rules and regulations for e-learning projects to be conducted
under their auspices. The legalistic language embedded in the European
documents appears to be aimed at experts in the management of European
funds at member-state levels who can translate the legal requirements into
operative language for e-learning project applicants, typically represented by
teams of faculty, researchers, practitioners, educational experts, and tech-
nology developers. These differences in targeted audience clearly are influ-
ential in terms of policy language and presentation of e-learning strategies
in each of the respective governing body’s communique.
From this analysis, it is clear that both governing bodies are responding
to similar global conditions and in many ways are applying similar rhetoric
for e-learning policy framing, justification, as well as policy provisions, mech-
anisms, and incentives for the integration of ICT into education systems.
However, the actual policies, and their specific foci and emphases, vary due
158 February 2014
to the structural differences between the governing regimes. While both
polities are establishing an overarching, suggestive policy framework provid-
ing common definitions, language, and purposes for participating federal
members, US policy serves national ideals and purposes, while EU policy
aims for regional integration and closer cooperation.
In keeping with comparative federalism tenets, this resulting contrast in
policy orientation between the two compound polities suggests that there
are at once similarities and differences in the “politics of competence” and
the “politics of discretion” (Kelemen 2000) attributed to the federal systems’
levels of government in the e-learning domain, not unlike in other policy
sectors. Thus, in both polities, e-learning competence is divided vertically
between the federal and the state levels. In turn, discretion to implement
policy actions differs across the two polities. While in the US, the federal
government is exercising a stricter control of policy implementation over the
states, in the EU, the European (federal) governing bodies resort to a softer
approach in coaxing and persuading the member states, restrained by the
principle of subsidiarity governing the interaction between the two levels of
European governance. This arrangement appears evident in both the policy
dynamics and the policy instruments described above that drive the actions
of actors at federal and state levels.
A further explanation for the contrasts outlined above may rest in the
trend toward the centralization of competences at the federal level in both
polities. In other policy domains, such as the environment or internal security,
both the US and the EU have accreted competences at the federal level.
Whereas this process of centralization of the US federal policy evolved over
a long period of time, the EU’s federal policy ambit has crystallized rather
rapidly (Mendez and Mendez 2009). These differences in centralization of
competences are preserved to a certain extent in the e-learning domain, but
the US federal government can rely on a far more impelling bureaucratic
apparatus to induce compliance with its e-learning policies. Even though a
centralization process is observable at the EU level, its rather fragmented
governing structure coupled with the EU’s limited jurisdiction in broader
educational matters imply that EU-level e-learning policy is bound to remain
less effective in convincing the member states to invest extensive adminis-
trative and political resources to set e-learning priorities in response to EU-
level policy.
In this context, understanding educational policy development pertain-
ing to e-learning is important because it sheds light on what is valued and
what is of importance to macro-level governing bodies functioning within an
information society and knowledge economies. Macro-level political entities
in different regions respond both similarly and differently to global stimuli,
and they respond to each other for the perceived influence of the devel-
opment of e-learning and education policy globally. Such an analysis helps
Comparative Education Review 159
us begin to understand how tenable macro-level systems’ responses are to
shifts in the world of education but also how different governing polities are
vying and responding to each other over time. This study reveals the need
to continue looking at policy developments longitudinally to see whether the
“responding patterns” continue. By the same token, it may be useful to study
separate policy regimes in isolation within their own development processes,
as well as in comparison. For instance, separate in-depth analyses of e-learning
policies in each polity may provide richer context and nuance about the
motivations of actors to engage in policy formulation. This research also
suggests that more rigorous analyses of educational policy, such as the em-
pirical review, filtering, and coding of policy language, can reveal meaningful
information that contributes to our understanding of the intersectionality of
policy development and educational regulation at local, regional, and trans-
national levels.
Merged Version of Actual Coding Matrices Showing EU 2006 and US 2004 Policy Documents Side-by-Side
Systems Processes Products
Policy Avenues for Sustaining
E-Learning Integration EU US EU US EU US
F1: Requisite infrastructure:
improving access and con-
EU06P52S6p2biii US04p42–43;
F2: Software, materials, and
product development
US04p44p1 US04p43p2L2;
F3: Transforming teaching
and learning (tech./info.
literacy, support, prof. de-
velopment, etc.)
F4: Multiple funding streams/
3; EU06P53S14p2;
EU06P52S6p2c US04p40p1L1–3;
F5: Multiple stakeholders pub-
US04p49p1 EU06P51S6p1;
F6: Development of consortia
and institutional/regional
agreements and collabora-
F7: Increase/diversify re-
search, evaluation, and as-
F8: Promotion of wider educa-
tion reform processes
F9: Social dimension EU06Pp8;
EU06P60S32p2c US04p39p1L4
Note.—The elements of the coded references should be read as follows: P p page number, S p section number, p p paragraph number, and L p line number. For instance, the coded reference
EU06P53S14p1L1–3 would be interpreted as European Union 2006 document, Page 53, Section 14, paragraph 1, Lines 1–3.
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Comparative Education Review 189
NGEL ALEGRE ( holds a PhD in sociology
from Universitat Auto`noma de Barcelona (UAB). He is an analyst at the Catalan
Institute of Public Policy Evaluation (Iva`lua). He is also a research coordinator at
the Institute of Public Policies and Government (UAB).
DAVID P. BAKER ( is a professor of education and sociology at the
Pennsylvania State University and was the fifty-fourth president of the Comparative
International Education Society. He publishes widely on education and society, and
his most recent book is The Schooled Society: The Educational Transformation of Global
Culture (Stanford University Press, 2014).
RICARD BENITO ( holds a MPhil in sociology and MA in
social research techniques from Univeritat Auto`noma de Barcelona (UAB). He is
an assistant professor of the Department of Political Sciences and researcher at
the Institute of Public Policies and Government (UAB).
GILIBERTO CAPANO ( is a professor of political sci-
ence and public policy of the University of Bologna at Forlı`. His research interests
include theories of policy change, legislative behavior, administrative reform, gov-
ernance shifts in education and in higher education in comparative perspective,
and policy tools.
YONGCAI CHANG ( is a professor of comparative education and
cultural anthropology and psychology in the School of Education at Minzu Uni-
versity of China. His academic interests focus on intercultural learning, indigenous
education and community development, comparative higher education, and ed-
ucational anthropology.
( holds a PhD in public
policies from Universitat Auto`noma de Barcelona (UAB). He is a lecturer in the
Arts and Humanities Department of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)
and researcher at the Institute of Public Policies and Government (UAB).
AKIKO HAYASHI ( is a postdoctoral fellow in education at the
University of Georgia. She is interested in teachers’ beliefs and practices, social-
emotional development in young children, and comparative education, with a focus
on preschools in Japan and the United States.
MARINO REGINI ( is a professor in economic sociology
at the University of Milan. He is the scientific director of the interuniversity center
UNIRES (Italian Centre for Research on Universities and Higher Education Sys-
tems). His main research interests lie in the areas of comparative industrial rela-
tions, labor market and higher education policies, state and interest organizations,
and political economy more generally.
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190 February 2014
ROBERT A. RHOADS ( is a professor of education at University
of California, Los Angeles, and visiting University Chair Professor at Renmin Uni-
versity. His research focuses on globalization and university reform in the United
States and China, social movements and the university, multiculturalism, and eth-
nographic methods.
professor in the education doctoral programs at North Dakota State University.
Her research agenda includes adult learner identity development, distance and
continuing education, international and comparative education, and issues in di-
versity and inclusion.
FLORIN D. SALAJAN ( is an assistant professor in the
School of Education at North Dakota State University. His areas of research interest
are European higher education policies, international and comparative education,
comparative e-learning, and educational technology effectiveness.
JOSEPH TOBIN ( is a professor of early childhood education
at the University of Georgia. Among his recent publications are Preschool in Three
Cultures Revisited (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and Children Crossing Borders:
Immigrant Parents and Teachers Perspectives on Early Childhood Education (Russell Sage
Foundation, 2013).
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... For the purpose of this policy examination, we embedded our analysis in an adapted comparative federalism framework stemming from a broader project analyzing EU and US education policy (Roumell Erichsen & Salajan, 2014) and (Salajan & Roumell, 2016). We adopt the view that the EU represents a form of "network federalism" (Koch, 2007, p. 169) or "joint federalism" (Glencross, 2009. ...
... Concurrently, to build the descriptive historical narrative of policy development and evolution, a process tracing approach was followed, as this "focuses on the unfolding of events or situations over time" allowing the researcher to "characterize key steps in the process, which in turn permits good analysis of change and sequence" (Collier, 2011, p. 824). In this process, the text of the documents was parsed through an analytical rubric adapted from (Roumell Erichsen & Salajan, 2014), utilizing Mendez and Mendez's (2010) primary analytical framework in addition to nine policy facets useful in extracting specific policy sub-domain orientations in the broader policy framework on Vocational Training, Adult Education and Lifelong Learning domain (see Table 2 for an example of analytical rubric used on one of the documents). Procedurally, the analysis consisted of a dual, independent, and parallel content analysis of the key documents by the authors, using the developed data analysis rubric in order to filter the policy document language, thus leading to the validation of the narrative themes extracted from the texts. ...
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The purpose of this study is to trace and document the emerging contours of a Vocational Training, Adult Education and Lifelong Learning (VTAELL) space in the EU via an examination of the policy framework built over time in this area over more than six decades, from the inception of today’s European Union to the present day. Nineteen key primary sources were selected from the EU’s legislative record forming the growing overarching legal framework on VTAELL from 1951 to present. These were subjected to a discourse and content analysis, utilizing a process tracing approach to systematically record the gradual construction of VTAELL policy. The narrative shows that policy evolution in this field can be grouped into three distinct stages: policy groundwork; programmatic operationalization; consolidation, integration and expansion. Furthermore, the analysis reveals that the convergence and cross-referencing of EU’s VTAELL policy across education sectors validates the importance and consolidation of this policy space.
... Indeed, contrary to the stories prevalent on mainstream media, MOOCs did not appear out of the blue; rather, they were rooted in a 150-year-long history of distance education and embedded in the wider context of the transformations occurring in the higher education sector. While describing the history of distance education falls outside the scope of this book (for a review see Cronin, 2017;Havemann, 2020;Roumell Erichsen & Salajan, 2014;Weller et al., 2018), the aim of this sub-section is simply to explore the historical bonds and current connections between MOOCs and the Open Education movement. Indeed, the origin and success of MOOCs -even of the popular xMOOCs -is based on openness, collaborative learning and teaching, and accessibility, which are some key features of the Open Education movement (Carfagna, 2018;Naidu, 2020). ...
This chapter illustrates the origin and recent history of MOOCs. It draws on literature in the field of higher education studies and communication studies and seeks to illustrate how MOOCs emerged within the context of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. The chapter also analyzes how MOOCs evolved from the early connectivist approach to more commercial practices, and it investigates the recent trends in the spread of MOOCs, considering them to be just one part of the broader transformation taking place in the education sector driven by the growing pervasiveness of digitalization.
... Early research focuses on the first-level digital divide, between those who have access to ICT and those who do not (for a review, see van Deursen and van Dijk, 2019). To reduce this divide, there have been considerable efforts to expand Internet coverage in the learning environment and provide laptops to schoolchildren in both developed and developing countries (Erichsen and Salajan, 2014;Mo et al., 2013;Warschauer and Newhart, 2016). ...
Despite efforts to improve digital access in schools, a persistent digital divide is identified worldwide. Drawing on data from the 2018 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15-year-olds, I examine how students’ digital use for educational purposes (at school and at home) and their perceived digital competence differ between schools by socioeconomic status (SES) and vary across 47 countries. Using multilevel modeling, I find that the second-level digital divide between schools exists even among more developed societies. Students attending high-SES schools are more likely to use computers for schoolwork within and outside of schools, and have more digital competence than those attending low-SES schools. These differences remain substantial and statistically significant even when controlling for school-level resources. Moreover, the between-school digital divide in students’ digital competence is negatively associated with economic development and educational expenditures, and positively associated with income inequality. In conclusion, I discuss implications of the findings and highlight the importance of examining how schools with varying socioeconomic profiles provide different e-learning experiences for individual students, explained by the different institutional settings and cultural features of schools.
... In reviewing, the professional development program (PDP) for the teacher in Indonesia, it will be compared the PDP for the teacher in the United States of America (US) and Indonesia because they have similar conditions in their states/provinces. US has been implemented ICT in their education since 1996 (Roumell & Salajan, 2013) 8 years earlier than Indonesia. In terms of technology readiness, the US has achieved a lot of progress in researching how the technology works in education (United States Office of Educational Technology, 2017) that Indonesia could learn from the US. ...
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education has become an important issue in education reform in many countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Education reform is needed to give skill set of the 21st century to students. Indonesian government has begun implementing ICT in education since 2002 marked by the establishment of the Indonesian Telematics Coordinating Team (TKTI). Although the development of ICT is still far away compared to Hong Kong and Singapore, ICT development is on the right track. In 2013, Indonesia began to initiate Open Educational Resources (OER) and teacher training on ICT. Open educational resources are digitized materials that can be freely accessed by those who want to teach, learn, or research. The OER initiatives have many challenges ahead, one of them is the development of the OER community involving all teachers in Indonesia. The gap in education quality between islands in Indonesia is added with the differences of education infrastructure and education resources. Therefore, Indonesia must create personalized professional development program based on the need of each island. The Indonesia government could initiate the OER consortium to unite all teachers to build a knowledge society. The methods of creating a professional development program could be deducted from the U.S. which has many districts and gap in education quality between states. The purpose of this paper is to develop a professional development program in creating the OER community in Indonesia. This paper tries to investigate what kind of professional development that has been set in, analyze the problems that would likely to occur, and give some solutions.
An important goal of this study is to examine the causes of the digital learning divide and the differential effects of ICT use in education on the outcomes of students from socially advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds. This chapter examines the research literature and discusses the theoretical foundations of the digital divide. The discussion begins with an elaboration of three types of digital divide that emerged with the rapid development of digital technology and the growing reliance on ICT in schools, followed by an analysis of digital inequalities at home and in school by students’ socioeconomic status. We suggest that students from socially advantaged families are more likely to use ICT at home for educational and productive purposes, feel more comfortable to apply their digital skills in school and receive more rewards from teachers, and eventually benefit from ICT use more than students from disadvantaged families. This discussion lays the foundation for our empirical analyses in Chaps. 4 through 7.KeywordsDigital divideDigital inequalityICT accessDigital competenceSocioeconomic backgroundParental mediationRole of teachersHome and school contexts
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This study aims to identify both the level and frequency of digital technology use and perceived self-efficacy levels of pre-service teachers (n = 341). We collected data in Costa Rica through a survey during the 2016–2017 academic year; the survey includes closed-ended items on the use and frequency of digital technologies along with open-ended questions. Findings suggest that a majority of pre-service teachers frequently use digital technologies for both professional and private use and specifically the mobile phone and social media. Results further suggest they find themselves self-efficacious in the use of “traditional” digital technologies that are also used in teacher training by professors/teacher trainers such as laptop, email and video. They are less confident in using mobile phones and social media for teaching even though they use them extensively for their professional development.
This study aims to identify both the level and frequency of digital technology use and perceived self-efficacy levels of pre-service teachers (n = 341). We collected data in Costa Rica through a survey during the 2016–2017 academic year; the survey includes closed-ended items on the use and frequency of digital technologies along with open-ended questions. The responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics and the content analysis technique. It could be concluded that a majority of pre-service teachers frequently use digital technologies for both professional and private use. Results further suggest they find themselves self-efficacious in the use of digital technologies. Keywords: pre-service teacher training, higher education, self-efficacy, digital technologies, southern countries- Costa Rica
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Critical discourse analysis In recent decades critical discourse analysis (CDA) has become a well-established field in the social sciences. However, in contrast with some branches of linguistics, CDA is not a discrete academic discipline with a relatively fixed set of research methods. Instead, we might best see CDA as a problem-oriented interdisciplinary research movement, subsuming a variety of approaches, each with different theoretical models, research methods and agenda. What unites them is a shared interest in the semiotic dimensions of power, injustice, abuse, and political-economic or cultural change in society. CDA is distinctive in a) its view of the relationship between language and society, and b) its critical approach to methodology. Let us take these in turn by first exploring the notions of ‘discourse’ and ‘critical’. The term ‘discourse’ is used in various ways across the social sciences and within the field of CDA. In the most abstract sense, ‘discourse’ ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This is the 2004 National Technology Education Plan developed by the Office of Educational Technology in the US Department of Education.
After the initial e-learning enthusiasm, we have finally reached a stage of sobriety (similar to the burst of the bubble in business). In the paper, a case of blended learning approach in higher education is presented that is part of a wider nationally financed research project about ICT and e-learning. The research results presented in the paper showed that ICT per se does not improve e-learning effectiveness. Only the use of different teaching strategies (methods of teaching and learning) from those used in traditional education can improve study effectiveness in e-learning.
discourse analysis;law;linguistics;electronic surveillance;language patterns