N. Pedro1, J. Paiva Monteiro2

1Institute of Education-University of Lisbon (PORTUGAL)
The purpose of this paper is to report the main results of a research project that aimed to identify and characterize the organizational critical success factors (CSFs) for e-learning implementation in Higher Education institutions (HEIs). The relevancy of these critical success factors came from the fact that these can be used as guidelines for the development of an organizational strategy for the implementation of e-learning programs. Developed in 2015/2016, the project adopted a mixed research approach and was built upon two main phases. At its first phase, a systematic literature review process was conducted, in order to identify e-learning bench-marking models that comprised any organizational dimension or indicators. A total of 46 models were analyzed and the outcome of this analytical process was a list of 37 initial CSFs. In its second phase, the project adopted an e-Delphi study with Q-Sort method as data collection procedure. The Delphi technique is a quantitative option aimed at generating consensus. It solicits opinions from groups of stakeholders in an iterative process of answering questions. The 37 CSFs were used as the starting point for the Delphi study and a panel of 24 managements of e-Learning projects (20 elements of rectors’ executive boards and 4 elements of Information Technology units) of 24 Portuguese Higher Education institutions was constituted. The study involved three rounds of responses for achieving the required level of consensus. The results showed that the more relevant success factors for e-learning implementation in Higher Education were: the development of an institutional strategy for e-Learning; the organization of staff support initiatives for e-Learning; the organization of teachers’ professional development solutions; and the establishment of quality assurance procedures for online learning initiatives. The factors that were pointed out as least relevant were: the existence of e-Learning champion; the representation and participation of different stakeholders in e-Learning programs management; the identification of costs and benefits of e-Learning; and the analysis of risks in e-Learning initiatives. These results highlight the importance of outlining a clear and shared strategy for e-Learning in Higher Education institutions. It points out that HEIs should devote more attention to strategic planning and should identify governance models for e-Learning that are aligned with the institutional mission and aims. HEIs still find it difficult to see e-Learning projects as having a contributory role for the achievement of HEIs ambitions; they underestimate the potential role that e-Learning can have in the innovation of teaching practices, as well as its impact on the internationalization and attraction of new students to the organization. Yet, the results highlight the emergence of a different perspective. The results also evidenced that e-learning projects in higher education should not focus only in a strictly technological perspective. Decision-makers must be aware of the relevancy of other dimensions, such as the organizational and pedagogical ones. The results provided evidences that actions regarding teachers’ professional development and quality assurance must also be addressed. The development of e-Learning projects in HEIs requires an organizational and cultural transformation.