The Dublin Institute of Technology has said that a new e-learning system is transforming student life and its lecturers' attitudes to teaching.
The Institute's WebCT system went live in September, and is used regularly by around a quarter of its 20,000 students.
Kevin O'Rourke, project manager for learning technology at the Institute, said: "It's changing things for students, certainly, but also for the lecturers.
"We're waking up to how technology can transform the whole of the educational experience.
"One lecturer in his fifties, for example, stumbled into WebCT by accident last year and said that it has rejuvenated his whole approach to teaching."
O'Rourke explained that lecturers have been able to manage their time more efficiently because the system has cut down the need for face-to-face meetings with students.
The Institute has already put two complete programmes online for its school of tourism and catering, using WebCT for shared calendars, discussion boards and online course materials.
It is also increasingly using the system for student assessments. "Ungraded quiz-style self-assessments are proving particularly popular," said O'Rourke.
He believes that a key reason for the system's enthusiastic adoption by lecturers is that its introduction was driven under the auspices of teaching, rather than technical, staff.
O'Rourke also warned that academic IT departments must be prepared for the profound impact of e-learning.
"What's been happening is a convergence between technology and teaching that hadn't really been anticipated by either side," he said.
"Analysts such as Gartner say that within four years e-learning will represent academic institutions' biggest IT expense."
WebCT runs on a Linux platform using SteelEye LifeKeeper high availability clustering technology to ensure 24 x 7 accessibility.
O'Rourke suggested that such a robust platform was vital to guarantee the system's success among users.
"If our system went down at this early stage of adoption, it would spell disaster," he said. "Any sense that the technology was unreliable would have seriously affected the whole strategy."
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