Jitka Brandejsová, Michal Brandejs, Miroslava Misáková, Miroslav Křipač

Presentation for ICTE 2007 conference (17. – 20. September 2007)

Abstract: The role the modern information technology plays in university education has constantly been gaining in significance as it is not only the e-learning courses designed for distance learning, which may be combined with regular classes or utilized independently of these, that are currently being offered, but also those falling into the categories of blended e-learning and rapid e-learning. The development of e-learning courses at Masaryk University has reached the point where they are becoming a commodity. That is also why the institution's authorities have decided to sell them as well as other services over the Internet. What makes this activity unique, besides many other things, is the fact that the Center for Sale of E-learning Courses has been integrated in the Information System of Masaryk University (IS MU). Linking the Center directly to the System, which currently hosts numerous e-learning applications, allows the institution to offer the products that are capable of meeting specific needs of the university – a service not usually offered by one-off eshops. Based on a shopping basket, payment-related mechanisms (linked directly to the University’s economic system) and warehouse management, this system of offer and sale is expected to sell products and services on the basis of, for instance, some pre-requisites or criteria that are to be met by their users such as completion of some other preceding courses, the pre-requisite of being a member of a specific staff group, etc. Another advantage of the aforementioned integration is the transparency of the financial transactions that are to be carried out and seamless transitions from one phase to another (e.g. from the client’s payment to their instant access to the e-learning services). The paper aims to acquaint the audience with the role of the Center and its relation to the e-learning courses administered under IS MU.
Keywords: E-learning, education, information technology, e-bussiness, e- course, lifelong learning, shopping basket, Information System of Masaryk University, Center for sale.


The role the modern information technology plays in university education has constantly been gaining in significance. While the main reasons why the education of people with the aid of information technology has become popular in the commercial sphere are of economic (and time-saving) nature, in the academic area there are some of another kind as well. That is, e-learning represents an asset when it comes to teaching courses enrolled in by large numbers of students. Since it is currently desirable to make the university education accessible to as many young people as possible, the organization of such education becomes more involved than ever before and thus the need for the use of elaborate e-learning systems gradually increases. Moreover, the information technology allows teachers to introduce brand new teaching techniques, which render the educational process more attractive, entertaining, and efficient than it was in the past. That is also why e-learning has become an indispensable part of education provided by reputable universities.


The Center for Sale of E-learning Courses represents a unique Web application integrated in the Information System of Masaryk University (IS MU). Linking the Center directly to the System, which currently hosts numerous e-learning applications, allows the institution to offer the products that are capable of meeting specific needs of the university – a service not usually offered by one-off e-shops. Besides the aforementioned facts, the decision whether to build the system based on the previously described model in-house or commission another institution to do so should be based on the availability (or lack) of all the necessary expertise, financial and technical resources as well as personnel-related aspects. Due to its efficiency and reliability, which make it lead other information systems of this kind, the Information System of Masaryk University is ready to be used for the purpose of ecommerce without the need of any other special technology being added to it to make it meet this end. It has proved its worth over the last few years when handling electronic applications, scholarships, fee payments – processes directly linked to the economic system of the University. Moreover, the development team, who can flexibly react to the changes in the economic system as well as other issues, have enough experience in this respect. From the financial point of view, the in-house development represents an alternative far cheaper than any other commercially available solution. Some of the products offered by the Center are the following: – lifelong learning programs and courses (applies to both accredited and unaccredited studies) – courses aiming to prepare applicants for entrance examinations – e-learning courses designed for staff and the general public – special courses (e.g. out-of-school courses, language courses, field trips, etc.) – learning materials (textbooks, tests) – participation in conferences, seminars, conference services – other products such as books, promotion materials, tickets, fees related to studies (e.g. lifelong learning fees), certificates issued in foreign languages, special-purpose examination dates, payment deferrals, etc.


Center for Sale of E-learning Courses supports the following: – sections offering various products – shopping basket and payment management system – classification of offered products by the groups of those who may buy them (e.g. anyone, students, students enrolled in certain course, staff, etc.) – customization of orders and their structuring according to the types of products being ordered – different terms of payment, bonuses, discounts, etc. for different customers depending on their identity – different types of payment: by card, by bank transfer; issuing invoice – linking the Center to the economic information system generating payment identification numbers and other payment-related information – linking the Center to the system used for the management of individual people’s studies, programs, fields, courses and students’ enrolment in these, etc. 60 – linking the Center to the e-learning section of the Information System allowing the services provided to a customer to be linked to his/her payment and their subsequent automatic activation

Fig. 1: Center – Structure


The courses that can be offered via the e-shop may be of varying nature (e.g. language courses, IT-related courses, photograph-processing tutorials, life-saving courses, etc.). Provided a customer becomes a student as a result of purchasing a course, he/she is automatically granted access to the following: – IS MU e-mail – other sections of IS that regular students can access – enrollment in the purchased course – services associated with the course: - learning materials - service-related instructions: contact information, links to information sources - discussion groups - other services All the aforementioned services enable the user of a purchased course to access the learning materials of the course, communicate with its teacher and other students as well as perform other course-related operations.


Advantages of running the center: As regards the Center, its clients benefit from the following: – a product can be purchased at any time – using the Center saves time and money since the clients do not have to travel anywhere, call anyone, or fax any orders – clients can keep track of the orders they have made and their status – being part of the University, the Center makes the impression of being a reputable and reliable business partner, i.e. the kind of partner customers prefer An institution selling its products via the Center may benefit from the following: – increase in sale – after the positive experience of the first purchase, customers tend to prefer making the second one and every other following it via the Internet again, i.e. the Center – low transaction expenses – fast communication with customers – flexible price policy – links to invoice-generating and delivery sections Masaryk University currently benefits from the following: – if a need arises, adjustments to the system are made immediately – expertise - the Center administrators work with the system they familiarized themselves with before – efficient and reliable hardware – no need to buy and configure additional hardware – efficient management of customers’ records – possibility of working with the records of those customers who meet certain selection criteria – easy way of sending offers to current customers – other advantages of running the Center