OBJECTIVES AND INTRODUCTION
Revenues from e-learning
are expected to reach over 11 billion dollars by the year 2003. What is
e-learning? Where did it come from and why is it becoming so popular? There
are many ideas as to what constitutes an effective online learning environment,
and before we attempt to define them and learn how to design and create
them, we will gain a basic understanding of how and why education is changing
INITIAL THOUGHTS ON E-LEARNING
Shaw, 5 minutes
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Simply put, e-learning
can be defined as the systematic use of networked computer technologies
to connect learners with other people and resources. There are many reasons
for using technology for learning, which include the improvement of learning
and making specific learning more readily accessible. Has the technology
changed the way we do things or has the way we do things created the technology?
of education that most of us grew up with has its roots in standardization,
conformity and compliance, analogous with Industrial-age manufacturing.
At one time, society required that agricultural workers be trained for
factory jobs, and consequently, the educational system was designed to
cater to the mentality of mass production. Today, our educational systems
are slow to change, and there is still a tendency to educate individuals
as if preparing them for a life of machine and assembly line work. The
information age has brought us into an era where more specific, personalized
and customized approaches to everything are required, including education.
Why is this so?
The movement of physical goods has traditionally
been the basis for our social interactions. However, we now live in a world
where knowledge, ideas and intelligence are the basis of our modern human
existence. These are the attributes of a global knowledge-based society,
being rich in social interaction and social organization. This type of
society is not a prediction or a futuristic vision. It is a present reality.
In a communication-rich, networked society,
the movement of money and investments is globally situated, while labour
for the most part remains individualized. The working class comprises a
number of subordinate functions that are segregated, but which contribute
value to a global economy through knowledge. Those workers with knowledge
of how to function in a knowledge-based society and incorporate new ideas
and technologies are highly sought after. Moving from a society of conformity
and compliance into a knowledge-based one requires us to have more diverse
perspectives and individuality in order to solve increasingly complex problems.
Although still valid, the memorization and procedural skill development
techniques of the past cannot (alone) meet the modern demands for higher
levels of learning. In order to remain viable and
survive in a labor market driven by rapidly changing demands, today's workers
must know how to quickly update their knowledge and skills on a continual
basis throughout their lifetimes.
should be designed to encourage and support a society of lifelong learners.
The present state of communication information technology is clearly posed
to meet this growing need, and the paradigm that has emerged for education
in this century is based on the attributes of networked learning. It enables
the ability of individuals to learn anything, anywhere, anytime - by, from
or with anyone. This also implies that modern educational practices must
be aimed at seeing that each individual's specific learning needs are met.
For the most part, this cannot be accomplished by having learners receive
standardized facts and information passively en mass as was done in the
1. If we consider some of the key markers illustrated above
that distinguish the differences between industrial-age and information-age
organizations, we can see that there is a need for education to comply
with these improved ways of doing things - not only in what we teach, but
also in how we teach.
Ideally, the structure of the education
we deliver should match the structure of the environment or society into
which our learners will ultimately go, and where they are going has changed
dramatically in the past few years.
When we think of a knowledge-based society,
we think of computer networks, and we think of our educational systems
– the places where knowledge is supposed to be created and transformed.
To be effective, our learning environments must become like knowledge workers,
in that they must learn to continually re-interpret and respond effectively
to changes and needs. Knowledge must be actively reconstructed according
its context of purpose.
Communication information technology is
empowering and propagating the existence of our global knowledge-based
society, and one does wonder if the change is driving new technologies,
or if new technologies are driving the change. Technology is about tools
that help us to do things better. Increased perception on how we
do things will always lead to enlightenment and advancement. New tools
give mankind more understanding about himself and the universe, and this
leads to better conceptualizations and perceptions about everything, including
how to teach and learn, and how to create even better tools.
We know that good
instruction requires an educationally sound
foundation and a process for its development.
However, the medium, the message and society have changed. Creating pedagogically
sound instructional material in an online or multimedia format involves
more than simply transferring and uploading existing (mostly textual) information
into an electronic format. There are important design issues to be dealt
with that are more in line with newer learning paradigms.
||Mankind is now entering into
the knowledge age. Focusing on the context of information is the premise
of this age, as there is no present shortage of information today, just
perhaps a lack of understanding of what to do with it all. Moving
from a data processing era into one of wisdom building will require educational
strategies that create life long learners who possess the skills, knowledge
and attitudes to develop their own personal styles of more specific, practical
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