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Progress & Polarity

We must not fall into the trap of believing that simply because a form of technology exists, it must be applied. Any technological advance will only have positive value if it is employed as an integral part of a pedagogy that is subject to ongoing review and revision.

Online Education: Progress & polarity

In the previous parts in this series of articles, we pondered the potential impact of digital technologies on education, the questions raised for those contemplating the design of an eLearning course, and how traditional approaches and methodologies can inform the application of emerging technologies.

In the penultimate article of this series, we consider the polarity that eLearning has created within the education sector.

Progress and polarity

As educators, we must question our practice; consider and establish the fundamentals of what we are aiming to achieve before we can embrace and implement new technologies and progress in any meaningful way.

Unfortunately, reactions to the introduction of eLearning into higher education have been mixed and a polarity exists between the pro and anti factions within the sector. This throws up some key questions that must be addressed before these can be reconciled:

  • Why does one faction think it necessary to devise convoluted and restrictive mechanisms in order to give the impression that we are bringing students and lecturers together in one place?
  • Why must all forms of communication within the teaching/learning interaction be synchronous to be effective; when was it decided that it is more effective for teaching to be conducted in real time?
  • And perhaps most crucially, is our present education system so perfect that it cannot be improved or is it merely so insecure that it cannot bear criticism?

However, we must not fall into the trap of believing that simply because a form of technology exists, it must be applied. Any technological advance will only have positive value if it is employed as an integral part of a pedagogy that is subject to ongoing review and revision. Additionally, the more radical or far-reaching the technological advance, the greater the need for a radical revision of that pedagogy; tinkering around the edges or reordering a few of the parts to incorporate the most attractive elements is only a short-term fix.

However, even if we address all of these issues and then incorporate them into an existing educational model, the result does not necessarily constitute what we may wish to call “online education”.

Uploading an unsupported stack of text based materials to a website is not “online education” any more than posting a textbook to a student is distance learning.

The complete version of this article can be accessed by clicking on this link.

Missed the previous instalment of Online Learning and Higher Education? Read the previous chapter "We know what we are, but not what we may be" by following the link here.

Michael Stewart
Michael Stewart has extensive experience in the writing, directing and delivery of education programmes across a range of media. More recently as a member of the board and management team of the Interactive Design Institute, Michael has fulfilled a wide variety of functions including the development of pedagogy for online delivery.

 

 

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