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Online learning and higher education: another stroll through questions and considerations. Part two

minn Michael Stewart
Lingwa: EN

The story so far...

In part one of this series of four articles, we considered the potential impact of digital technologies on education and the questions this raises for those contemplating the design of an eLearning course.

This week we look at the longer term.

How can I predict what is going to happen in online education in the mid to long term?
The short answer is: you can’t - not with any degree of accuracy.
Early adopters of the digital model found that investing their time, energy and money in new technologies was a risky business.

But this applies to each and every form of new resource we invest in; it has a shelf life. Somewhere there must lurk a storeroom stacked with turntables and Telex machines, a warehouse teeming with typewriters, telegraphs and analogue telephones and a cupboard chockfull of pagers, fax machines and Betamax videotapes.

Similarly, every institute of education in the world harbours a dark and dingy stockroom piled high with the detritus of outdated digital technologies, the evidence, not of imprudent expenditure, but of rapid progress. This throws up key considerations when attempting to evaluate the impact of digital technologies on education; the turnover and the timescale. Never in history have we seen a technology progress through so many transformative stages as quickly as we have with that of the modern computer.

Granted, early examples of these mechanical engines can be traced back to Babbage et al and we could engage in endless debate as to what we should consider to be the first “modern computer”, but this discussion would merely be academic.

For convenience, if we consider that the first computers were made available to consumers in 1974-75, that Microsoft MS-DOS arrived in 1981 and Apple’s Lisa was the first home computer with a GUI (graphical user interface), we can deduce that the modern computer is a mere 40 years old.

Long after our existing institutions of learning have crumbled to dust, future generations will marvel as archaeologists reveal artefacts from a bygone age, ancient relics bearing the legends Acorn, Amstrad, Atari and Apple.

Never in the field of higher education has so much been transformed so quickly by so few

You can access the complete article 'Online learning and higher education: another stroll through questions and considerations. Part 2' by following the link here.

Missed the previous instalment of Online Learning and Higher Education? Read the previous chapter “Online learning and higher education: a six part ramble through key questions and considerations" by following the link here.

/en/file/michael-stewartjpgMichael Stewart.jpg

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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  • Ajda Turk's picture

    I agree with you Michael. We have to expend and explore emerging technologies more. I've noticed that some teachers in adult learning are afraid, not confident enough, and most of all skilled enough for using new technologies. The lack of funding is another important reason ... So I think it is essential to work with adult educators first - especially in the public sector. The ones in the privat have already adopted the fact that they have to stick to the trends in order to be able to 'sell' their services and make for their living. 

  • Michael Stewart's picture

    Many thanks for commenting Ajda. My concern is that the gap between what is offered to the student and that student's expectations is in danger of widening as we lag behind in terms of the technologies we use. More effort must be expended on embracing existing technologies and exploring emerging technologies in order to maximise what are essentially readily available resources.

  • Ajda Turk's picture

    It is really interesting to see how the topic of digital technologies in adult learning is emerging at almost every conference, meeting etc. It has been a theme of many EPALE launches all over Europe in 2015. People talk about it, try to do something about it, ask questions and are concerned to which extent it is good to be used. 

    I think that digital technologies will be part of a learning process even more than before. Kids, who are already well equiped with different smartphones, tablets, and who knows what will we have in 10 years, will be grown-up adults in app. 20 years. Imagine how will they learn and memorize things. Acording to this, I agree with you Michael that it is important for adult educators not to forget: "It is essential that we know our subject, knowing something about how it might be delivered online is equally important."

    Thank you Michael for sharing the blog.