Going entirely online?
There is still nothing like a consensus around the role of and potential for online learning. While there are now possibly thousands of university programmes available for free online – including all those collected together through Apple’s iTunes U (which has now hit 600 million downloads) – and while universities and colleges across the world increasingly offer at least some of their programmes in online versions, most degree programmes are still delivered in a classroom setting, perhaps now supported by online materials.
But what will happen in the future? Some are now suggesting that online eduction will make campus-based programmes obsolete. I don’t take that view, in part because the classroom experience still has significant value and will, I suspect, continue to dominate the school-leaver higher education market. But there are some points worth noting:
- the growth of online programmes or programme materials has brought in its train more serious reviews of pedagogy and learning methodologies (for online and classroom teaching) than had been in evidence for decades previously;
- the availability of materials and sources has been significantly enhanced; but
- there is a significant risk that some stakeholders, including governments, may believe that elearning can save money, whereas in reality it needs to be very well funded and supported; and
- developing elearning is not the same thing as just putting previously used classroom materials online; and some courses may not work well online at all.
Finally, given the costs and the need to maintain the latest technology, I suspect that learning will work best when it is developed and delivered in collaboration between several providers.