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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Sept 29, 1999

Posted to DEOS-L 29 September 1999

dennis roberts observes, astutely,

it won't be long believe me ... and business will drive this primarily ... before employers will say ... we want you to have X degree ... or, interpreted more loosely .. Y array of courses ... and, we really don't care WHERE you get them so ... an astute student will go cyberspace shopping ... to see if he/she can fill up his/her course shopping cart ... and satisfy Y in this way ... any bets on how it will be before this is commonplace?

Yes. This is exactly where distance learning is headed! It will be commonplace in less than five years.

Now I have a lot of sympathy for the higher aspirations of the traditional university. And I really do believe that there is a major role for publicly funded institutions offering research and learning for the sake of knowledge itself.

But I have also watched with increasing concern those very same institutions react blindly to the impact of new technology, secure, it seems, in the knowledge that their standing in the community will preserve their status.

It's not gonna happen. Universities must look not only at what they are offering, they must look at the *cost* of what they are offering (it will have to be a lot cheaper), and they will have to look at the *content* of what they are offering (it is going to have to be much more student centered).

On the horizon now - but speeding forward - is the concept of "educational objects" (watch this one; it will be a huge buzzword in twelve months), which consist not of courses but rather of course *components*. Courses themselves - if it even makes sense to talk about courses per se - will consist of collections of educational objects assembled dynamically according to student needs and interests.

How will the individual professor compete with such a system? Especially when this professor - earning a top notch salary - can only teach three classes of twenty students each (I recall someone in a previous post reporting professors that maxed out at 20)?

This is *the* issue facing distance learning.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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