Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ A World of Opportunity: E-Learning and Atlantic Canada

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Mar 15, 2002

Extended abstract, as an MS-Word document.

Education on the internet has followed the model of traditional distance learning. This is a model that favours large, centralized institutions, large publishers and centralized administration. When we think of traditional distance learning, we think of things like Britain's Open University or the University of Phoenix.

Large, centralized online learning is inherently unstable. Learning must be standardized and addressed to the novice learner. Course authors are urged to provide more guidance and more support, to place students' choices within a certain context and to relate students' activities to the interpretations and interests of a central authority.

Internet culture, on the other hand, has developed forms of communication and learning which run contrary to these trends. On the internet, a form of networked community infrastructure has developed, one where there is no central authority and where actors' decisions and activities occur in an open-ended environment. This suggests an another approach to learning, one which opens a door to innovation and creativity.

Atlantic Canada is well positioned to offer an alternative to monolothic e-learning. We can build on our existing expertise in network technologies, peer-to-peer infrastructure and online learning content and distribution. We can contribute to the development of a learning marketplace that replaces the centralized model of online learning with a distributed, student-centered learning network. And such a network can open a portal into the worldwide education marketplace for Atlantic Canadian e-learning enterprises, opening the door to a world of opportunity.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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