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March 5, 2002

E-learning and its Future I so want to comment, but there isn't room. An excerpt tells the story:

From the old to the new:

  • From education as a right, as an established system, to learning as a commodity, where the consumer can choose (and where the learning products increasingly can be purchased);
  • From education which controls entry, which regulates availability, to learning for all, to deregulation;
  • From education as a qualification or credential, to learning and skilling as a lifestyle; where instead of working your way through someone else’s prepackaged information, you cherry pick from all the available courses to get the skills you need for the work you want to do; and
  • From education as a scheduled activity, to learning any time, any place, any pace; what ever you need for as long as you want it and you only pay for what you use;
  • From taking in content (studying), to making information, doing something with the resources, creating something new – a solution, process, methodology;
  • From memory testing, to the demonstration of performance; it’s not what you know (which has little value in itself) but what you can do with it – the value is not in the known but the new; and
  • From competitive to collaborative practices; whereas the book, the essay, the exam, have all been isolated activities, the online and networked environment allows for a much greater degree of collaboration.
Ah, what the heck, I will comment.

[Beginning of rant]

Two things about this list: first, it is in some ways very accurate, and second, it is a vision of learning that is disturbing to a large number of people. Take the first point: education as a commodity (instead of as a right). Implicit in this is that people not willing (or not able) to pay do without. But leaving people without education is unacceptable in a modern information-age society.

On the other hand... most of these points deal with aspects of the shift in power and control from the government or institution to the student or learner. These shifts entail risk - this afternon I heard a K-12 representative speak of the need to make sure e-learning is structured and guided (otherwise kids won't bother). Which is right?

I've said this before and I'll say it again: market economics only work in suituations of relative abundance. If something is expensive or difficult to produce - heart transplants, say, or food in a famine - then market economics results in an articifial inflation of price and widespread scarcity. This is why market capitalism, which is so important and essential to wealth in the United States, fails in places like Somalia and even (to a lesser extent) the former Soviet Union.

What this means is that the principles outlined above depend on there being a relative abundance of learning. The internet makes this possible, but not inevitable. So long as the cost of technology remains unreasonably high, so long as artificial shortages are created by copyright legislation and limitations in accreditation, it is not reasonable to expect - and reap the benefits from - a consumer driven system of learning.

There should be a lesson here for everyone in the industry: if you want to see, and profit from, a golden age in learning, you have to let go of the constraints that keep your commodity scarce. So far what I have seen is that few are willing to do that.

[End of rant]

By Dale Spender, Global Summit of Online Learning Networks, March 4, 2002.[Refer]

The Real Experience This article's best line is its last: "In 1939 the New York Times said of TV 'the trouble with TV is that the average family will never find time for it'." That said, this engaging article looks at some important trends in e-learning with an eye to helping people understand and use the new technologies. Among the important (and in my eye, accurate) trends observed: the blurring of the distinctions between work, leisure and education and the accessing of learning as consequence of or as part of other activities; the further erosion of the learning monopoly of formal educational institutions; and the growing range of educational providers. My only major criticism of the article is the tiny tiny x-small font-size used for the text in this and the other Global Learning Summit (held March 4 and 5 in Adelaide) papers. Why would you torture readers like this? Are you trying to save space? Sheesh.

More from the Global Summit of Online Learning Networks tomorrow.

By Stephanie Young, Global Summit of Online Learning Networks, March 4, 2002.[Refer]

Making the Case for Content Good article discussing features that may be considered "characteristic" of an LCMS system: content creation or ‘authoring’, dynamic delivery, and some administrative capability. What gets me is this little item from Brandon Hall: "if you assume a five-year implementation for 8,000 learners, five servers, and 40 authors, then the average price tag was $537,000 (about $65,000 more than for an LMS). The median price was $430,000, the lowest $150,000 and the highest $1.9 million." This is, to put it bluntly, too much. As Michael Feldstein puts it, "Purchasers of Learning Content Mangement Systems will continue to be disappointed with overpriced, over-hyped, poorly implemented, and poorly documented software that supplies none of the promised benefits." Not good. By Clive Shepherd, Fastrak Consulting, February, 2002.[Refer]

Harvard Scientists' Efforts for Free Online Journal Access Make Little Ground The thrust of this article is that an open access academic journal poject promoted by three Harvard scientists has "stagnated" and that the free online journal has not yet reached the status of, say, Nature or Cell. While well established researchers can take the risk of publishing in a relatively unknown online journal, academics seeking tenure or ambitious gradutae students face the need to publish in an established journal. None of this should be surprising; the only surprising thing is that anyone would have the expectation that a free online journal would rival an established publication in its first few months of publication. By Nicole B. Usher, Harvard Crimson, March 1, 2002.[Refer]


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