| THE IMPLICATIONS OF E-LEARNING
IN THE WORLD TODAY
The Internet Revolution
The amazingly rapid expansion and growth of the World Wide Web
in the past decade has been nothing less than a paradigm shift
in the way humanity and society, as a whole, perceives reality.
Boundaries of time and space have been expanded. Peoples
working and learning methods have changed dramatically, become
more fast-paced and flexible, and some might even say more efficient.
Communication as a whole has changed in its parameters; children
growing up today take it for granted that before the Internet
came along, it was not possible to talk to anyone from anywhere
in the world at any time with a mere milliseconds time delay.
Because of this revolution many societal issues are currently
being debated, discussed, hypothesized, theorized, written about,
talked about, etc. The issues all tend to revolve around the three
main aspects of society: learning, working, and communicating.
The Digital Divide
The great thing about the Internet Revolution is that it is very
cost-efficient and has the potential to level the playing field,
giving privileged and underprivileged alike the same opportunities
online. The Internet cannot discriminate against its users; it
is not capable. This means that anything done online can be done
without bias towards sex, race, religion, or socioeconomic condition.
But before people can reap the benefits of such an unbiased medium,
they need access to the technology. Some people, such as Mark
Smolenski who wrote an article entitled "The Digital Divide
and American Society", worry that if we are not careful a
"digital divide" could form between the rich and the
poor, between developed and under-developed countries, between
the haves and the have-nots, between those who can afford to have
access to the rapidly changing technology and those who cannot.
This will be an important issue to monitor in the coming years;
to see how well-distributed Internet technology will be throughout
the world. It is obvious that developed countries will continue
to increase their technology capabilities, but how will this affect
under-developed and developing countries? Although this new technology
could benefit most the underprivileged sectors of societies, it
may remain the same age-old Catch 22: the higher your socioeconomic
status, the easier it is to have access to the tools you need
to change your socioeconomic status.
Autonomy, Individualization, Socialization
As our culture becomes more and more dependent on the Internet,
the individuals relationship with society is changing dramatically.
The notion of autonomy is quickly becoming a social norm that
is changing the way we work, the way we learn, and the way we
interact with others. The individual is being given more and more
power to direct his/her path in life how he/she sees fits.
The rules of traditional education systems are also changing,
as more and more E-Learning programs are developed online. The
classic three rules of education: 1. fixed hours, 2. permanent
location, and 3. one educational system, are quickly being replaced
by three new rules: 1. adjustable times, 2. adjustable place,
and 3. different educational systems.
Flexibility, individualization and distance capability have become
three intrinsic necessities for todays educational system
models. But as the educational system continues to bend towards
the individuals needs, we must not think that individualization
of education means the exclusion of group interaction and activity.
Human interaction will always be an essential part of an individuals
education, and perhaps this is the issue that we must pay the
most attention to in the coming years of E-Learning program development.
Increased Responsibility and the Importance of Personal Motivation
With this increased autonomy and individualization, however,
comes increased individual responsibility. As one makes the transition
from in-class programs to online programs, one must realize that
that does not necessarily make things easier for the individual.
On the contrary- online education necessitates the individual
to be responsible for his/her time, learning methods, study organization,
and so on. Before one decides whether or not one wants to make
the transition from in-class education to online education, one
should consider ones own level of motivation.
In a dossier produced by a European based program called "Projet
Polifemo", it is suggested that before getting involved in
a distance/online program, a student should assess his/her motivation
level according to three motivational factors: 1. perception of
the future- how will the program enhance the candidates
future? 2. perception of competence- does the candidate feel like
he/she will be able to perform adequately in the program? and
3. perception of control- does the candidate feel like he/she
is capable of taking the responsibility of completing and following
through with a distance/online program?
Facts and Figures
Because E-Learning is such new concept, there are not many reliable
sources of data that have been formulated. There are basic numbers
and figures, but until the programs and the systems of E-Learning
have been established for at least a decade, it will be difficult
to attain accurate data on its success and number of participants.
The U.S. congress Web Commission estimates that approximately
377 million people in the world today are currently using the
Internet. The UCEA (University Continuing Education Association)
reported that there were approximately 1.7 million online college
courses taught in the 1997-98 school year. The National Center
for Educational Statistics did the following survey on distance
education at postsecondary educational institutions for the 1997-98
1. Dias, Marco Antonio Rodrigues, "Higher Education: Vision
and Action for the Coming Century," UNESCO Open File, Prospects,
Vol. XXVIII, no.3, Issue number 107, September 1998, www.unesco.org
2. Smolenski, Mark, "The Digital Divide and American Society",
Gartner, October 2000, www.gartner.com
3. Projet Polifemo, "Programme dInitiative Communautaire
ADAPT BIS", Fonds Social Europeen, 1999, www.educagri.fr/actions/pni/pdfs/blpni4.pdf
4. UCEA (University Continuing Education Association), www.nucea.edu
5. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational
Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQUIS),
"Survey on Distance Education at Postsecondary Education
Institutions," 1998-99, http://nces.ed.gov/edstats
6. Web Commission, "The Power of the Internet for Learning:
Moving from Promise to Practice," released at a press conference
in Washington D.C. on December 19, 2000, www.webcommission.org