Last updated: 27.06.13

Academia 'could learn a lot' from online learning

While the majority of higher education institutions now offer some form of virtual learning environment (VLE), it has been suggested that they could still stand to learn a great deal from the world of online professional development. 

Allison Littlejohn, director of the Caledonian Academy at Glasgow Caledonian University, told the Guardian that this is because the sphere is adept at engaging with its users and connecting with others. 

She noted that one of her students takes advantage of a very wide range of mobile learning tools - including RSS feeds that she accesses from her smartphone. This gives her very quick access to the most relevant reports and professional journals. 

After she has compiled some work of her own, blog publishing makes it possible to get feedback very quickly - and video conferencing makes it very easy to discuss her progress with supervisors. 

Growing numbers of schools in the UK could be set to place an increasing degree of importance on the role of technology in education, as Aerohive Networks recently rolled out Wi-Fi and cloud-enabled enterprise networking services to 50 schools. 

Mark Powley, UK director at Aerohive Networks, underlined the fact that Wi-Fi services are becoming indispensable in this country - and he called on educational establishments to ensure they are doing their utmost to provide this. 

Niall Sclater, director of learning and teaching at the Open University, argued that online learning courses will be able to benefit from an increasing sophistication in social networking. 

The expert suggested that pairing up with partners already happens on an ad-hoc basis, but it could become a lot easier. 

Indeed, his organisation has an excellent reputation for encourgaging collaboration between distant learners. 

"Email is still an excellent tool for that," he commented, adding: "Many elements of technology make study more interesting and easy in a way it wasn't before." 

Mr Sclater continued: "Expect a gradual evolution as these means become easier and easier to use."