Last updated: 12.10.11

Debate over e-learning backed by US governors

The idea of e-learning as a substitute for traditional education is causing some debate, according to recently shared opinions.

Politicians in the US debated e-learning success in an Inside Higher Ed blog and both agreed that learning online has significant benefits.

The idea that a Democrat and a Republican would agree on a matter of education is rare, but former governors Jim Hunt of North Carolina and Jeb Bush of Florida were united in their front as deeming e-learning to be a valuable tool in any school or company.

In the blog, the two men state: "Students who took all or part of a course online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction."

Bill Keller, the New York Times's former executive editor and now a columnist for the newspaper, said in response that e-learning is a cost that most education providers could do without.

He added: "Our top-rated universities and colleges have no want of customers willing to pay handsomely for the kind of education their parents got. Thus elite schools have little incentive to dilute the value of the credentials they award."

However, the politicians remained united and made clear that they think there are many benefits of the virtual classroom including flexibility, ease of access and the chance to improve computer literacy skills while still working towards educational credit.

Mr Bush and Mr Hunt are telling organisations to go "full speed ahead" with the new form of learning and have urged public colleges to stream lectures and digitise learning in response to a growing student population.

They mentioned that online students should live lives that are "divorced from the static, brick-and-mortar reality of institutions built for 19th century economic circumstances".

According to Inside Higher Ed, setting up the technology needed to deliver high-quality instruction is daunting, but it is a challenge that can be easily managed using the right resources.