Last updated: 31.05.12

Distance learning online 'will revolutionise higher education'

Online learning will result in a revolution in the provision of higher education, it has been said.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, interim chief executive officer of Education Sector John Chubb and professor of political science at Stanford University Terry Moe, who were the joint authors of the book Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics and the Future of American Education, argued the US and the international community are in the "early stages of a historic transformation" in education..

"The coming revolution is essentially about finding a new balance in the way education is organised - a balance in which students still go to school and have face-to-face interactions within a community of scholars, but also do a portion of their work online," they declared.

E-learning will affect the settings and habits of schools and school systems, the way in which students learn and the methods tutors use to teach, they declared.

Online learning courses could result in substantial improvements to the accessibility and quality of higher education, the specialists remarked.

For instance, the e-learning projects developed by Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology enable people to engage in distance learning online, meaning students do not have to live on-campus to realise "some of the key benefits of an elite education", they pointed out.

At reasonable tuition prices, a Nobel laureate could teach millions of students through a virtual learning environment.

As has happened in many other industries, online learning will result in the substitution of cheap technology for expensive labour, which will boost the productivity of academic centres, the specialists remarked.

Furthermore, e-learning can also be particularly engaging, with content presented through a variety of methods, including games, simulations and videos.

Some of the other benefits provided by this emerging educational tool are that students can be educated at their own pace, 24 hours a day.

Data on an individual's progress through the online learning course can be collected systematically, while it also permits continual assessment and personalised tutoring over the internet, they added.

Many other specialists have forecast e-learning to fundamentally alter the provision of education, with retired superintendent Geoff Johnson writing in the Victoria Times Colonist that the public school system will be "inevitably" effected by this emerging sector.