Last updated: 22.08.12

E-learning 'creating exciting possibilities for universities'

Online learning is one of the hottest topics in the university sector at the moment.This is according to Steven Knepper and Robert Whyllie, who wrote in an article for culture, arts, critical theory, philosophy and politics journal Telos Press that the move towards virtual learning environments ran over the internet "raises exciting possibilities for universities".E-learning courses can democratise access to academia and could eventually result in classrooms being broadened "infinitely", they suggested.Executive managing director of the Korea Times Lee Chang-sup recently wrote in the publication that the democratisation of education is happening in South Korea as a result of online learning.Anyone can access education through e-learning as long as they are fluent in language, possess an internet connection and have enough free time to participate, the Telos authors continued.Universities could become less elitist, while public institutions that use taxpayers' money to finance education will become more "broadly available".However, they pointed out that traditional classrooms have a number of other benefits, such as encouraging dialogue between learners and students.Technological innovations could counteract these concerns, the writers noted, arguing that online videoconferencing could enable face-to-face discussion, while responsive teachers can communicate with students through email.People do not only attain knowledge by engaging with ideas but also through discussing issues with each other, they pointed out, stating that many "thorny topics" can be discussed in seminars, with conversations on topics such as politics, sexuality, race and religion frequently both "dislocating" and "productive".If there are advantages to sitting within the classroom while participating in academia that cannot be replicated through distance learning online, the reporters suggested that these appear to be "vague, or at least extremely difficult to articulate".Classrooms can still deliver an "ethical space" in which issues can be broken down and spoken about in a diverse environment, the writers asserted, noting it is unknown if forums and bulletin board systems in virtual learning environments will be able to replicate this.