Last updated: 10.02.12

E-learning 'to benefit from new technologies'

The e-learning industry is set to develop as a result of new technology arriving in the sector later in the year, according to the International E-Learning Association (IELA).

Dr David Guralnick, president of the body, suggested artificially-intelligent teaching will be one of the new facets involved in the industry in the coming months.

"This one has been around for a while, but may be on the verge of finally reaching a level of acceptance," he said, pointing out it is a lot less "scary" and "futuristic" than it appears to be.

The IELA head explained it works by having a short dialogue in a text-based format with a student who is put to work on a set task, adding: "For example, suppose I'm learning accounting and working on solving an accounting problem. An 'intelligent tutor' could ask me to try certain steps and lead me in a discussion to help me understand what to do."

Dr Guralnick also predicted virtual reality is set to play a bigger role in e-learning courses in the coming years, noting real world examples such as Microsoft's Kinect game system are already being used by a high number of people in their homes.

He forecast these will be particularly useful for online learning courses at university - for instance where a student is being shown how to use a piece of equipment - while it could also have uses for corporate training in the future.

Brain-computer interfaces were another example of e-learning technological developments that are on the way, but the expert conceded it will be some years before it is launched.

This comes shortly after research conducted by Bournemouth marketing company TA Solutions found online courses are being preferred by an increasing number of students who are being put off by the £9,000 a year tuition fees at some universities.