Last updated: 10.07.12

E-learning to have 'substantial' impact on higher education

Higher education will increasingly be influenced by innovations made on e-learning courses, it has been said.Writing in The Conversation, adjunct lecturer at the University of New South Wales' school of computer science and engineering Dror Ben-Naim suggested the future of academia could involve students engaging in distance learning online through immersive games.The university has already invested in online learning tools and allows attendees to view announcements and updates about their course, download relevant academic materials, undertake self-assessment quizzes, submit feedback and assignments, or download video content and recordings of lectures.A large number of the next generation of graduates will have honed their skills through virtual learning environments, much in the same way as aeroplane pilots learn how to fly through flight simulators, the specialist predicted.Online learning in mass is set to cause "profound disruption" to traditional education patterns, he continued, arguing even the web-based course papers and YouTube clips seen in contemporary e-learning courses will soon be left "light-years" behind.Mobile telecommunication tools are becoming increasingly powerful, while connectivity is nearing ubiquity and online technologies are evolving "rapidly", Mr Ben-Naim added.He suggested digital learning technologies will grow in their effectiveness and will commonly engage students through "hands-on" activities, rather than encourage than to watch or listen passively.This "is the key to retaining knowledge and applying it successfully", the expert asserted.E-learning courses can assist students by providing them with personalised feedback, he added.While many may think only teacher-led classroom academia can help learners in this way, Mr Ben-Naim noted an online learning course could recommend different parts of the activity or pieces of suitable content to participants who appear to be struggling at a particular stage.This will help to make certain students "never hit a dead end and walk away", he argued.Nonetheless, the specialist pointed out many universities possess centuries of teaching experience, adding: "That's an extraordinary asset they need to harness with new technology."