Last updated: 17.04.12

E-learning 'will complement traditional education rather than supplant it'

Online learning courses will be likely to augment traditional classroom education in the future, rather than supplant it.

This is according to Bonnie Stewart, PhD student at Canada's University of Prince Edward Island, who researches social media identity and how this could affect higher education and blogs at

She claimed the education sector will learn from the experiences students have when merging formal academia and e-learning.

The specialist argued futurists have been predicting that higher education will be fundamentally altered since the Massachusetts Institute of Technology unveiled its MITx virtual learning environment, referring to the change as "The Great Disruption".

MITx will be open to people throughout the world, as well as supplementing the education of students on-campus.

The first course will be on Circuits and Electronics, with other subjects due to become available this autumn.

Ms Stewart argued she does not believe Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) and unstructured internet networking services are the sole answer to education in the 21st century.

However, "Moocs help those of us interested in emergent ideas participate in a public learning experience that is otherwise not really available by conventional means", the specialist pointed out.

She explained these assist her PhD studies by enabling her to learn and think in public and providing her with up-to-date information and conversations relating to changes and innovations in her field of learning, as well as the ability to become involved in these discussions.

However, Ms Stewart pointed out e-learning courses do not always offer credentials or certifications.

Furthermore, they do not necessarily involve a person holding the performance or learning of participants to external standards, she added.

"These factors all make [online learning] a significantly different experience from studying at my bricks-and-mortar university," the expert remarked.

Although the disruption caused by the emergence of e-learning will be profound, the possibilities it provides might be similarly wide-reaching, Ms Stewart concluded.