The rising wave of online learning
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced the formation of edX, a transformational new partnership in online education. Through edX, the two institutions will collaborate to enhance campus-based teaching and learning and build a global community of online learners. MIT and Harvard expect that over time other universities will join them in offering courses on the edX platform. The gathering together of many universities’ educational content on one site will enable learners worldwide to access the course content of any participating university from a single website, and to use a set of online educational tools shared by all participating universities.
The rapid emergence of online education and resources represents a significant challenge to traditional concepts of higher education and the nature and character of higher education institutions.
All universities are introducing “flexible” provision, utilising a mix of traditional delivery and online resources, such as podcasts, study portals, interactive discussion boards, blogs and YouTube. This suits the lifestyle of “Gen Y” students in particular, who are entirely comfortable with technology. Flexible delivery allows many students, who are notionally enrolled in the conventional fulltime on-campus mode of higher education, freedom of employment that was not available to students even half a decade ago. The so-called ”digitisation” of higher education will only become more prevalent and pervasive, in a relatively short period and in ways that are not yet clearly portended.
In this commentary on the edX partnership, New York Times columnist David Brooks observes that many people view the coming change with trepidation. But he suggests that there are reasons to feel optimistic:
The most important and paradoxical fact shaping the future of online learning is this: A brain is not a computer. We are not blank hard drives waiting to be filled with data. People learn from people they love and remember the things that arouse emotion.
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