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The future of e-learning

January 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
I am not quite sure what Tony Bates means when he says transactional. But what is true is that the role of teachers – or hat Vygotsky called a Significantly Knowledgeable Other – remains important. The private market has just tried to develop a market for education based on existing paradigms and by essentially privatising education. The potential of the internet is to change those paradigms – by opening up support for learning outside the institutions. But that requires a paradigm change itself in how we view and value learning. The next few years will see a fight between privatisation and those who believe education is a social and cultural right.
The outcomes of that ideological fight will determine how the use of the internet is shaped for learning.
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The other complicating factor is open source. e-Learning products and services such as Moodle, Sakai and open educational resources bring a different perspective into the market. The big mistake before the bust by investors was to think of education as being mainly about content: bundle up the content and sell it as an educational service. Indeed, content now is moving towards becoming free. However, high quality education is a transactional process between teachers and learners. This is where the main costs lie. Where the costs remain are in designing effective learning environments and providing learner support services, such as feedback and assessment. These remain labour intensive, and in many subject areas difficult to computerize without losing quality.
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