Online Education

Essay by Jacquline March 2004

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Traditional classroom education has not changed much during the last

200 years, but our world has. Teachers present information to a group of students in a classroom or lecture theatre. Students are mainly passive recipients because large groups do not allow a lot of interaction.

Compulsory education stops at the age of 15 in most nations. This was appropriate for the Industrial Age, where people often worked in the same profession their whole life, but is inadequate for the Information Age. Nowadays, some professions simply die out, or the tools used change (e.g. in accounting), so people are forced to learn new skills. We can see how hard it is for our parents' generation to adapt to new technologies, like programming a VCR for instance, or using a computer. Thus, education throughout a person's life will be needed.

The Conference Board of Canada (1991) defined skills which will be essential for people in the 21st century [Bat93]:good communication skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening)ability to learn independently social skills: ethics; positive attitudes; responsibility

Teamwork ability to adapt to changing circumstances thinking skills: problem solving; critical/logical/numericalknowledge navigation: where to get/ how to process information.

With traditional teacher-centred education alone we will not be able to achieve all these skills. Student-centred Active Learning will be necessary. Learners will have to be able to learn independently in small groups, which can sometimes be separated in time and space. In this instance, teachers will work as advisors to help the students in their active leaning process.

Changes will be especially important in distance education where course material (print, audio, or video) has traditionally been sent by postal mail, or has been broadcast via radio or television. This ``one way' delivery of information has no component that we could call ``interactive''. Studying at home can be...