Education Goes Digital: The Evolution of Online Learning and the Revolution in Higher Education
Contributor(s)The Pennsylvania State University CiteSeerX Archives
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractStudying the transformation of education and its changing role in society. Online learning is the latest in a long list of social technologies that have been introduced to improve distance learning by adding various augmentations, substitutions, or blending of new pedagogical approaches and technologies. Technologies utilized for distance and online learning include: correspondence courses, physical mail, and printed matter; telephone and/or audio recordings; television and/or video recordings; computer-assisted instruction; group communications (asynchronous and synchronous); the Web and multimedia materials; simulation and gaming; collaborative learning; asynchronous learning networks (ALN); collaborative knowledge systems; immersive simulations; and wireless and handheld devices. Most current distance courses have COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM October 2005/Vol. 48, No. 10 59 Online learning is a new social process that is beginning to act as a complete substitute for both distance learning and the traditional face-to-face class. incorporated one or more of these technologies or methodologies. By 2004 at least two million higher-education students in the U.S. were engaged in distance education utilizing various ALN technologies where whole classes can engage in a continuous discourse and group project work independent of time, place, and synchronous constraints of participation . In themselves the technologies have not radically changed the basic concepts of distance learning or university education in terms of the underlying societal structure of education. However, there is a substitution process occurring that will transform higher education. In this article, we argue that the current evolutionary changes in educational technology and pedagogy will be seen, 50 years from now, as revolutionary changes in the nature of higher education as a process and as an institution. We are in the process of moving: From: face-to-face courses using objectivist, teacher-centered pedagogy and offered by tens of thousands of local, regional, and national universities; To: online and hybrid courses using digital technologies to support constructivist, collaborative, student-centered pedagogy, offered by a few hundred “mega-universities ” that operate on a global scale.