Online Learning: It’s Time To Pause And Think

The move by higher education institutions towards online learning is not the panacea many believe, writes Richard Hil.

Techno-centrism, techno-imperialism/colonialism, digital chauvinism – call it what you will – today’s universities are in the grip of planners and administrators who insist that the old didactic order is fast giving way to a new era of virtual higher education.

Online platforms, they insist, are providing easy access, anywhere, anytime, to electronic portals that connect students to every facet of the educational experience: study materials, textbooks, lectures, tutorials, libraries and support services. No need for students to waste their time travelling to and from campus, or having to sit in drab lecture theatres and overcrowded tutorial rooms.

No; the digital revolution is takeaway education 24/7: a speedy, flexible world of hyper-connectivity far removed from the sterility of campus-based learning. It’s all part of the much heralded ‘knowledge economy’ where ‘higher education providers’ peddle educational ‘products’ to ‘consumers’ through a network of access points in a multiplicity of private and public domains.

The once revered physical campus, replete with expensive infrastructure, unused land and troublesome staff is slowly but surely being superseded by an educational experience that is more fluid, nuanced and tailored to the complex needs of the twenty-first century student-consumer.

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Online Learning: It's Time To Pause And Think