Globalization and the Reinvention
of Distance Education
Deakin University, Australia
Monash University, Australia
Human behavior can be genuinely purposive because only human beings guide their behavior by a knowledge of what happened before they were born and a preconception of what may happen after they are dead; thus only human beings find their way by a light that illumines more than the patch of ground they stand on.
—P. B. and J. S. Medawar, The Life Science (1977) quoted
in Boorstin (1984, p. 557)
The growth of the Internet has presented institutions and practitioners with a dilemma. On the one hand the capacities of the Internet to provide a powerful array of interactive means for enhancing distance education are a boon. On the other hand, these capacities have been espoused by all educational providers and viewed just as positively to the extent that nowadays no self-respecting university, at least in the developed world, is without a Web presence and online education. Therefore, distance education institutions now find that their boon is also producing a new wave of competitors using forms of quasi distance education.
The resolution of the dilemma rests on rethinking the theory and practice of distance education in relation to the resurgence of constructivist theory and the development of Internet-based educational technologies. Matters such as interaction and dialog, which have had an important place in the theory and practice of distance education, need to be reconsidered and reformulated in this light. Good distance educational design has not only recognized the importance of interaction, but also the importance of students' contexts in influencing their learning. These matters need to be reconsidered in the light of the virtual world that surrounds students' realworld experiences. Active engagement with the resources and facilities of the Web needs to be part of “new distance education. ” The Web is not just a means to deliver distance education; it