Untangling the Web: Applications of the Internet and Other Information Technologies to Higher Learning

By David J. McArthur; Matthew W. Lewis | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
BENEFITS FOR LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION
DELIVERY

Information technologies might improve learning and teaching in two distinct ways. Just as they have made workers more productive in business and commerce, they could reduce teaching costs or increase the speed with which learners acquire knowledge. Alternatively, such technologies might help improve the quality of learning, rather than simply making it faster and cheaper. In this section we first review evidence that information technologies can improve the efficiency of learning and teaching; then we consider how they might lead to better educational outcomes.


REDUCING COSTS AND INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY

Most discussions of computers in education look at how new technologies might improve "instruction delivery," a management theorist's way of saying how teachers teach and how learners learn. Therefore, as resources for higher education continue to dwindle, when most people think of information technologies, it will usually be in terms of how such technologies might reduce the number of teachers needed or cut the time (and money) it takes learners to acquire skills. A collection of cases in current practice suggests that some technologies do indeed help improve productivity in these ways. (See Figure 2.1.)

Current successes are subject to several qualifications. Some cost savings are modest, others come with hidden prices (for example, high development costs or lower graduation rates), and all depend

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