How Internet Can Help Us Meet Our Learning Goals

Article excerpt

It was interesting to note last weekend that Wales' wealthiest person, according to the new Sunday Times 'rich list,' is an early dot.com investor who has benefited from the Google search engine phenomenon. Cardiff-born Michael Moritz's overtaking of Sir Terry Matthews to claim the top spot with a pounds 1.35bn fortune, served to remind us of the increasingly pivotal role the internet plays in our lives.

Like many innovations over the years, the web has faced its sceptics, and the dot.com crash of a few years ago seemed to indicate that the potential of the whole thing may have been greatly over-hyped.

However the popularity of the web is now beyond question.

Learning online has faced similar scepticism. Many feel that the educative power of computers is limited and can only be really effective if accompanied by extensive face-to-face support from teachers or tutors.

That may well have been true a few years ago. Download times, the cost of connections and the quality of equipment did indeed put a ceiling on what could be achieved for an individual by delivering learning in this way alone.

But things are moving on rapidly and we in Wales' learning community need to keep our eyes and our imaginations wide open in order to seize the opportunities technology provides.

The cost of broadband connections has plummeted, giving people, including learners, infinite time online at low fixed prices plus the ability to download images, video, text other material in seconds rather than minutes.

BT figures out this week showed that 208,000 Welsh households and businesses have already subscribed to broadband internet and, by this summer 99.5% of homes and premises will be able to connect to the service.

Moreover rapid advances in compression technology mean that massive files containing complex lessons, with extensive illustrative material and interactive content, can be shrunk and delivered even faster again.

Such advances are unlikely ever to displace current learning resources - with their valuable human interaction - but they do have the potential to expand greatly the total volume and scope of the learning on offer to people in Wales. …