Magazine article University Business

The Future Is Now: How E-Learning Is Growing as an Accepted Tool for Teaching

Magazine article University Business

The Future Is Now: How E-Learning Is Growing as an Accepted Tool for Teaching

Article excerpt

I'VE BEEN PART OF THE REAL-time collaboration segment of the online learning world for more than 10 years as a vendor and consultant. Educators used to say, "Cool demo of that online collaboration stuff. But why do I need to use this? I'm a teacher." In the industry press, the broad adoption of real-time collaboration in education always seemed to be "five years away."

Recently, I've noticed that perspectives are changing. Let's compare the debate about real-time teaching over the internet to the first conversation I had about my digital camera with my grandmother eight years ago. She understood how cameras functioned. She was able to see the pictures on the screen. However, she didn't fully understand the advantages the digital camera provided.

My grandmother merely thought of it as a film camera. She actually said, "You take so many pictures! How can you afford so much film?" She wasn't ready to change her vision of family photos; she simply wanted pictures of her great-grandkids. Now digital cameras dominate the market.

Similarly, real-time e-learning, a form of teaching conducted over the internet, is coming into its own. Why this recent, broader acceptance? First, a pervasive comfort comes from ease of use; second, there's an increasing openness to accept nontraditional solutions to challenging educational problems.

REAL-TIME COMFORTS AND DISCOMFORTS

The online culture has matured to the point where most students and many instructors are comfortable with real-time internet interactions, which are precursors to real-time education. There's a willingness to search for and act on information, as well as interact with others in authentic ways--regardless of location that has begun to carry over to real-time collaboration and online learning.

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This widespread comfort is drawn from people using the latest computer operating systems, the internet and mobile infrastructure, iPods, instant messaging, VoIP, Flickr, newsgroups, and YouTube. With these factors, it's natural that teachers and students demand the same level of online experience for education that they get from daily interactions in other online contexts.

According to a 2007 report on the U.S. market for e-learning products and services from Ambient Insight (www. …

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