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Open Learning Technology in the New Millenium

E-Open Learning

Technology in the New Millennium

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Open Learning has gone through many phases in its long evolution, prompted by changes in technology and custom For many, correspondence courses were their early experience of a form, albeit restricted, of open learning.

This in turn evolved by drawing one experience from the world of print and graphic design and marrying this with educational design principles to produce open learning workbooks. 'Packages' of learning in turn included other media, such as video, audio and CBT - and then there was multimedia.

And now all of a sudden there's 'e-learning'. The proliferation of e's in the field of learning is increasing in line with the rise in the price of technology stocks and shares; and where will that go?

If you are thinking of investing hard earned cash, the traditional view is that it will all end in tears. The bubble will burst. But what about learning? Is e-learning the panacea, or one more step in the breaking down of barriers to learning?

A Global Phenomena

We do seem to be breaking new ground. There are vast opportunities. Globalisation and the communications technologies that in part are driving that phenomenon are making possible new networks that bring benefits to both learners and practitioners alike.

The British Association for Open Learning (BAOL), a network of over 200 member organisations from across the education and learning sectors in the UK, now receive more enquiries from overseas than from within he UK - through the Internet. We have begun to sign up new members from across the globe, which will bring an added dimension to our already active online discussion group - or should that be e-group?

On a personal basis, and also from BAOL's perspective, I am particularly keen on these e-developments. They are good news for a networking organisation that now has new tools to service its networks even more effectively. More enquiries can be generated, building membership at an even faster rate. Also, in the interests of promoting good practice, there is a whole new area of learning activity crying out for quality criteria so that the learning experience really is enhanced for the learner.

Broadening Horizons

Will the e-bubble burst? Probably, as with stocks and shares it never pays to have all your eggs in one basket. But then we knew that anyway.

In the field of open leaning, we have seen many new methods come and many have gone. Many stay and get taken into the toolkit of techniques that practitioners have available to motivate learners and create interesting learning activities

No one method has, so far, taken over from all the others. So it is with e-learning.

Integration with Tradition

Surely this is never going to be the only way that learning experiences are delivered? What will be interesting is how e-learning can integrate with more traditional forms of learning.

E-tutoring can already bring together groups of students who have never met fact to face to consider, discuss and learn from materials they have downloaded from the Web. Even with the most basic e-mail technology, this really enhances the learning experience - and just think of the possibilities when we get used to videoconferencing and know better how to use it; a must for tutorial groups in the future.

If you want to keep up to date with these new developments in learning, get in touch with us. Visit the BAOL website at: www.baol.co.uk as a starting point!

Author: Brian Merison General Manager British Association For Open Learning

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