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Final Thoughts: Is education necessary?

This may have little relevance to this course and even less to do with the goals I’m supposed to pursue, but this is an experimental course, so…

What is the purpose of e-learning? Most of the materials in an online course – and any course – can be found either on the web or in journals. A traditional course is attractive for a couple of reasons:

  • Social interaction – people go to the “University of Life” etc. and enjoy 3 years of fun
  • Qualifications
  • “something to do”
  • To learn.

… with the dawn of the web and the continuing influx of information and usage by academics, the last two points seem less significant – anyone who has a machine connected to the web, or at least access to one, now has plenty to do and learn.

Social interactions? For an undergraduate these are perhaps the most important factor of any university experience – but they aren’t anything that can be controlled by the academic environment.

So is it all about qualifications? Perhaps not, because I’m being unfair with my choice of traditional course rationale. But it’s easy to see a future without e-learning, because everything is already there on the web to begin with. Why pay ?1,500 tution fees per year when you can just Google it? Why be forced into sticking to a rigid course structure when you can develop in your own time, at your own pace, with your own skills, without feeling you’ve been left behind?

Of course, we know why – people don’t motivate themselves past the initial application form. The majority of people like the web for its other uses and can’t focus down on the wealth of information out there – indeed, the fact that there is so much is a good reason for e-courses to exists, in that they can provide order from the chaos, but that doesn’t mean that e-learning is any better than self-learning.

However, I have fallen into the same trap as many of the writers hence. e-learning for me, is this course. It has been delivered well and encouraged much thought and enjoyment; but it is today, and not tomorrow. It is a pioneering force in an institution which is too much of a juggernaut to really latch on. God forbid I try to look at MVM’s LTS without Flash, or choose the wrong option when I visit Architecture’s website. And I’m only trying to choose the course I go on – not actually enrol on it.

Tools must be used wisely, and no job can be done with only one tool, unless it’s an Ikea job. We can produce Ikea learning experiences, but we must remember that while the end result is simple and easy to complete, that the production of simplicity comes at great cost, and requires more than one tool. Whether this warrants the end-gains for the student depends on whether the student expects, or even realises them.

Education is the communication of knowledge. If two people find it easier to stand in a room together than post on forums, or prefer it the other way round, then they should have that choice. The institution cannot dictate the learning style of the student.

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