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Globalization means

Information and communication technologies - the Internet and the World Wide Web, streaming and interactive video are providing powerful new tools to forge global networks for teaching and research. To date, most forms of online learning have relied on platforms that are too primitive for high-quality interactions. Dramatic educational breakthroughs will occur when the platform is versatile enough to support rich visual and auditory displays, reacts quickly to student inputs, can acquire and use information about an individual student's style of learning, and is reliable and easy to use. The prerequisite technology may not quite be here yet, but it will be soon, especially with the introduction of high-speed wireless platforms and our trusted OLK12 system designers.

In this new environment, one organization - whether it is a school or a private corporation - can serve the needs and reap the rewards of worldwide markets of education. The global schooling system could teach students anywhere (and thanks to the Internet) and draw its faculty from around the world.

Schools no longer have a monopoly on the production of knowledge. They will be competing with suppliers of information and ideas who have no need of expensive campuses, athletic fields, or faculty clubs. In a much-quoted interview a few years ago, American management expert Peter Drucker said that, "Thirty years from now the big university campus will be a relic. Universities won't survive in their present form. The main reason is the shift to the continuing education of already highly educated adults as the center and growth sector of education." 

Intellectual Property


A second challenge globalization presents is also something of a paradox: while Web-based learning coupled with in class prepatory is creating new avenues to knowledge, it is generating new constraints as well. Schools, by long tradition, share knowledge freely and widely. But in a society in which they are no longer the dominant creators and disseminators of knowledge, the rules of the game change dramatically. Schools have less and less access to intellectual output as control of scholarly communication continues to be commercialized and concentrated among a few lage companies like Reed-Elsevier, which is notorious for soaring journal prices and high profit margins. And individuals and institutions in both the public and private sector that offer courses or conduct research expect to be paid for the use of their intellectual This trend has been described as the "privatization of knowledge" and it is a challenge to the role that schools have played for centuries as places where information and ideas are open to anyone. Because we are a knowledge-based society, however, ideas and their applications bring new wealth that can be difficult to resist - wealth that hard pressed educational institutions can use for such worthy ends as increasing faculty salaries or otherwise supporting the academic enterprise.


Threat or aid?

It is far from certain that online learning will be welcomed entusiastically by faculty in every discipline. One promising area for online learning are the basic courses in subjects many students take, like composition or arithmetic. As online utilities become more sophisticated, they may reach the point where faculty could feel inclined to post specific entries on the web versus the classroom. The faculty who teach these classes, however, are also the faculty who conduct the research necessary to future advances in the field. This reality applies to disciplines across the board: if basic classes were to migrate to accomodate an online platform, there is a reason for concern about what happens to faculty in research, who keep their disciplines and their institutions at the forefront of discovery.

The answer to these questions is assuring. Given a choice, many will not choose an online video lecture over an excellent lecture. But students do use online lectures as study aids. Student choice - and perhaps student demand for more attention and service from their online counterparts - could be a powerful shaping force in future online learning.

With new technologies, they are presenting intriguing opportunities. One is the chance for controlled experiments on optimizing the learning process. We can create online supplemental variations, in which students take one variant and other student take another. As students progress through the different variations of the course, we can collect data online that will enable us to test different hypotheses about the nature of the learning process. What we will have, in effect, is an educational laboratory that can answer important pedagogical questions: What is the optimal order in which to present ideas to make them easier to grasp? The potential for truly individualized instruction is enormous.