John Lilburne's journal about internet education, Background Briefing and James Morrow's article in The Australian.



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1303 L Wed 23 Jan 2002

Last night I listened to Background Briefing on Radio National. It was talking about the internet being used for education, doing degrees online, asking questions like "Will it destroy the university?". It describes how companies are providing content to the universities and how parts of universities are becoming businesses.

It reminded me of a book I bought in 1995 "In Search of the Virtual Class" by John Tiffin and Lalita Rajasingham. Here is an extract about being an apprentice plumber in 1922:

... Of course there was no books to learn from in those days and no one wanted to teach you. they didn't like giving knowledge away. The few knew how to do plumbing the better your situation was. They were supposed to teach the apprentices but they didn't want to because we were seen as a threat. So we had to learn by watching. ... (pages 53-54).

The benefits of the virtual classroom are outlined on page 166:

Getting the mass markets in education that will bring about economies of scale will depend upon the quality of instruction being better than that which is possible in classrooms. With millions of paying students it becomes possible to invest in courseware development, hunt out the latest reasearch, find the best authorities on a subject, contract tope instructional designers and create imaginative virtual realities of the phenomena under study. With the incentive of global markets, we could imagine knowledge-based companies investing in the design, development and marketing of virtual environments for education in an information society in the way that the giants of the automotive industry now invest in motorcar manufacturing for the industrial society. How could a conventional teacher with conventional resources compete?

I think part of the answer is in politics: power structures in society, people being more inclined to teach what it is profitable for them to teach, useful information being sold, rather than being provided freely, etc.

I was impressed with an article on page 13 of The Australian. Here are some extracts:

No sense in bleeding hearts

Extreme tolerance leads to a moral swamp rather than the high ground, suggests James Morrow

... These a just a few examples of a broader problem in the intellectual life of Australia and other countries in the West: the extreme discomfort many feel with identifying not just rights but wrongs in a society where tolerance is more highly prized than anything else and being judgmental is the greatest sin. ...

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 23 January 2002.

Links to other sites:

Background Briefing - The Digital Degree