Call for national policy on online learning

May 24, 2002

The government should ensure that the nascent e-University and institutions offering online learning adopt "networked" e-learning that focuses on communication and interaction between students and academics, rather than on the transmission of information, according to researchers at an e-learning seminar.

A national policy is needed to ensure that the communication aspect of e-learning is not neglected as more universities launch online courses, said David McConnell, from Sheffield University's School of Education and a co-convener of the Economic and Social Research Council seminar series on networked e-learning.

Researchers from Sheffield, Coventry, Glasgow and Lancaster universities, who participated in the seminars, have produced a manifesto to draw greater attention to networked e-learning.

Professor McConnell said there was resistance from groups such as managers to a model of e-learning that allowed learners to communicate more regularly with tutors and lecturers because they feared costs would escalate.

But he argued that networked e-learning was not more expensive than conventional face-to-face education and that it was vital if "e-quality" was to be maintained.

A new model of cost-effectiveness was needed, as effective networked e-learning could eliminate the need for expensive residential sessions that were a part of many distance courses, ProfessorMcConnell said.

Another advantage of networked e-learning, according to the manifesto, is its potential to widen access and participation in higher education and promote social inclusion.

Details: esrc/manifesto.htm

* Fifteen companies including Accenture, Apple, BT, Nokia and Sun Microsystems have formed the e-Learning Industry Group to work with the European Commission, national governments and academia to promote e-learning deployment in Europe.

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