Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
International developments in e-learning
International developments in e-learning
We were very pleased to be asked to edit this special issue of the Journal on the topic of International Developments in e-Learning, which has become one of the most widely discussed issues in education and training. E-learning is forecast to be one of the most important developments in transforming the landscape of education and training over the next decade as the power of information and computing technologies grow. Four technological developments will combine to produce important new breakthroughs in our ability to deliver new forms of educational and training content, and help to create new forms of learning communities, which may surpass anything that can be done at present (Seely Brown, 2002):
“Moores Law” – heralding a doubling in computing power every 18 months;
“Fiber law” – offering the ability to double the bandwidth of optic fibers and amplifiers every nine months;
The increasing ability to store information, which doubles every year; and
“Metcalfe's law” – propounding the power of the Internet grows as the square of the number of people that use it.
For technophiles, corporate training departments, cash-strapped universities, people living in remote areas, emerging economies seeking to catch up quickly, and governments hoping to achieve educational participation targets, these technological developments have achieved almost iconic status. (Though often with governments focusing on an imagined economy of delivery rather than considering the resources required to deliver e-Learning to a similar level of quality as more conventional forms of education and training).
However there is an alternative view of these technological developments, that many in education and training continue to hold, regarding technology as an irrelevance at best, or even worse as a force which can devalue effective learning. From this perspective, learning is less about comprehension and understanding and more about learning how “to be”.
There is a danger that such positions can become entrenched and the conversations between technophiles and technophobes become more typified by noise than communication. This journal edition is aimed at overcoming such confrontation by shedding some light on the technophile position and by providing arguments and evidence for and against the role of technology in education and training.
In doing so, we are extremely pleased to have access to some of the contributions to Scottish Enterprise's (SE) 2004 e-LearnInternational conference (www.elearninternational.co.uk).
This annual conference is becoming a major event on the circuit and is the outcome of years of work by SE to help promote international dialogue on e-Learning and to have Scottish organizations benefit from this dialogue. Scottish Enterprise has brought together many of the world's leading experts in the field of learning and technology to produce insights and engage in conversations that only the best conferences in this field have been able to achieve.
The 2004 conference was an excellent example of how practitioners and academics could work together to examine the future of e-learning through a major, international scenario planning exercise, which we report on in the opening paper by Bell and Martin. There is also an excellent invited, philosophical contribution from Gordon Graham on the problems of “futurology”, which provided one of the highlights of the conference and helped ground all subsequent conversations.
As editors we have also been fortunate enough to participate in these events and to have been responsible for organizing the refereed paper tracks for the last two years. We are pleased to have five of these papers from the 2004 conference, coming from authors in Italy, Cyprus, Wales, the Netherlands and Scotland. These papers were all prize-winning contributions to the conference and have been revised and updated for this edition of the journal. Finally, we have included two contributions from Thailand and Australia.
We have to thank the authors for their hard work and insights, and for the presenters, participants and group of international experts, whose ideas are also reflected in the edition. Particular thanks have to be extended to Frank O' Donnell, Charlie Stewart and Mark Bell from the e-Business Group at Scottish Enterprise, who have provided leadership for the e-LearnInternational conferences and have encouraged us to produce this special edition of the Journal. We hope that we have captured some of the intellectual excitement and knowledge-sharing that distinguished the conferences proceedings, and which is often associated with contemporary advances in e-Learning policy, technology and practice.
Graeme MartinProfessional Fellow, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, UKThomas ClarkeProfessor of Management, Univeristy of Technology, Sydney, Australia