The E-Learning Phenomenon: A New University Paradigm?

The E-Learning Phenomenon: A New University Paradigm?

Lalita Rajasingham (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-358-6.ch001
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This chapter contributes to the ongoing discussion on current best practice and trends in e-learning and virtual classes in higher education. With the increasing importance of knowledge as competitive advantage and engine of economic growth in an increasingly interconnected, multicultural and multilingual world, modern universities based on building and transport technologies are assuming virtual dimensions to address the pressures of rising enrolments, increasing fiscal constraints and rapid technological advancements. The Internet and globalisation are changing how we bank, shop, play, and learn. Can universities adapt, or is e-learning going to be an educational fad like educational television of the 1970s? Based on international research, this chapter examines some signposts using pilot projects as a key pedagogical method in the journey from idea to execution and the factors leading to success or failure of e-learning initiatives. Will the e-learning phenomenon represent a new and sustainable university paradigm for the emerging knowledge society?
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The concept of e-learning as a new university paradigm provides the structure for this chapter and takes a historical perspective on the nature of universities in terms of major paradigm shifts from the classic Aristotelian model of the Greeks, to the medieval European university to the national institution with its ties to the modern state. It then examines the impact of globalisation, neoliberal economics, information technology and the demands of the knowledge society on universities, and the rise of the e-learning as a new paradigm.

Thomas Kuhn (1962) defines a paradigm as ‘what members of a scientific community, and they alone, share’ (Kuhn, 1977, p. 294) and ‘when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them’ (1962, p. 110).

Another important related concept as we examine changes in society is worldview- zeitgeist- which Michel Foucault calls an episteme, and he concludes that it is not possible for people in one episteme to comprehend the way people in another episteme think (Foucault, 1970).

Historically, higher education has seen many global paradigm shifts, with varying degrees of turmoil. The medieval university taught the word of God, and began in monasteries in Europe, and in temples, madrassas and churches in other parts of the world. Essentially elitist and male, it served princes and priests.

The emergence of communications technologies especially the printing press and the railways gave birth to industrialisation and nation states. The medieval university moved from explaining the world in terms of God’s word to become part of the structure of the industrial age explaining reality in terms of scientific rationalism catering for a nation’s managerial and professional elite, and gradually included women. This is the paradigm of national higher education that we know today. However, with the developments of the Internet, the World Wide Web, broadband, digitalisation, wireless, satellite, mobile telephony and new applications of virtual reality, HyperReality and artificial intelligence to build collaborative, immersive simulated e-learning environments, higher education is once again undergoing a paradigm shift. As technologies add new global perspectives, universities worldwide face new challenges at a time of unprecedented demand for higher education.

The prefix ‘e’ or ‘E’ to most human transactions such as e-commerce, e-shopping, e-medicine and e-learning is a phenomenon of the 1990s as these activities go online as the Internet expands in depth and reach. Shannon and Weaver’s communications model (1949) depicts a transaction, where the sender of the information/message and the destination/recipient are separated by physical distance or time, and information, and communications technologies (ICTs) provide the link and in e-commerce for example, between seller and buyer. A Google search in February 2008 on the term ‘e-learning’ reveals no precise definition for this term and covers online learning, computer-based training and web-based learning. In the context of this chapter e-learning, based on distance education concepts is defined as Internet based learning available to anyone, anytime, anywhere in text, audio, video and animation both synchronously and asynchronously where teacher and learner in virtual classes are not co-located.

A Virtual Roundtable in 2000 involving four experts in the field including Jaron Lanier concluded that the e-learning revolution is not about computers but it’s about communication for intergenerational discourse. Education is a kind of communication and shares some characteristics. Both are information intensive activities, and both rely on ICTs to link teachers and learners, where teachers help learners to apply knowledge to real-life problems. In the conventional modern universities, this process takes place as teachers and learners came together in classrooms using transport technologies. In e-learning in virtual universities, the Internet, virtual reality, HyperReality, Croquet and other emerging immersive technologies such as SecondLife bring teachers, learners, knowledge and problems/subject of enquiry together and so effect the process of education (Tiffin & Rajasingham, 1995; 2003). It is suggested that this constitutes a new paradigm from which higher education might be constructed in a knowledge society.

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Markku Markkula
Mark Stansfield, Thomas Connolly
Chapter 1
Lalita Rajasingham
This chapter contributes to the ongoing discussion on current best practice and trends in e-learning and virtual classes in higher education. With... Sample PDF
The E-Learning Phenomenon: A New University Paradigm?
Chapter 2
Yukiko Inoue
An important task of higher education is to assist students in participating in an increasingly global economy. This global economy is transforming... Sample PDF
Linking Self-Directed Lifelong Learning and E-Learning: Priorities for Institutions of Higher Education
Chapter 3
Lars-Erik Jonsson, Roger Säljö
The academic seminar can be seen as the core of university culture. In a seminar, claims to knowledge – presented in an essay and/or orally – are... Sample PDF
The Online Seminar as Enacted Practice
Chapter 4
Stefan Hrastinski, Christina Keller, Jörgen Lindh
The transition from learning on campus to e-learning presents many challenges. One of the key challenges is the organisational culture, which may... Sample PDF
Is E-Learning Used for Enhancing Administration or Learning? On the Implications of Organisational Culture
Chapter 5
Dawn Birch, Bruce Burnett
Tertiary education is increasingly a contested space where advances in Information Communications Technologies and their application to... Sample PDF
Advancing E-Learning Policy and Practice: Influences on Academics' Adoption, Integration and Development of Multimodal E-Learning Courses
Chapter 6
Gill Kirkup
This chapter argues that e-learning innovation is best done in an environment that allows for small scale experimentation and development and that... Sample PDF
Flying under the Radar: The Importance of Small Scale E-Learning Innovation within Large-Scale Institutional E-Learning Implementation
Chapter 7
Albert Sangrà, Lourdes Guàrdia, Pedro Fernández-Michels
This chapter presents the findings of an in-depth analysis through several qualitative research studies, pointing out the key issues in relation to... Sample PDF
Matching Technology, Organisation and Pedagogy in E-Learning: Looking for the Appropriate Balance Leading to Sustainability and Effectiveness
Chapter 8
Irene le Roux, Karen Lazenby, Dolf Jordaan
The University of Pretoria (UP) implemented a virtual campus in 1999. The measure in which and rate at which the virtual campus environment was... Sample PDF
E-Learning and Virtual Campus Development: From Innovation to Sustainability
Chapter 9
Morten Flate Paulsen
This chapter presents an analysis of 26 European megaproviders of e-learning which had more than 100 courses or 5000 course enrolments in 2005. The... Sample PDF
An Analysis of European Megaproviders of E-Learning: Recommendations for Robustness and Sustainability
Chapter 10
Mark Stansfield, Thomas Connolly
This chapter will outline a set of guiding principles underpinning key issues in the promotion of best practice in virtual campuses. The work was... Sample PDF
Guiding Principles for Identifying and Promoting Best Practice in Virtual Campuses
Chapter 11
Helena Bijnens, Ilse Op de Beeck, Johannes De Gruyter, Wim Van Petegem, Sally Reynolds, Paul Bacsich, Theo Bastiaens
The chapter first describes the concepts of virtual campus and virtual mobility and refers to several past and present projects and initiatives in... Sample PDF
Reviewing Traces of Virtual Campuses: From a Fully Online Virtual Campus to a Blended Model
Chapter 12
Ron Cörvers, Joop de Kraker
The main objective of this chapter is to highlight the importance of subsidiarity in the development of a virtual campus. Subsidiarity is the... Sample PDF
Virtual Campus Development on the Basis of Subsidiarity: The EVS Approach
Chapter 13
George Ubachs, Christina Brey
In higher education, international student mobility has become increasingly important for learners as well as for institutions. But today’s mobility... Sample PDF
From Virtual Mobility to Virtual Erasmus: Offering Students Courses and Services without Boundaries
Chapter 14
Yuri Kazepov, Giovanni Torris
Starting from the increasingly widespread need to develop effective teaching in complex transnational settings, this chapter presents an innovative... Sample PDF
Blending Virtual Campuses Managing Differences through Web 2.0 Experiences in Transnational Cooperation Projects
Chapter 15
François Fulconis, Thierry Garrot
In the restructuring and reforming of European education, e-learning has become one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education, Higher Education... Sample PDF
Network Organisation to Improve Virtual Campus Management: Key Factors from a French Experience
Chapter 16
Luca Botturi, Lorenzo Cantoni, Benedetto Lepori, Stefano Tardini
This chapter presents a successful Swiss experience in developing and effectively managing virtual campus projects: eLab, the eLearning Laboratory... Sample PDF
Developing and Managing an Effective Virtual Campus: The eLab Experience in the Swiss Higher Education Context
Chapter 17
Christoph Brox
In three projects funded by the European Commission (EC), European and Latin-American project partners have developed, improved, and successfully... Sample PDF
A Business Model for the Exchange of E-Learning Courses in an International Network
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