The first week’s perspectives on education are showing their age – not just in design *hello screaming yellow web 1.0 background colour* but also in their views of the internet as being one thing, and that thing being either good or bad – it’s all white hats Vs black hats in the wild west:
Cerraulo (2002) advocates the view that progress fueled by technology is inevitable, and we must stop struggling and resisting, or we will go under like the IBM who didn’t understand the potential of personal computing: Universities and teachers must embrace e-learning at speed.
In wild west terms: Technology is a white hat, ya better start wearin’ one soon, or you’ll be dead by noon.
While there are plenty of examples of technology determinism, there is little to suggest how e-learning may be an example of a better and more “user-friendly” way to deliver learning to students. Also the claim, that “Students want this” – seems to be hinged solely on a great number of students at online universities.
– 12 years later “student demands” still seem to be an issue mostly in scarcely populated areas, for mature students and others for whom it is convenient (or the only option), and one need only to think about the vast difference between the number of people who sign up for Coursera Courses Vs the small number of people who complete them, to argue, that the obvious improvement of online courses, may not have fully shown it’s superiority to the traditional campus university? It seems to have been not quite as inevitable as Cerraulo expected. But then, easy for me to deduct 12 years later 😉
Rheingold (1996) advocates the potential of online communication and human interaction. As they say: on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog – or a multi-handicapped boy. A beautiful story about a human connecting to other humans on equal footing.
In wild west terms: Everyone can go west, get their own plot of land, dig for gold and find happiness.
The internet has certainly made such connections possible, and every lonely human being can find a supportive community for their rare disease, odd hobby or secret passion. It is inspirating, heartwarming, and makes the internet seem like a wonderful field of flowers in every colour of the rainbow!
Putting on a black hat, one might add: The internet is also an excellent place to meet other unhappy people, troll the pages of the fresh-faced optimists, or even band together to harass, stalk and threaten those one does not agree with (Hello #Gamergate, paedophiles, black hat hackers and all sorts of other underworldly badness). I’m an optimist, and think the internet holds multiple worlds of opportunities – but if you’re feeling too sure about the inherent goodness of the technology – hear this woman’s tale of having her life (on- as well as offline) harassed to bits from the evil underbelly of the SubReddits…
Noble (1998) sees only black hats: technology in education is like the industrial revolution: dehumanizing, wanting only to replace teachers with robots, sorry – their own digitally re-packaged courseware.
I seem to have run out of silly Wild West analogies… People burning carriages to save horseback-riding, maybe?
His view is clearly dystopian, and he sees technology only as a vehicle for evil administrators and commercial partners wanting to commercialize education, and replace teachers with machines (or their representations provided by machines).
Noble’s piece is clearly a political entry in a Northamerican debate – and it’s very difficult to say if what he claims about the development of the American universities – since I am from a scandinavian country, where university education is free, there are no tuition fees and everything is funded by the state via taxes. But on the bright side for the poor Americans: 16 years later we can conclude they DO still have university lecturers left, and in spite of the threat (?) from MOOC-i-fication – universities have not been replaced by computers yet.