The final week at EduMOOC was a time for forecasting (the future of online learning) based on the logically coherent discussions and documents we went through during the past seven weeks, and of course, based on further references as well.
I firmly believe that Open Distance Learning, with the support of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), is going to build an inclusive higher education system in the immediate future. The world has already started to view online learning and e-learning synonymous to Open Distance Learning (ODL). But I see online learning as an ICT enabled method of Open Distance Learning, which is fast becoming predominant of all methods of ODL. Therefore I prefer to call it online ODL, rather than calling it e-learning or online learning.
As we have discussed many times earlier, how long we can keep on building infrastructure for traditional classroom type higher education? Whether such efforts can cater the ever increasing demand for higher education? The information from various sources tells us that further expansion of traditional setups for higher education is becoming almost impossible in majority of places and such traditional setups alone cannot cater the ever increasing demand for higher education. Hence, while asking for a solution, all pointers are now turned towards online ODL.
Necessity of the online ODL is made further pressing by the struggles of common man to find a living, the environmental issues etc. In good old days spending decades in higher education institutions for never ending studies were considered as a privilege. But nowaday, people want to join some job immediately after undergraduate studies or even after higher secondary education. At the same time, as part of their struggles for existence, they also want to pursue higher studies along with their career. This is further endorsed by the raise of knowledge economies. In short, providing perfect lifelong learning systems has already become the primary role of any higher education system. How can our higher education systems address this responsibility? I think online ODL is the only solution.
While looking around we are also able to see supporting statistical data to substantiate the shift in higher education systems as discussed above. Reports say many higher education systems record higher enrolment rate in online ODL courses than conventional programmes.
In the policy and framework side, 2011-2021 is likely to witness the evolving of a Transnational Qualifications Framework that is largely accepted ( if not fully accepted), by combining the initiatives like European Qualifications Framework and Transnational Qualifications Framework for VUSSC etc. TQF is essential to provide right direction to the technological advancements as well.
In the technology side we will be having the next generation of Learning/Course Management Systems, which would be competent to converge Collective, Collaborative and Cloud based learning environments. Technology will further progress to address connectivity issues including low bandwidth issues. I also foresee tremendous scope and hectic efforts in Research and Development in both hardware and software domains specifically to support online ODL...Yes, the R&amp;amp;amp;D initiatives that are befitting to Knowledge Economies!
Online ODL systems will be able to provide excellent (border-less) learning along with universally approved credentials. Initiatives like FOSS movement, Creative Commons, Moodle, OpenCourseWare Consortium, VUSSC, MOOC, OERu etc. and many others (it includes individual, institutional, national and international initiatives) together create ideal ecosystem for this to happen. The energy being pumped into this transition by Google with its wonderful bundle of services, social networking service providers, etc also deserve special mention.
I am sure, during 2011-2021, as the title of the weekly topic suggests, the world will witness landmark changes in the higher education systems all over the world in favour of ‘online ODL’ becoming the mainstream education system.