Ubiquitous Approach to E-Learning


Ubiquitous Approach to E-Learning
Early 21st Century, saw technological advancements in the field of information systems, personal computers,  world wide web and there was a profound impact of these on the medium of learning with the onset of e/distance learning.

Following this period, 

usage of internet is no more bound to desktop computers it has extended into laptops, palmtops, tablets, smartphones along with additional social features coming up via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube kind of tools which can support different formats of information, different levels of sharing and collaborations. These ‘ubiquitous technologies’ has been able to penetrate into every sector of human behavior and actions in developed, developing and emerging countries knowing no boundaries and extending to people around the globe. Such technologies has enabled us to do things online which would have to be done manually before (e.g. postcards vs. Emails).

E-Learning makes use of different ICTs to enable learning among its users and has emerged from the technological developments over the use of internet. E-Learning in contemporary universities is in the form of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE). Many higher education (HE) universities are beginning to move from the conventional teaching methods towards embracing e-learning for delivery of learning due to its key features like flexibility, any time/any place, wider reach (locally + globally) , ability of make use of different learning formats/data constructs all which are made available now by technological advancements.

Today in the digital age, students make use of social networks, mobile devices, advanced computer systems, different network/communication tools, hands-free devices etc for engaging with their day to day activities. Students feel very personal about these technologies but when the same students come to the university classrooms for lectures/seminars/tutorials they encounter an environment which could seem like the least technologically advanced setting and could create among the students a kind of a ‘repulse’ towards  anything that may go on in the same classroom setting.

With the onset of government policy changes and the ripple effect of the same on the education sector, universities are being questioned for learning quality, student satisfactions, technological improvements/facilities  and value for money.  Within the e-learning market, there is growing technological sophistication among learners, universities competing amongst each other , which has led to the need for having an effective, affective, efficient services for students/learners, instructional design, technologies and the impact of course on skills developments. Under such conditions universities are under pressure to maintain/improve the quality of learning experience along with pedagogical practices. In order to ease the pressure universities, through their research teams could make use of ubiquitous technologies to bridge the digital divide between the students and the classroom for a start, and develop technology backed teaching strategies to facilitate flexible access to learning. 

Though different research in the field of educational technology has argued about the merits and demerits of making potential use of ubiquitous technologies for creating a better learning experience for learners at the university, historically technology enabled learning is full of promises and challenges, every time a new form of media emerges people believe that such technology could be used as a solution for providing self-directed, self-paced learning and to the extent of eventually replacing the teacher but such beliefs has went no where.

The proposed thinking  does not point towards replacing university teachers/lecturers but instead to look at the existing e-learning systems (VLE’s used as data repositories) used within universities and see how with the help of ubiquitous technologies different learning outcomes could be achieved for the learners, by the learners and of the learners with tutors taking up the role of facilitators in the learning process. This holistic process when designed, developed and implemented carefully could create a Personalized Learning Environment (PLE) for its users.

This ideology could explore the potentials of different technologies for supporting learning and creating an impact in the learners learning process at universities which in turn would pave way to devise the design principles  for implementing such technologies for creating PLE looking at the LE in its entirety through the lens of holistic thinking. 

 

About the Author
Author: Uday NairWebsite: http://udayrnair.weebly.com
"A researcher at University of Sheffield,UK. My research interest are 'Web 2.0', 'e-learning', 'Ubiquitous technologies', 'social media' , 'systems thinking', 'instructional design', 'education', 'green computing'.

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