The last three decades have seen many changes in the way we communicate. One of the biggest changes is, without a doubt, the advent of computers and the Internet. This revolution allows Distance Learning to become a viable option in the replacement of face to face learning and it also adds another dimension to the field, online learning. This trend is noticeable by the number of courses that Universities offer, partly or entirely at a distance. For example the University of McGill had around 100 students doing courses at a distance in 1987 compared with around 800 in 1997 (McGill, 1999); a growth of 800% in ten years. But how much does traditional and online learning have in common?
In the following pages, I will look at what is different and similar between traditional and online learning. I will look at the pros and the cons of the two methods and how technology can ameliorate the cons and facilitate the pros.
The question of what is the best use of medium is one that has been studied by many researchers in the field. How do we make sure that the medium we are using is the best one for a given situation? Does the technology fit the particular needs of my students? Is the technology readily available? How much does it cost? And most important, is it really effective? These simple questions are not easy to answer. In the following pages I will look at the steps that we need to go through before selecting a learning technology. This work is divided into two parts. The first part looks at what are medium, mode and learning technology. The second part will discuss issues like, conducting needs assessment, looking at cost and availability, selecting proper medium/teaching technologies and assessing choices.
Educational institutions are slow at adopting new technologies. Financial constraints and the lack of leadership within learning organization makes this problem more acute. In studying an unrelated subject Rogers (1995) found that "getting a new idea adopted, even when it has obvious advantages, is often very difficult". (Rogers, p.1, 1995) It usually takes a long time from the time an innovation becomes available to the time it gets widely adopted. This paper is about what learning organizations can do to speed up the process of adoption.