Monday, July 08, 2013

The e-University

An extract from a letter sent today to Lord Krebs:


It would now seem theoretically technically feasible to offer some courses to students in other parts of the country and the world, by electronic means. Potentially, the work of the College could reach larger numbers and also those who might not, for one reason or another (perhaps financial), be able to come to Oxford in person.

Lectures could be transmitted live or recorded for re-broadcast, as the National Theatre now does for dramatic performances (see The communication could be two-way, with questions and comments submitted by Internet, email and Twitter (like the BBC’s Question Time, for example). Similarly, presentations by teachers at other universities could be made available to Oxford colleagues and students.

Students could be authorized to remotely access the University’s subscriptions to online publications (Times archive, JSTOR etc). (Certain subjects might lend themselves more easily to this approach in the first instance – mathematics, perhaps – as in some other fields access to texts may be more difficult, until such time as everything has been scanned online.)

Reading lists, assignments and much reading and source material could be stored in the Cloud; coursework submitted by Web; teachers and graduate students could offer teaching, comment and support by email, Skype etc.

The potential inherent in the technology could be a Gutenberg revolution in higher education – an “Invisible College” for millions of advanced learners. It would be a far more radical step than the extramural studies currently available; it would be the virtual, interactive presence of far larger numbers of students and researchers than could be physically accommodated in any University, yet learning and being nurtured intellectually in the way that Oxford has fostered for centuries.

Perhaps a start might be made by raising funds for a few e-scholarships for poor but talented individuals in developing countries, such as India and China?


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Paddington said...

One problem is that no-one can figure out how to make money at this. Another is that we don't have any data to show that people learn this way, and rather a lot that they don't (history of all kinds of distance learning).

Sackerson said...

"... no-one can figure out how to make money at this."

1. Charge them for access to University resources and tutotial time.

"... we don't have any data to show that people learn this way, and rather a lot that they don't..."

2. Not all people, just talented and ambitious people. And not necessarily all subjects.

And it needn't necessarily be undergraduates, but maybe graduates doing advanced degrees and using their local University as a base for computer use and liaison.

Paddington said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddington said...

Absolutely, for very specialized upper-level knowledge. And this has been done for decades. What the politicians, business people and administrators want to do is to use it for the lowest undergraduate and K-12 courses where it doesn't work, but they can extract power and fees.