Distance Education and Industrialization

Industrialization has been a feature of distance education for many years. Otto Peters, a pioneering theorist, described when technology is used to reach learners in mass, education assumes commercial features, such as, standardization of services and huge manufacturing of academic products (Keegan 1994). To the level that letters knowledge trusted huge production of academic materials (e.g. books) it was a commercial business. Another sign of industrialization in distance education is division of labor. The course team as initially designed by Charles Wedemeyer and applied by the British Open University is an example of division of labor in online learning. The contemporary university is also gifted with a bureaucracy, by definition is a commercial operation, although the educating methods both in the class room and at a distance, mostly, remain pre-commercial (pre-modern) and craft focused.

3d e-learning conceptIndustrialization to train and learn is particularly suitable when the need of many learners for access is at stake. Daniel (1996) focusing the failure of “campus” education to meet such a need, particularly in developing nations, compared the function of “mega-universities,” or those serving the needs of at least 100,000 learners, with that of “campus” colleges. He said: “The mega-universities vary from campus universities in their manufacturing procedures. The operations of the mega-universities owe much to commercial methods, whereas academic procedures on campus are similar to a cottage industry.”

It is worth noting here that Daniel’s idea of a “cottage industry” is different than that of Toffler, who imagined a “cottage industry” as a “third wave phenomenon.” Daniel’s referrals to a “cottage industry” here is a pre-industrial operation with employees who work alone and perform their projects without the benefit of a supporting staff providing them the advantages of industrial division of labor. Introduction of the Internet with its potential for a post-industrial form to train and learn has led to a review of industrialization. Daniel (1996) making referrals to the disadvantages of the pre-commercial, and commercial operations, said “It is likely that neither strategy will be particularly well designed for the third generation of online learning technologies: the knowledge media.”

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