Bricks & Clicks

Investors who bought the bubble-era hype about "anywhere, anytime" learning that it would quickly put an end to education as we know it lost tens of millions in the dot-com crash. A key reason -- they wildly underestimated the cost and difficulty of delivering quality E-courses. Yet now that so many hard lessons have been learned, a more subtle but perhaps just as significant shift is well underway. Even as enrollment in online distance programs nears 1 million and grows by more than 20 percent a year, according to Boston research firm Eduventures, the much bigger audience turns out to be right in the classroom building. As colleges and high schools embrace "bricks and clicks" instruction some of it in class, some of it on the Web many experts see a future in which there's no longer a divide but a spectrum: Some classes will never hold a face-to-face meeting, some will meet once a week or once a month and interact electronically the rest of the time, and some will carry on the old-fashioned way. "E-learning is going to disappear as a [distinct] concept," predicts Matthew Pittinsky, chairman of Blackboard Inc., whose course-management and other software served 15,000 students in 1998 and six years later reaches 12 million in 50 countries. Allison Rossett: "E-Learning gurus Elliot Maisie and Brandon Hall recognize the many options and encourages combined systems, which they call 'brick and click,' or 'blended.'" She continues, "But what would those combinations look like? How much brick and how much click? How do performances and need data transfer into those decisions? Will the issue be brick-ness verses click-ness or the strategies used within the particular delivery systems, a point of view that harkens back to Clark's (1983) work on strategies and media. His strong case focused attention on learning strategies over any particular medium." -- from Allison Rossett and Kendra Sheldon (2001). Beyond the Podium (2001) pp. 281-282.

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