Many people wonder if the Internet is powerful enough to reach the peaks of education attained by philosophers such as Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer. It has benefits in many walks of life today, but the potential to offer new openings for education is certainly one of the key opportunities offered. The Internet facilitates learning in new and exciting ways, and has the potential to provide education to many rather than a few. Am good example of this is our online masters in project management.

Traditional education consists of information and critical thinking. The Internet provides these components and offers learners many additional educational benefits. Chief amongst these is the opportunities presented, particularly in professional online programmes, for collaboration.

1. Information

Some of the most obvious educational aspects of the Internet are information access and distribution. The Internet allows people to find information ranging from physics and philosophy to celebrities’ pet names. Online learning programs allow learners to access specialised and high quality information in their chosen area of study. This is done through podcasts, video tutorials, discussion forums, e-books and a myriad of other ways.

The number of people with Internet access is growing every year. Consequently one of the benefits of online learning is that it makes this information available to a growing audience of students globally.

2. Critical Thinking

The Internet allows students to access different forms of information on a wide range of issues but through good programme design and delivery it can also support critical thinking. This is the ability to think clearly and rationally, and to engage in reflective and independent thinking. It includes understanding the logical connections between ideas; identifying, constructing and evaluating arguments; solving problems systematically; identifying the relevance and importance of ideas; and reflecting on one’s own beliefs and values.

Critical thinking is not just a matter of accumulating information. It is about making use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information in support of one’s argumentation.

3. Collaboration

The author of ‘E-tivities: the key to active only learning’, Dr. Gilly Salmon argues that online interaction and participation are key to online learning. In this environment the role of the teacher is that of a facilitator and coach rather than a “sage on stage” “ (Clutterbuck and Megginson, 2002). In this environment teaching is a collaborative learning process in which not just the students but also the teacher learns. Teachers are not the sole possessors of knowledge and perspective but co-learners and guides, particularly for a discipline such as project and programme management. In our project management courses the students are thinkers with their own emerging theories about the world. This view also supports the principle tenets of adult learning (Knowles 1980), in that adults desire and enact a tendency toward self-directedness. This relative informality does not mean online learning is without structure however. Clear expectations must still be set set regarding both academic performance and rules of engagement, in order for the process to be a successful one.

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