Universities get online learning wake-up call

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 1997, 12:00am

Tertiary institutions will have a serious shortage of students if they do not join the emerging trend of global education, specialists in online learning have warned.

Dr Paul Bacsich insists the traditional classroom is a thing of the past.

Dr Bacsich is a professor of telematics, the branch of information technology dealing with the long-distance transmission of computerised information.

He teaches at the School of Computing and Management Sciences at Britain's Sheffield Hallam University.

'My job is to make universities wake up,' he said.

Online education is developing fast and has gained recognition from some of the world's best, even more conservative, universities.

Harvard and Stanford universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among institutions developing courses for use on the Internet.

Dr Bacsich said Hong Kong was about two years behind Western countries in making better use of the Internet and its potential.

Though some institutions here might be contemplating the development of online education, it would soon be too late, he said.

Dr Bacsich predicted the emerging competitive global system of education - in which universities co-operate to provide knowledge and training - would eventually strip Hong Kong's tertiary institutions of its students.

He predicted a change in the mode of education delivery would be massive and no one could afford to ignore it.

'Though tertiary institutions are not businesses, they have to be run like businesses,' he said.

Dr Allan Ellis, associate dean of the Faculty of Education, Work and Training at Australia's Southern Cross University, said Hong Kong had a lot to gain.

The redundancy of classrooms and campuses would free up precious land, he added. The new trend of teaching would eventually affect all levels, including schools.

Dr Ellis said institutions should use the system to market their strengths and ensure a slice of the global market.

'If I was thinking of anywhere to go for an international marketing MBA, the first place I would think of would be Hong Kong,' he said. Dr Ellis said there was a need for staff development and training.

Any resistance from academics who felt uncomfortable about technology would have to be overcome.

'Kids expect much more from technology than we do,' said Dr Ellis.

'I get disappointed when I show students the door to something and they say why can't it be three other things.

'They're quite happy with the technology. They will demand more and technology will deliver more.

'The system of mass education we've got now is just out of synch with technology.

'Technology is offering opportunities to do a lot more. I guess that's the real challenge for educators.'