Engineers Turn to e-Learning

Learning on-line is one of the fastest-moving trends in higher education, as engineers and executives in technology industries are discovering

12 min read
Engineers Turn to e-Learning
(1) Telecommunications and computer technologies are converging to make on-line learning more of an interactiveexperience. It is estimated that by the year 2005, the typical on-line student will have at his or her disposal all of the gadgets pictured here. Today, though, on-line courses make do with far less.
Illustration: Steven Stankiewicz

''It's like teaching through a straw," winced an engineering professor who had just spent 13 weeks interacting through the Web with a dozen graduate students. The members of his class, like more than a million others worldwide who now take courses entirely on-line, downloaded his lecture notes from the Web, communicated with each other and their instructor through e-mail, and took exams by responding to questions on computer screens at home or at work. Even in the absence of face-to-face interactions in the classroom, these students found that the convenience of Web education made learning through a straw very sweet.

Since before the days of Socrates, teaching has largely involved flesh-and-blood instructors lecturing to their students—beneath a tree, in a colonnaded stoa, or in a brick-and-mortar schoolroom. Today, though, thanks to widespread access to the Internet, on-line education is enabling professionals to learn from afar, keeping pace with technological and managerial changes despite their heavy schedules.

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