E-learning might be both a solution and a problem. Widening participation is a great idea that will fail in its implementation. There are pre-requisites to any university education – notably, linguistic skills of some type, some experience in lower education, and the ability to attend the classes. Some of these are difficult for some gifted students, and have been overcome with appropriate support. E-learning requires yet another skill, or at least significant support – computing/technical ability. In this it may be far easier for experienced users to appear to excel far more easily, and to give the illusion that they are better learners because they can effectively ‘talk the talk’.
This can be subtle – it can be the difference between a student who gives an established and cohesive blog commentary throughout the whole course, as compared to someone who gives a burbled “getting to grips with it all” mumbling and proffes a profound final essay within the blog, despite the fact that the tool “shouldn’t” be used that way. But who is to determine how to use a tool – evolution is about adaptation and reutilisation. It’s about outcomes as opposed to process, education as opposed to enthusiasm. The student will eventually be the one who assesses their own performance and evolution in every course, and it has taken centuries for their tutors to be guided into a place where they are comfortable with constructive criticism and setting milestones where they are allowed to intrude.
The relationships in an educational setting are now more complex than ever, with different adjustments and “compensations” required for all sorts of reasons, emotional and disability-related, and it becomes easily to become sceptical that the tutor can no longer act as a mentor or as a companion, as in the long-lost days of Socrates and Plato, in that they become a computational device, aware they are offering some sort of constructive input into a system which eventually dilutes it such that both tutor and student can be equally confounded to realise the eventual outcome.
So there is a question…