|The paradigms of e-Education: An analysis of the communication structures in the research on information and communication technology integration in education in the years 2000–2001|
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The convergence of ICT paved the way for invention of the Internet and especially the commonly adopted graphical World Wide Web (Web), which took desktop computing and communication technology to a new level. The paradigm started very soon after graphical Web browsing was introduced in 1993, which made it easy to integrate tools and resources from the Web to one’s own desktop. It was also the launch pad for the new business called e-business. Electronic commerce became possible together with broader accessibility of the Internet among ordinary customers. The Web has provided a new platform for businesses to advertise and market products and services in all sectors of society. New companies were established without any walls and premises existing only on the Web. Full advantage of the Web was taken by the international publishing industry, including all media from text to music and movies. As a result of this new form of international information e-business, English has established it’s position as major language on the Web.
Together with the innovations of previous paradigms, education could find the perfect platform to set up “web sites”, “course sites” and discussion boards where the learners and teachers could find the tools and resources for learning. The advantage of the Web was that it was always available when connected - it was “on-line”. We could call this paradigm the “e-paradigm” in education because it is one of the other “e-innovations” in our society. Electronic networks could now for the first time offer an alternative to the conventional ways of organizing education – “e-education”. Actually the research papers call it e-learning, but as the metaphor analysis showed, conceptually it has created a new form of learning and a new way of delivering. Hence it is called “e-education” in the title of this research.
Research that is instrumental to or supports institutional transformation through the research could well belong to this paradigm. However, the problem with interests related to empowering the people in educational institutions is that this paradigm is closely related to new e-business in education, which is very instrumental and efficiency oriented by nature. Epistemologically, this paradigm is close to realistic and contextual approaches, because e-learning is usually considered to be a delivery method of learning for individuals. Also the idea of independent students choosing learning modules according to their own needs and situation from the offering “tray” is conceptually closely connected to this paradigm.
The problem of the emergence of a new form of learning or even education is that the research can start to follow the problems generated by the new platform of education itself. As we know the strong tendency towards instrumental and techno-economic research interest of the field especially in learning and technology oriented research, we can ask if we are actually solving the problems of e-education, not the problems of education. Are we solving educational problems with ICT or are we creating not only the digital divide but also an educational divide with the concept of e-learning? Do we restrict our research interests only to help those who can afford this new platform? Do we lose the broader educational interest of solving social problems with education like poverty, un-employment, healthcare, etc by integrating ICT in education? Is education getting lost within this paradigm? E-learning may not include all I suggest, but if we look at the research communication in the field, we should consider following some other paths which can more easily be associated with educational goals and social ways of learning.