Towards e-learning

Published February 28, 2011

IN the framework of modern economics, where services and information are integral part of the financial system, targeted, just-in-time, easily accessible and quality education holds the key. A report on e-learning and best practices, published in the US says: “With an increasing share of the world economy based on information as opposed to physical capital, knowledge has become the single most important asset for individuals, companies and countries.”.

According to the OECD’s 2009 Global Education Digest, 6.3 per cent of Pakistanis were university graduates as of 2007. The government plans to increase this rate to 10 per cent by 2015 and 15 per cent by 2020. But the key challenges are readiness for growth of the educational infrastructure and support from public and private sector.

Leapfrogging, a concept generally used in the context of economic growth and industrial innovation theories, concludes that new entrants can innovate while leveraging the prior inventions and bypass the steps and processes that were required for the prior inventions.

Analogically, the concept can be applied to the Pakistan’s corporate training infrastructure. To achieve growth through a well educated and skillful workforce, the learning does not need to happen through traditional learning approaches, but leapfrogging to electronic learning ( e-learning), provides specialised, readily available, easily accessible and quality education opportunities.

The big-four management consulting firms, realise this benefit of eLearning and globally offer a wide selection of web-based learning opportunities to their practitioners to enhance the corporate memory and address each practitioner’s development needs immediately.

Similarly, the concept of tunneling-through, originally used in the context of environmental sustainability, deduces that developing countries should leverage the experiences of developed nations, and restructure growth and development. A research paper on ‘Conceptual Framework For e-learning In Developing Countries’, published by Örebro University, Sweden, highlights that very notion that e-learning is the tool to meet fast growing demand of education in developing world and it being transferred to developing nations from developed countries without having to go full-circle on the traditional learning infrastructure.

In Philippines, public and private sectors have partnered to launch an integrated project, Pilipinas SchoolNet. The objective of the project is to leverage internet and related web technologies to improve learning since childhood and prepare the students at all levels to meet the needs of knowledge-based economy. Pakistan’s education system makes a perfect candidate for this approach and leverage e-learning.

The key development factors for e-learning initiatives are, well-educated human resources, easily accessible technology infrastructure, and targeted curriculum. According to 2008 statistics, Pakistan produces about 445,000 university graduates and 10,000 computer science graduates per year. Pakistan Telecom Authority indicates that as of 2008 there are nearly 22 million internet users and over 80 million mobile phone subscribers. A combination of all these educational and technological factors gives Pakistan great leverage to progress towards targeted curriculum development and dissemination through e-learning.

In a recent discussion with corporate heads and human resource specialists, it was established that even though when there are jobs in corporate services sectors, the current talent pool doesn’t allow for the right skill-fit. Naturally, the responsibility falls on inadequacy of educational system and perhaps the employment structure. Despite the government’s marginal efforts, Pakistan faces numerous educational challenges, due to poverty, gender inequality, age disparity, accessibility, qualified staff, and perception of modern education.

Hence it is up to the government and the corporate sector to craft the talent and rectify the corporate landscape with the appropriate skill-set, through the use of efficient and targeted learning. A sustainable e-learning infrastructure in combination with traditional learning is the key enabler to maximise benefits from a putrefying talent pool.

E-learning has already gained a lot of momentum in most of developed world and emerging markets are adapting to it fast. Governments and corporates have come to realise that despite a heavy upfront cost of e-learning infrastructure, it’s reach, sustainability, control, and net impact is much greater than that of traditional learning. Public and private universities and research centres have made their entire collection of publications and research available on the internet.

The knowledge that was only once available to the prestigious and the elite is now available to anyone with an internet connection and ability to operate a web-enabled device. It is up to the consumers how to best utilise this information.

While the developed world views e-learning as a catalyst to business growth opportunities, for emerging markets it is a perfect platform to play catch-up.

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