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Life-long Learning and Education Portfolios Meet Online

  Fitting the life-long learning piece into overworked schedules requires a degree of flexibility not found in the typical campus and classroom schedule. An approach is needed where students can interact with their instructors while learning at their own pace, perhaps in the comfort of their own home, and when it fits into their cramped schedule. This is a prescription for lifelong learning online!

At its basic level, the traditional correspondence or distance learning options which have been enjoyed for years take on a new quality when students can share their work with teachers and other students via e-mail and posting on bulletin boards. E-mail speed and simplicity encourages a back-and-forth dialogue. Posting student papers online where others can read and comment on them allows people from different time-zones and life-styles to engage in a broader learning experience than yesterday's correspondence courses. Sometimes this is referred to as an "asynchronous" discussion or dialogue. This virtual form of a class replicates the kind of dialogue which occurs in a classroom with the advantage that people are able share ideas in a manner which fits into their schedule. Some instructors believe, that the anonymous nature of online discussion also encourages the traditionally shy person to speak out. The caviar version of online learning might involve real-time or live chats by modem, research via the Internet, with options for voice and video interaction. In the short term, many of us will come in contact with hybrid options combining traditional formats (text, syllabi, printed tests, short-terms campus visits) with newer mediums (interactive video and tapes, and modem-based communications).

Some experts suggest that the digital age creates a "convergent" technology which affects the way we learn. By this they mean that the computer age encourages the integration of learning experiences and information processing. For instance, when a video clip is digitized and your photograph is scanned, then these can be easily added to word processed documents or spreadsheet data analysis. In other words, regardless of the source of your information, once it is coded into the digital language of computers, that information can be combined and shared across networks in unlimited ways. At the same time, because the magic box exists in your home and at your beck and call, all of this information and subsequent communication can now take place at your convenience. Instead of going to school, school comes to you.

Dan Corrigan sums up the exciting trends and learning options emerging online in his book entitled The Internet University-College Courses By Computer. You might want to investigate the following resources as you examine your learning alternatives :
  • National Distance Learning Center which can help you locate courses and programs of study online. Telnet:     Voice mail:   502-686-4556

  • A list of online universities is available at The Information Center's website:

  • The Princeton Review site contains material related to preparing for standardized tests such as GMAT, GRE, LSAT, SAT; visit their website:

  • The Electronic University Network (EUN) grants degrees, organizes courses of study, and prepares students for earning credits via the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). The CLEP courses prepare students for taking the 90 minute tests which result in college credit. The Electronic University Network's course work is accepted by more than 2500 colleges in the US. EUN is located on America Online at keyword EUN (voice mail:   1-800-225-3276)

  • Some colleges are beginning to offer continuing education or extension courses for working people online. These classes are often tailored to the specific needs of a given work place or occupation. Courses can range from very technical topics such as Steam Plant Operation to more general or current issues such as workforce diversity and sexual harassment.
  • In light of these developments, it will not be far off when classes about portfolios combine in a synergistic manner online with Internet learning options and programs granting credit for prior learning. Already, a few pioneering colleges in Canada and the United States offer portfolio development courses in an online or in distance learning formats. As a result, students will have many more options to learn at their own pace and in their own style as we expand the boundaries of the classroom electronically.


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