The global economy is changing at a dizzying pace, largely because of the accelerating speed of information technology.
Knowledge, in this context, is redefined. It no longer serves us with the task of solving the mysteries of the physical world, of constructing an orderly sense of the past, or of shaping a share culture heritage. It is now placed in the service of, and often identified with, innovation. Knowledge implies the effective management of information and the conversion of it into capital. Learning is re-definted in accordance with software platforms that link corporate training for employees and the delivery of content. E-learning gathers both together in a new business of education that is now tracked by financial specialists as a new profit sector.
The global competition in e-learning generates new software capabilities, which in turn stimulate domestic demand for online alternatives to traditional education at all levels.
With e-learning the discourse of public education—access, affordability and so on—flips over to become a discourse of revenue production and cost effectiveness in the business of education.
In 1994, the sociologist Martin Trow noted the “tendency of ICTs [information communication technologies] to blur and weaken institutional and intellectual boundaries of all kinds.” One of the most significant boundaries was the one between public and private/ the combination of higher tuition, increased enrollments and the e-learning solution bring the public university closer and closer to the business model of for-profit institutions of higher education.
Obviously, e-learning is best suited to “right answer” disciplines such as basic mathematics, foreign languages, business at an introductory level, engineering and computer services, as well as skills training. Blended approaches [use of both online and face-to-face], however, can incorporate experiments with the potential of digital media to enrich teaching and research in the humanities.
Countering those who, Cassandra-like, announce the demise of the humanities (Stanley Fisher being the most vocal, younger voices embrace digital tools they believe capable of regenerating the humanities, which they feel have been weakened by decades of conflict over issues relating to the cannon, multiculturalism, inter disciplinarity and the critique of humanism.