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The written word holds firm as medium for learning, says Open University

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Print on paper is likely to remain the most powerful learning medium, at least for university learning, says Sir John Daniel, vice-chancellor of The Open University.

Taking a step back from the current frenzy of interest in e-learning, Sir John argued that the idea of technology causing a revolution in education has been put forward many times before - in 1841, Josiah Burnstead was saying that the inventor of the blackboard should be ranked `among the best contributors to learning and science'.

In discussing the internet revolution, Sir John said it was prudent to consider the consequences of other revolutions in the past - they usually leave blood on the floor.

Technological innovations - the blackboard, television, computer, CDROM - have been adopted for use as they've been developed, but no overriding medium has so far emerged. Print on paper remains a `powerful learning medium'.

Speaking from a university perspective, Sir John argued that using technology for learning doesn't take into account the complexities of higher education learning. What remains is `correspondence learning' - loading up course notes or using quizzes. The most powerful use of the web for The Open University so far has been for students to communicate about courses.

As for the rise of the e-university, Sir John argued that although it's important for universities to work at developing uses of the internet for study, the university campus will never be replaced as a place for people to come together and share ideas.

Sir John was speaking at the Internet Revolution Conference held in London on 9 May, hosted by www.bookacourse.com.

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