E-learning for the Twitter generation.

Author:Newbery, Charles

At Belgrano Day School in Buenos Aires, teachers use computers, interactive whiteboards and video screens in the classroom, and the students seem attentive.

"One teacher uses technology in 90 percent of her lessons," said Federico Johansen, overall deputy director of the K-12 school, with an enrollment of 1,200.

Teachers can quiz students online and let the computer do the grading, while students can study texts accompanied by interactive programs and videos that build on in-class lessons. Can't figure out a math problem at home? Watch a video demonstration or chat with classmates over the school's e-learning platform.

Johansen, a 40-year education veteran, speaks glowingly of technology's advance in education.

"Technology is a tool so efficient that it is going to change the existing model of school like the printing press transformed education from an oral foundation," he said.

The promise is creating opportunities for suppliers of e-learning content, hardware, software and services across Latin America. Governments are handing out laptops to students; private schools are asking their ranks to bring in their own computers, tablets or other devices. Corporations are rolling out e-learning platforms for employees to hone their skills.

The e-learning business has had fits of activity and slumps over the past decade in Latin America. Schools have stocked up on interactive whiteboards only to see use falter as untrained teachers couldn't figure out how best to use them. Workers have trudged through dull online courses, and companies have demanded better courses.

Gustavo Grobocopatel, president of Grupo Los Grobo, said e-learning should help his 1,000 employees gain new knowledge and skills for his agriculture business in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. But, he's not found products to fit his needs, and instead prefers in-field training.

E-leaming developers are taking note, and blended learning is gaining traction by combining computer time with classroom debate and hands-on practice.

Colombia's National Open and Distance University (Unad) is doing something of the sort. Students can take courses online and via videoconferencing at any one of 60 centers around the country and in Florida, where they can hang out with peers. The Siglo 21 Business University (UES 21) has 140 such centers in Argentina.

Blended learning proponents say the approach is cheaper and democratic: students can study from anywhere, and at 30-70 percent less than on campus.


To continue reading