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Acad Med. 1996 Mar;71(3):221-6.

Educators must take the electronic revolution seriously.

Author information

  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.

Abstract

The advanced fields in the physical sciences and quantitative social sciences began using computers years ago. But only recently has the electronic revolution reached the point where educators in both medicine and the humanities must take it seriously. This is because (1) computers have finally become powerful enough to permit the creation of teaching machines (called multimedia packages) that can manipulate the massive amounts of information involved in medicine and the humanities; and (2) the Internet is now fast enough and widely distributed enough to change teaching practices. Multimedia packages will drastically change traditional teaching and learning; the author reviews these and other likely impacts of these packages. For example, faculty members' effective contact with students will not be bound by time and place; students can learn at their own paces in their preferred modes; and the distinction between elementary and advanced learning will be virtually impossible to maintain. The Internet makes it possible to offer classes to students no matter where they or the teacher are located, to ignore strict constraints of time (a class discussion can go on for days), and to create "electronic communities" of students and faculty. The author reviews the great advantages of these capabilities, but states that this development of the virtual university could seriously undermine actual universities (e.g., difficulties of maintaining faculty competence in their disciplines; impossibility of deciding issues of department size and diversity; questions of the effectiveness of learning that does not take place face-to-face; problems of students' and teachers' time management, on which the traditional structures of curricula and teaching methods are built). Despite the fundamental adjustments that will be necessary, the author sees the electronic revolution in education as a necessary consequence of what is already taking place in research, where multimedia packages and the Internet are being used extensively, because in professional education, teaching and learning arise directly from research. Just as scholars and scientists have embraced this revolution, educators should embrace it in their educational programs and practices.

PMID:
8607916
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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