Bringing Space Down to Earth:

The Impact of New Technology on Distance Learning


During the month of June 2002, the Learning Development Institute (LDI) collaborated with the EURISY Association in the framework of a workshop, organized by EURISY together with the Austrian Space Agency, on the theme "Bringing Space Down to Earth: the Impact of New Technology on Distance Learning". The workshop coincided with the annual meeting of COPUOS (the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space) in Vienna, Austria, the idea being to reach the widest possible audience. The workshop sessions took place on 12 and 13 June from 2 to 4 p.m.

The purpose of the Workshop was to bring together the potential providers of communication links (educators, training course providers and the interested user groups from both the developing and developed countries) to demonstrate what is being done where and what can be achieved using today's technology to bring education benefits to a wider public taking into consideration initiatives in Brazil, India, the Malagasy Republic, Mali, Peru and others.

LDI President Jan Visser delivered the keynote address for the workshop on the theme The promise of technology: Did we hear it right? The rationale behind the choice of that title was that, particularly in the technology community, many people are highly alert to what they see as the potential of emerging technology to solve educational problems, often interpreting the nature of these problems in a somewhat naive way. More is needed than a look at the technology alone to understand the real complexity of what is at stake in the development of human learning and thus to create adequate responses, rather than responses that merely replicate - and technologically enhance - deficiently functioning systems of the past. The keynote attempted to point to where the attention should be in exploring technology's potential, formulating a framework of seven challenges that should inspire furure work.

In addition to his keynote on the first day of the workshop, Visser made a requested intervention on the drawbacks of distance education as part of the session on "Diversity and Pertinence of the New Technology." This intervention was supported by a PowerPoint presentation on A preliminary consideration and eleven theses about what can go wrong in distance education.