Networks and the Internet have changed everything we do, from the way we learn, to the way we communicate, to how we work, and even how we play.

Changing the way we learn

Communication, collaboration, and engagement are fundamental building blocks of education. Institutions are continually striving to enhance these processes to maximize the dissemination of knowledge. Traditional learning methods provide primarily two sources of expertise from which the student can obtain information: the textbook and the instructor. These two sources are limited, both in the format and the timing of the presentation.

Networks have changed the way we learn. Robust and reliable networks support and enrich student learning experiences. They deliver learning material in a wide range of formats including interactive activities, assessments, and feedback. As shown in Figure 1, networks now:

Access to high quality instruction is no longer restricted to students living in proximity to where that instruction is being delivered. Online distance learning has removed geographic barriers and improved student opportunity. Online (e-learning) courses can now be delivered over a network. These courses can contain data (text, links), voice, and video available to the students at any time from any place. Online discussion groups and message boards enable a student to collaborate with the instructor, with other students in the class, or even with students across the world. Blended courses can combine instructor-led classes with online courseware to provide the best of both delivery methods. Figure 2 is a video about the ways that the classroom has expanded.

In addition to the benefits for the student, networks have improved the management and administration of courses as well. Some of these online functions include student enrollment, assessment delivery, and progress tracking.