E-learning can help promote education and prevent hate speech online
Miloš Ristovski, the secretary general of Center for Intercultural Dialogue (CID), has been active in the youth non-governmental sector for more than 7 years. His experience and expertise span from human rights, e-learning to hate speech and hate crime online and offline alike. This provided for plenty of questions we were eager to ask concerning new platforms for education and ways to prevent hate speech online, as the Internet has become the predominant terrain where the young choose to spend their time.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of E-learning over the more conventional ways of education?
Although we tend to see only the advantages of learning online over the conventional ways, there are disadvantages that we have to be aware of. Among the advantages of learning online are the accessibility of information and the updates. We can learn from wherever we are if we are connected(home, office, in the bus, while waiting for your friends) and while most of the time we are sure that we are learning the by and about of the latest trends and accomplishments we are actually not, which is not the case with online learning. Also, while learning online we are able to work with people from all around the world which definitely provides space for development of intercultural competences. On the other hand, online learning is still very exclusive and convenient for only people with good ICT (information and communication technologies) skills and advanced English (and other wider spoken languages) skills. When learning online we also have to be quite aware of the security and protection of our data when participating in different courses. So, to answer your question – yes, there are a lot of advantages when it comes to e-learning but still there are a lot of obstacles that have to be over passed in order to use its full potential.
- If opting for E-learning programmes and courses how can one be certain they would get what they want, need and are paying for?
When it comes to online courses we definitely have to be careful when choosing where we will invest our time and money. There are a lot of courses that are being offered at the moment and as learners we have to be clear what we want and expect from the course, and find the right one. In the beginning it’s important to try the courses since most of them offer a week of tryout, checking the platforms and etc. My suggestion is to read the reviews by the other students having in mind that most of the times they are arranged in a way that we read the positive ones. As I mentioned before, we need to think of our expectations and contact the web sites that are offering e-learning with questions and clarifications. Only when being sure that this is what we need, we may engage in paying. There are also a lot of frauds going on in the online learning sphere so we have to be very careful.
- How to avoid any potential frauds?
Well, if we make sure that we go through all the things I mentioned before we should be careful not to end up paying for something totally different from what we expected. We have to be sure and not make any conclusions if it is not explained explicitly. Also, as mentioned before there should always be a trial period – if not, we can always ask for one.
Another thing we have to be sure of is the certification of the learning. We have to check if participating in this learning process will give us some kind of proof that we have developed a certain competence.
Last but not least is the secure payment, but this is the same as it goes for every payment online – be very attentive where you are entering your card data.
- What needs to be done in terms of legislation for the e-learning to be more recognized as valid form of education and for the degrees obtained in this way to be recognized by future employers?
Since there are different online courses, there are different recognitions. Some well known universities offer online courses and offer a diploma which is valid and can be definitely used as a proof of our learning. On the other hand there are some courses that offer much more and go in line with our expectations. Most of the times, these courses are places where we develop a certain skill (photo editing, design, video editing and etc.). In my opinion, in order to be sure that we will receive a recognized proof of our learning is to get a certificate where it will be clearly written what we learned and the comments that we received on our final products. Something we should do as learners is to combine the certificate with a proof of which outcome (result) we have received the certification for, when going to a job interview. Things are changing quite fast in the last years and employers want to see our work and not only diplomas and certificates, so the same goes for online learning.
- Since you have been involved in the No Hate Speech Movement would you agree that the Internet has become a very dangerous tool and can be used for spreading hate speech more rapidly reaching more people?
I have been involved in the global No Hate Speech Movement for about 4 years now and I definitely agree that the Internet is a space where every day we can see hate speech targeting different disadvantaged groups. I would not agree that there is more hate in the online comparing to the “offline“world. The biggest difference from the “offline world“ is that on the Internet the outreach is much bigger meaning that your funny, offensive photo is shared much faster. A lot of young people are sharing and are targeted by hate speech every day. Most of them are sharing hate speech and are not even aware of it because for them it’s just a funny photo or video, not being aware of the consequences. When working with young people we have to understand that the Internet for them is not a tool but part of everyday life.
- How can hate speech online be fought effectively without jeopardizing one’s freedom of speech?
Hate speech online can be fought in different ways. The first thing that we must do is raise the awareness on what hate speech is exactly because most of times it is mixed with offence and other. In Macedonia, for 4 years now, we are raising the awareness of young people about hate speech and its consequences. Reporting is definitely something we should do when we are sure that we have detected hate speech, but this is not the only way. Our aim is to work with people and to stop the hate speech before the content is spread online. I personally think that when we come to the moment to report the hate speech there are already consequences we cannot be aware of. So what is important is to raise the awareness of the people in order for them to know what the consequences of hate speech can be so they do not even engage in it.
- How can more young people be inspired to engage in a productive intercultural dialogue via E-learning programmes?
Something that we should never forget is that online learning should not only be a one way process where the learner is just using all the materials and tools available, basically meaning receiving information. Online space should be also used for the learners to work and share opinions with all the other learners from all around the world. Young people should be encouraged to work together in a synchronous way. From my personal experience, most of the time the online learning platforms have just been used as a “book“ – a space where you should receive information. And this is a big problem (challenge); the platforms should be used as a medium for a communication and interaction between the learners and educators. The opportunities of the e-learning lie in using all the possibilities that these platforms are offering and making them as easy and attractive for learners to use. If we succeed in offering an interactive way for the learners to participate in the processes online together, we will be able to develop their intercultural competences for sure.
- What could be the benefits for organizations to use the potentials of e-learning platforms? What are the possibilities of blended learning?
The organizations can use the e-learning platforms as a space for development of competencies of their members, activist, volunteers, etc. Having in mind the dynamic structure of youth organizations, the platforms can also be used for keeping track of the organizational management. This will help a lot, especially the youth organizations that are changing their members and decision makers on yearly basis.
The online platforms in international organizations that are composed of different members from different countries can be used for distance learning between different members. The blended learning is definitely something that should be developed till its maximum potential in the period that follows. In order to make education attractive and accessible for young people we have to blend the conventional way of learning with the usage of information and communication technologies. Young people do not see them as something new, but something they have got to know from the moment they were born and for them it is natural to have them in different segments of their life.