Sometimes I feel that universities in North America are out of touch with the needs of the knowledge economy, especially with observations like Daniel Lemire’s, on whether there will be universities in 20 years. However, after reading Kathleen’s conversation regarding teaching at a Berlin university, it seems that our hurdles in creating a learning society are small compared with Europe’s.
First, we have very few LMS systems at the FU in general, and most of what passes for "e-learning" here is the creating of "modules" — electronic versions of texts packaged in Pavlovian form — and these are indeed designed to occupy the masses. I think much of it has to do with the German university: it is under-capitalized, its relationships to society are ambivalent, and it has nothing of the dynamics of the US system. Somewhere online I’ve got an article by Mitchell Ash and Daniel Fallon who make the institutional comparison.
On a deeper level, you are assuming a respect for individuals and a high premium on personal expression and communication that, I’d guess for profound historical reasons, does not pertain here.
Culture runs deep, and it seems that in North America we may be better prepared for the creation of collaborative learning organisations than other parts of the world.