All entries for Wednesday 08 February 2006

February 08, 2006

E–learning predictions

So, two reports containing predictions about e-learning futures. Do they agree, differ or cover completely different ground?

Report one is from the New Media Consortium, an international group of about 200 colleges, universities, museums and corporations who, they say, are "dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies". What do they predict?

The New Media Consortium

  • Social computing tools and processes are becoming more widespread and accepted. As the tools have matured, the practice of online communication and collaboration has increased.

  • Mobile technology, specifically MP3 players and mobile phones, as a delivery platform for services of all kinds.

  • Consumers are increasingly expecting personalised services, tools, and experiences, and open access to media, knowledge, information, and learning.

  • Collaboration is increasingly seen as critical across the range of educational activities. As the ways in which researchers, students and teachers can collaborate with each other increase, knowledge is becoming a community property, and the construction of knowledge is becoming a community activity.
  • Peer review and other academic processes, such as promotion and tenure reviews, increasingly do not reflect the ways scholarship actually is conducted.

  • Information literacy should not be considered a given, even among "net-gen" students. The skills of critical thinking, research, and evaluation of content, not to mention creative demonstration of mastery or knowledge, are needed more than ever; yet these very skills are underdeveloped in many students.

  • Intellectual property concerns and the management of digital rights and assets continue to loom as largely unaddressed issues.

  • The typical approach of experimentally deploying new technologies on campuses does not include processes to quickly scale them up to broad usage when they work, and often creates its own obstacles to full deployment.

  • The phenomenon of technological "churn" is bringing new kinds of support challenges. Clearly support needs are increasing; each new technology comes with its own requirements for support, of course, while the support needs of established technologies also remain.

Hmm. How about report number two? The Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness (isn't an alliance to foster competition a contradiction in terms?) have produced a report called What's next in Learning Technology in Higher Education?.

What's next in Learning Technology in Higher Education?

Their predictions include:-

  • Continued growth in Course Management Systems such as Blackboard and WebCT, in distance learning platforms, and more Internet technology on campus and in classrooms. (I'm hazy as to what's meant by "internet technology" or "distance learning platforms".

  • Tools intended to help students be more productive, such as note-taking aids, course materials organisational aids, aids to interacting with academic staff, e-portfolio tools to capture student accomplishments, and search engines optimised for academic content.

  • Pedagogical tools for faculty that can be used by the majority who do not wish to be "e-learning course developers", since taking the time to acquire specialised skills to deliver e-learning makes no sense for academics given their tight time constraints, their interests, or expertise.

  • Tools which assume that classroom or lecture theatre delivery will remain at the centre of the higher educational experience, and seek to provide benefits within that context.

  • Ways to better link students, faculty, and the administration. For example, tools to help faculty to monitor student study interactions to determine which materials are most difficult and why, tools that help faculty to self-assess their teaching, tools that help determine which courses, under what conditions, are having retention or other problems, and tools that allow students' attainment of learning objectives to be better tracked within the context of a course or a curriculum.

So our two predictors are really working different sides of the street. One of them is thinking about devices and technology, the other is thinking about ways to support the educational process. Of course these two things blur into each other, but the emphasis is clearly different. If this is your area (and if it's not, what on earth are you doing here?), both reports are well worth a read.


The University of Warwick is participating in an e-learning benchmarking exercise organised by the Higher Education Academy. From the Academy's benchmarking home page :-

The exercise has three aims:

  • to provide institutions with the information to make informed plans for future development
  • to allow institutions providing higher education to identify their current progress, on embedding e-learning, in relation to similar institutions
  • to provide a picture of the sector as a whole in order to identify areas of strategic importance to inform the work of the JISC, the Academy and the Funding Councils.

The other institutions participating in the exercise are:-

  • Coventry University and Warwickshire College
  • Institute of Education, University of London
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Staffordshire University
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Chester
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Wales Institute, Cardiff

The participating institutions have been divided up into three groups, and each group has been assigned a consultant to facilitate the benchmarking. Our group contains:-

  • University of Warwick
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Institute of Education
  • University of Coventry / Warwickshire College

and our consultant is Svava Bjarnason from the OBHE.

There's also a benchmarking blog provided by the HE Academy.

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