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.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Interesting the impact of these tools on society at large and yet only a small proportion of educational programmes have changed significantly over the last few years to take advantage. Certainly the human element is a bigger challenge than the technical one. As is predictable, students are increasingly embracing new technologies and modes of communication more readily than staff (who often learn these things from their children!). Indeed, there seem not to differentiate use of ICT in everyday life to use in learning/study and will integrate face to face with online/mobile whenever it brings benefit. The same is not true of staff, given the time needed to change courses and make reasonable adjustments to assessment approaches.

    It's intriguing to consider whether education (and specifically higher education) is the only sector (public or private) that is slow to harness technology.

    In terms of our own e-learning strategy, it will still be important to support those that wish to be innovate in the use of technologies for learning, teaching and assessment. But equally important is to ensure that we put in place measures to encourage or require as appropriate further uptake across the board.

    Particularly hard-hitting are the comments in both sets of eL predictions concerning the activities and skills that develop through communicating and collaborating in the production of knowledge. These information and interpersonal capabilities are key to "graduateness" and employability – and we cannot expect to develop them fully in a vacuum of traditional practices – they must match and benefit us in the world we live and work in.

    A final caveat – the above does not advocate that we should all have the latest gadgets and be constantly online/on the phone. Firstly, the pace of technology moves so very fast – I certainly find mobile devices baffling and difficult to integrate without significant investment of time to take advice and work it all out. (Think back to jokes about trying to operate the VCR when it first came out.)
    Secondly, there is much virtue in silent moments of reflection. Being available 24/7, answering the phone just because it rings, responding to an email as soon as it comes in, etc. is not only poor time management, it also squeezes out creative and active thought, the lifeblood of research, art and expertise more generally.

    24 Feb 2006, 11:59

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