The infographic below (produced by OnlineUniversities.com) contains some interesting data that lends considerable weight to the argument that we are now in the midst of a major paradigm shift in the higher education space.
I was also pleased to see that there is no reference to ‘lecturer’ or ‘instructor’ (or even ‘teacher!). This is a major gripe of mine as despite the increasingly technology-enabled, learner-centric environment we work in, many of us don’t seem to be able to let go of the old terms and labels. Is it appropriate to use words like these when they connote a very different type of pedagogy?
Also, why do we persist with the ‘e’-prefix? This might have been apt in the 1990s, but e-learning just seems so passé to me. Around the time the term arose, we also used to talk about e-banking, and nowadays people just talk about doing their banking. Maybe it’s time we also just talked about learning.
Image source: adi-news.com
The key message is that using laptops and tablet computers in class is less about technology and more about effective pedagogy. In the industrial age we had no alternative to ‘factory-style’ education, delivering programmes en masse, invariably catering to the lowest common denominator. Under this model, students with learning difficulties are left behind and able students aren’t stretched, leaving educators with the issue of student disengagement, and the attendant problems of unruly students, truancy, drop-outs, and so on.
In the digital age, with easy access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), there is no reason to continue with this outdated mode of delivery. Yes, it will take time to make the transition, as professional development of educators is imperative, and — as the NYT article makes clear — there will be pitfalls along the way, but this is not a reason for delay.
Image source: telegraph.co.uk
An article published in the UK Sunday Times at the weekend and republished in The Australian yesterday adds another name to the growing band of influential figures seriously challenging the notion of university education — at least as it is currently structured. This time it is Larry Summers, former President of Harvard University, and erstwhile colleague of that other Harvard academic, Clayton Christensen, who has also set the cat amongst the pigeons with his most recent book, The Innovative University.
According to Summers, the explosion of knowledge, and our ability to access it through computers, demands change in the way universities operate. Furthermore, most companies look nothing like they did 50 years ago, yet undergraduate education looks much as it did in the middle of the 20th century. He also argues that:
Universities are going to have to be increasingly about pinpointing principles, ways of thinking, common values and common aspects of experience rather than trying to teach all there is to know because no one can know all there is to know.
This sounds to me like an argument for getting students to analyse rather than memorise, which may not appear a big deal except that it would mean a fundamental shift in the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment practices of a great many tertiary educational institutions around the world.
The image above is a common sight in universities everywhere. It does not resemble any real world setting where a graduate might be expected to apply their newly acquired knowledge and analytical skills. They are also using pens and paper which, while quaint, is not very 21st century.
I’ve been monitoring the nascent Occupy Education movement with interest over the last couple of weeks, not least because there are so many dimensions to it. The complexity of it all has been addressed far more coherently than I ever could over at Tenured Radical, but my crude interpretation is that it essentially revolves around access and relevance (or lack thereof!)
These two factors would appear inextricably linked, in my mind, as access to an affordable education is obviously more worthwhile if it also happens to be relevant and useful, yet few of the Facebook contributions and Tumblr pages I have perused so far seem to make this connection, there being a tendency to focus on one or the other.
I understand how — given the origins of the Occupy movement — the socioeconomic dimension takes primacy, but if there is to be reform to provide equity of access, I hope an equal amount of energy is expended in ensuring it is access to a quality education, that accommodates the learning styles and life styles of individual learners, and not some factory model that caters to the lowest common denominator.
An Occupy Education movement that focuses on flexible delivery of programmes, allowing people to fully participate, assessing learning outcomes in an authentic and engaging manner is one I would happily sign up for, because I think it would have a good chance of addressing both the inequities and irrelevancies that currently plague the education system in the US and elsewhere.
Image source: tech-faq.com
Joshua Kim wrote a nice piece in IHE a couple of weeks ago that posed some very candid questions about the future of Blackboard. This company is the Leviathan of the proprietary learning management system market, and suffers somewhat from Microsoft-syndrome on account of its market domination. Very few educators I know have anything nice to say about the platform, other than the fact is tends to be pretty stable. This, of course, is very necessary, but also very dull. It is also a sad indictment on the quality of the student learning experience in higher education.
In an age when there is so much action going on within social media, it is most unfortunate that the market leader continues to trot out something that is quite so pedestrian. The problem, simply put, is that when you have such a large market share there is no pressure to innovate. You can make all the feature requests you like, but there will be no response until there is a critical mass of users making the same request.
Like Dr Kim, I wonder how much longer this strategy will continue to deliver. Monolithic LMSs are very 20th century, and to stay ahead of the game these days, versatility is everything. In short, a key consideration now is whether your delivery platform is going to be able to incorporate the new tools next year that no-one has even invented yet.
On the day the world learned that Steve Jobs had logged out for the final time, it is fitting to comment on one of his many legacies. It has been estimated that by 2015, more people will be accessing the Internet via mobile devices than through PCs. The video clip above estimates it will be slightly earlier in 2014 but, frankly, I’d be amazed if it takes this long.
In the education industry, the possibilities are boundless. The launch of the $35 tablet this week is as big piece of news on disruptive innovation as there is likely to be for a while, with there now being a real chance of doing something positive about the education of the rural poor in India. Just as Indians leap-frogged landlines and went straight to mobile telephony, I expect the same to happen in terms of mass mobile connectivity to the Web, with huge consequences for economic development.
Without doubt, the iPhone and the iPad have revolutionised they way we access the Internet, and I think without the Jobs ‘Apple-coolness’ factor, this may not have happened, or at least not proceeded as quickly as it might.
iThankyou Mr Jobs.
Having mucked around with computers in education for almost two decades, from something we used to call computer based teaching (CBT) to what commonly became known as ‘e-learning’, I am confident that, today, the use of ICTs in education is sufficiently ubiquitous, that it’s okay now to simply refer to it as ‘learning’. My rationale for this statement is very simple: this is what people do in spite of the formal education system. The data for the US in the infographic below is fairly compelling. One point it makes that is worth emphasising relates to the current crisis in education where students are so disaffected they are dropping out in record numbers. This is why — as the infographic states — it is Education’s Internet moment! If paradigm shift does not occur now, it never will.
The latest version of the Social Media Revolution by Socialnomics was uploaded to YouTube last week. Some of the statistics have been updated and there are a number of new slides. For me, the most compelling is the very first which simply reads: social media is not about technology. This is so true. I have been campaigning long and hard for several years now to drop the ‘e’ from e-learning. It’s just learning! It’s how we do things now … or at least it’s how our students do things. Social media to a digital native is as normal as pen and paper to a digital immigrant, and yet there is still resistance to the mainstreaming of social media for formal education purposes. The argument that students don’t have sufficient access to technology is starting wear a little thin. In the Sustainable Development and Competitive Advantage MBA class I delivered at Christ University in Bangalore, India, earlier this month, the students twittered about #SDCA so much, it was trending in Bangalore at one stage during the week. On the last day, without any notice, the students made videos documenting their learning outcomes, because 56 of the 57 people in the class either had video capability on their hand held device or on their laptop.
Image source: dreamstime.com
There is a nice article in The Chronicle this week by Jeffrey R Young entitled, Actually Going to Class, for a Specific Course? How 20th-Century. I liked this piece not because it told me anything new, but because of the sub-text that it is incredulous so many academic institutions still trot out the same tired old didactic teaching model and believe they are providing a high quality learning experience. “There is definitely a broader array of options available to students who wish to forgo the commute to class altogether in exchange for online classes that essentially provide the same content that professors regurgitate to students in lectures,” says one student in the article. Frankly, there were a sufficient number of options when I made my PowerPoint slides available ahead of class back in 1996. Now there is a veritable cornucopia of options! Who in their right mind would go to a lecture nowadays unless you were guaranteed some form of active engagement or ‘edutainment’ from an academic with stand up comedy skills?