Tuesday, February 22, 2011

e-Learning in 2011

A friend recently tweeted (posted to Twitter) a bunch of interesting articles about the state of e-Learning. I thought they were interesting to share, but as they are rather lengthy (one report is 40 pages) I excerpted key points.

1) 2011 Horizon Report
Covers how and which technologies are affecting education in currently and in the future. Among their findings (quoted from the report):
  • The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
  • People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
  • The world of work is increasingly collaborative, giving rise to reflection about the way student projects are structured.
  • Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
  • Keeping pace with the rapid proliferation of information, software tools, and devices is challenging for students and teachers alike.
Their technologies to watch for this year are electronic books and mobiles, with augmented reality and game-based learning expected to gain prominence in the next 2-3 years.

2) 2011 Outlook for Online Learning & Distance Education
By T. Bates, Contact North
Covers trends, barriers, and opportunities. The author found that enrollment in fully online courses grew by 20% last year (in the US) are found major barriers (quoted from the report):
  1. Faculty resistance to online learning and/or distance education, which remains strong in many institutions;
  2. Lack of training in teaching, which limits instructors’ ability to imagine effective alternative technology-based models to face-to- face classroom teaching;
  3. Unambitious institutional goals for technology-based teaching, focused more on enhancing the classroom model than finding new designs that allow for more flexible access and that use the affordances of new technology to develop skills needed in the 21st century;
  4. Failure to develop appropriate methods for costing online learning; the costs are often unknown, as are the costs of face-to-face teaching, but generally technology is an added cost rather than used to replace less effective activities; and
  5. Lack of a system wide approach to online learning and distance education
He also predicts opportunities for 2011
  1. Course redesign [integrating new models]
  2. The future is mobile: ‘the notion of class time as separate from non-class time will vanish.’
  3. Open educational resources are a development that still falls far short of its promise.
  4. Multimedia materials, such as short video clips, animations, and simulations will increasingly be developed as part of online course materials,
  5. Learning analytics will provide instructors and course directors with tools that will enable decisions to be made
  6. Shared [IT] services
3) Online Courses, Still Lacking That Third Dimension
By R. Stross, NY Times
The irrelevance of teachers won't happen any time soon, and even less likely in the humanities and social sciences. Here are quoted excerpts:
When colleges and universities finally decide to make full use of the Internet, most professors will lose their jobs.

A genuine online course would be nothing but the software and would handle all the grading, too. No living, breathing instructor would be needed for oversight.

Candace Thille, the director of Carnegie Mellon’s program, put it this way: “There is something motivating about the student’s relationship with the instructor — and with the student’s relationship with other students in the class — that would be absent if each took the course in a software-only environment.”

Those relationships — with humans in the flesh — help students to persevere. Online courses are notorious for high dropout rates.

Much, of course, depends on the subject being taught. An introductory statistics class taught to 600 students in a lecture hall won’t offer much of a relationship with the professor. Moving it into a self-contained, adaptive software package — Carnegie Mellon’s online program offers two statistics classes — would arguably offer a superior learning experience. But in this case, the subject matter is distillable into a handful of concepts, and the exams use questions with only a single correct answer. That’s not an option for just about all of the humanities and vast swaths of the social sciences.

Wendy Brown, the Heller professor of political science at the Berkeley campus, spoke witheringly of the idea at a campus forum in October: “What is sacrificed when classrooms disappear, the place where good teachers do not merely ‘deliver content’ to students but wake them up, throw them on their feet and pull the chair away? Where ideas can become intoxicating, where an instructor’s ardor for a subject or a dimension of the world can be contagious? Where scientific, literary, ethical or political passions are ignited?”

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