User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Future of Online Education: Online Learning or Education of the Future?

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I read several posts this week about recommendations for the future of online learning. These are summarized below.  First, though, I know we are currently differentiating between online-virtual and face-to-face, place-based education.  We also have added blended education into this discussion about how and where education takes place.  This is probably a moot point as the education of the future will be where, how, and when the learner chooses.  Lines will be blurred with some education face-to-face, some virtual – depending on the learner’s interests, skills to be learned, and knowledge desired.  These recommendations should be discussed as best practices for all types of education.

Two articles, one from the Chronicle and one from Mashable, discussed the following:

  1. Education needs to reflect the ability of the web to keep an ongoing and current pulse on global events and information.
  2. Education needs to embrace the collaborative, social aspects that attracts users to social networking.

Real Time, Current, and Authentic Knowledge

What’s required are innovative approaches to course design that set aside old models of instruction where theory often trumps actuality. Online course providers must embrace the web’s potential to match students with the kinds of timely knowledge and skills that address current issues head-on, and enable them to thrive in the global marketplace.

It’s not enough for a course to be accessible online, it must also be designed in a way that keys into the digital pulse of current events, trending topics and insider knowledge endemic to the web.. The web, as a real-time medium, is begging us to build innovative courses that can be used for the rapid delivery of education designed in a way that integrates current news, information, insights and research about topics like the oil spill and thousands of other current issues.

Networked Learning

To attract and retain the typical college-age demographic, as well as the larger population of adult learners in search of relevant and engaging educational content, the next generation of online education must be characterized by courses that build in the social, real-time information capturing components that have made the web such a dynamic medium for sharing information and knowledge.

We’ll see more collaborative endeavors in online-learning offerings. It will be more social than what it has been. New technologies are moving that way. The rise of social networking, Web 2.0, and the participatory web.  At the center is the social interaction between individuals. Right now most courses that are based on content-management systems are not focused on interaction between participants. They’re focused on, let’s put together this weekly module, and then that’s where the experience happens. The student goes there to read about the weekly module. The future is where the center is the student, and the people comprising this online learning community. The student and the community are collaborating on the content. It’s no longer possible for universities to be offering distance-education courses that are isolationsist or individualistic when people’s experiences outside of the university are social and connected.

Claims have been made that the MTV generation forced educators to have to be more like entertainers to keep students’ attention.  I believe that such boredom existed throughout the institutionalization of education – that students of the MTV generation just realized the potential of media to engage, entertained AND educate them.

An American lecturer believes he has found the secret of engaging the “MTV generation” who have an attention span of “minutes”.  Stressing that his undergraduate experience was in the United States, he said: “The worst thing in the world for me was these one-way lectures. I sat through so many lectures that were just so boring.”  But while he put up with it, he said today’s young students were less tolerant.  “The old guy who stands there and just lectures to the class – these days are gone. Their attention span is in the minutes now,” he said.  Mr Dever said that studies as far back as the 1970s had shown attention spans of only 15 to 20 minutes at a time. But today’s bricks-and-mortar institutions now faced a threat from online courses that engaged students and avoided the problems of one-way lectures.

The same is true, in my perspective, for the claims being made of online learning.  Human beings have a natural propensity to stay informed, to work socially and collaboratively, and to help with global stewardship.  The technologies are now providing the opportunity to do so.  Users of the Internet are now the learners. These consumers of education will just insist, as did the MTV generation, that their educations of all kinds, face-to-face and online, contain the elements of real time and authentic information and connection.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 11, 2010 at 1:12 am

One Response

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  1. Hi, Jackie,

    I read this post with great interest. I am convinced that you are right when you suggest that “the education of the future will be where, how, and when the learner chooses.” It is inevitable that the marketplace and education consumers will exert great influence on the types of services they are willing to purchase.

    A quick environmental scan suggests that creative, innovative master teachers and visionary entrepreneurs are currently shaping forums that tap networked, connected, social learning. These exciting “disruptions” will move education toward relevance. Clay Christensen predicted major breakthroughs by 2012. I believe he is on target – and I anticipate a migration of online courses toward the type you describe above – sooner rather than later.

    Thank you for a good read!

    Elizabeth Holmes

    August 11, 2010 at 2:04 am


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