How Technology is Shaping the Future of Education…

How Technology is Shaping the Future of Education…

We live in a Technology Saturated World, a world in which all of us, people of all ages, all walks of life encounter technology in one way or other in our daily lives. Technology is everywhere, entwined in almost every part of our culture. It affects how we live, eat, work, play, and most importantly how we learn!

Our next generation, is born into this digital world, a world that is lightning-fast, with instant access to information on their finger tips, a world that is highly interactive and engaging, a world of internet, smartphones, video games, virtual and augmented realities and what not. They are clearly citizens of this digital world. They are what we call the “Digital Natives”.

Over the last couple of years, my team and I at EnhanzED, have been closely studying the learning habits of these Digital Natives. No surprises here, these digital natives consume and process information in a very different way. They have developed unique learning styles and problem solving strategies. Basically they think and work differently, compared to the rest of us.

  • First of all, they have a really Short Attention Span, the attention span of a gnat. Its very natural for them to keep shifting between apps and screens, every few seconds.

  • They prefer Short, Bite-sized Lessons that are precise, relevant and focus on one particular subject or concept.

  • They look up or access content in a very different way, mostly Random, Sporadic and Non-sequential, typically quick look ups on the internet or buzzing their friends on social media. We all do that nowadays, but they do that more often than anyone, and they are very quick at it. Its actually a very important and integral part of how they learn, assimilate and retain information.

  • They have an unwavering preference for Rich and Engaging Multimedia Content. Content that is crafted to enthrall them, while perfectly fitting into their short attention spans.

  • Most importantly, they love to learn and consume content On-the-go, Anytime, Anywhere, on their personal devices. They love listening to podcasts, watching videos, doing quick reads while traveling on the bus, waiting at the doctor’s clinic and often on the toilet seats!

Now, you are one of them, a Digital Native, someone whose world is inundated with technology, gadgets and devices, and you walk into a classroom that looks like this –

A crowded classroom, with closely packed desks, a tight atmosphere, with fingers on lips, all eyes on the blackboard, with an instructor next to it, delivering what would most probably be an hour long monologue. You are not allowed to carry your personal devices, that you’d typically make quick notes on, you are cut out from the internet, that you’d use to quickly look up on things being discussed in the class. 

Essentially, you are walking into an environment that is not natural to you, an environment that restricts your natural instincts and behavior, a whole new world that feels ancient!! It is very important for us to accept these realities, and open our minds to adopt more technology into our education systems to create learning experiences that resonate with the current and next generation learners.

Classroom should not be a Location, it should be an Experience !!

Lets start with our class rooms. The class room should no longer be a location or a room, that students would dread to walk into, or yearn to walk out off. It should be an experience, a rich, engaging, interactive and most importantly fun experience that students would love to be part of. 

Classrooms today are seeing dramatic changes.

  • Traditional black boards are making way for touch screen smart boards, that instructors and students can interact with
  • More multi media content is being used in classrooms to engage students
  • The classroom layouts are changing, promoting interpersonal skills among students
  • Above a certain age, students are allowed to carry digital devices into the classroom
  • More schools and colleges are providing Wi-Fi facilities across their campuses
  • Fancy Technologies such as 3D printers, Smart Science Kits, Virtual Reality Head Sets are making their way into the mainstream schooling systems.

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Learning beyond the Classroom...

Learning does not happen only in the class room. A lot of learning happens outside the classroom, online – watching videos, playing games, reading articles, interacting with friends.

I’m sure we all watch videos online, read articles, probably even take courses online, and we’ve been doing this for a while now. So whats new?

Something interesting has happened over the last 3-4 years. A magic device called the Smartphone.

Smartphones have created a “paradigm-shift” to the way we communicate and consume digital content.

The Smartphone is a very personal device. It lives in our pockets for most part of the day. We breath, eat, sleep with our smartphones next to us. Its an integral part of every individual today.

If I want to learn about something, I do not run to the nearby library, I do not run to my desk to find my computer. All I do is reach out to my pocket and pull out my phone, and start swiping. I don’t even have to type in my question, I can just use my voice to get answers. The best part is, I can do it anywhere, anytime, on-the-go.

Smartphones are a strong digital channel that connects each and everyone of us to the world of internet. This is a channel that needs to be leveraged effectively for learning and education! We are already seeing increasing number of smartphone based education products in the market, and this will only grow in the years to come!

Personalization Like Never Before...

The biggest drawback of conventional education is the lack of personalization. Imagine a class of 60 students. Every single individual in that class is different. Students come with different abilities, they come with prior learning dispositions, they have different strengths and weaknesses, some are quick in grasping a concept, some are slow and need additional help.

In the conventional education system where the students clearly outnumber the instructors, it is impractical for the instructor to give personal attention to every single student addressing his or her needs on a daily basis. All students are treated the same! The same set of lectures, homework, assignments are forced down the throat of all the students, irrespective of their abilities, progress and performance.

Technology can solve this big problem. Learning Platforms are growing smarter and smarter, thanks to the advances in Technology, we can today capture fine grain details about the progress and performance of individuals, and create personalized learning paths for each individual based on his or her needs.

If a student is struggling with a particular concept, the platform knows that and pushes more videos and additional practice exercises onto the student’s device helping him/her get up to the mark. The platform can also learn an individual’s learning styles and habits and craft content accordingly. 

The Role of Instructors and Educators...

So, there will be Technology everywhere, inside the classroom and outside the classroom. Does than mean that the role of instructors is diminishing?

Not really !! Technology is just a means to an end. The real magic would be in the hands of the educators, instructors and the content creators. They need to work towards creating an environment that best suits the student, and not an environment that they are comfortable with.

It is important for educators and instructors to embrace technology and use it effectively to bring about a change.

Ultimately the Goal here is to help the learner in all of us to “Remember to Remember, and Forget to Forget”. How well we do this, is in our hands!

Learning Analytics – Thinking beyond Pie charts & Bar charts

Learning Analytics – Thinking beyond Pie charts & Bar charts

According to the NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education, the time for main-stream adoption of Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning is “One Year or Less”. You may think that your Learning platform is well on track, with rich dashboards and jazzy reports about student logins, time on task, student grades over time, performance across programs and what not. The truth is that most of the Learning platforms today (open-source, commercial and home-grown) have all these basic reporting and analytics capabilities. In fact, they have had it for a while. So why all this hype around “Learning Analytics”, and why is everyone making a big deal out of it now?

 

“Learning Analytics” is much more than a bunch of reports that depict the student experience on one single platform. Its not just about what has happened in the past, its also about what is going on right now, and what can be expected in the future. It does not end with reports and charts calling for action, it’s about turning the inferences and insights into meaningful actions, or at-least enabling users to do so.

There are a few things that clearly differentiate “Learning Analytics” from the shallow reporting offerings –

Analytics across Platforms and Experiences

Learning does not happen on one single platform. It happens across platforms and experiences. A typical eLearning ecosystem comprises of a variety of learning platforms including Learning Management Systems, eBook platforms, Assessment platforms, Mobile applications, Discussion forums and many more. Apart from these, a significant amount of learning happens in-class, during office hours, over the social media and other “non-learning” channels.

 

Learners interact with these multitudes of platforms, leaving “data-trails”. While the individual platforms do a good job of capturing & reporting this data, they fail to depict the overall learning experience of the learner. True “Learning Analytics” is about gathering the experience of the learner from all the possible sources to provide a “holistic view” across platforms and experiences.

Reports and charts are good for visualizing what has already happened. They help in understanding what went well or what went wrong (Descriptive Analytics).

But Analytics can go beyond reports and charts and help us understand more about why things went wrong in the first place (Diagnostic Analytics).

It can help us understand what is happening now, what should be our next best action through alerts, notifications, recommendations, and help us be on track and never miss out on any thing important (Prescriptive Analytics).

Furthermore, based on the historical data Analytics can help us predict future trends, understand what to expect in the future and how to plan for it (Predictive Analytics).

Finally, Analytics can enable us to turn these inferences and insights into actions, by providing feedback to the platform to personalize the experience for the learner (Applied Learning Analytics).

Analytics for All

Finally, Analytics is not limited to instructors and super admins. Analytics can cater to all the stakeholders in the learning eco-system, including Learners, Instructors, Curriculum Designers, Program Admins, Content Creators, Publishers, Institution Admins and many more. As an example – Learners can see where they stand in the program, identify their weak areas, and get recommendations and nudges on how they can improve. Instructors can see the performance & progress of their class, identify at-risk students, intervene to take necessary actions, predict class performance. Program admins can monitor the health and performance of the program, compare instructors, predict enrollments. Publishers can profile their content, identify and weed out non-performing content, improve content that needs attention. 

 

The emerging standards for capturing experience data in Learning platforms (xAPI, LRS, Caliper Frameworks etc.) have enabled fine-grain capture of learner engagement & performance data. The advances in Big-Data technologies have enabled efficient ways for storing and processing large amounts of data, to generate rich visualizations, useful insights and predictions, making true “Learning Analytics” a reality today.

The Evolution of Learning Content………

The Evolution of Learning Content.....

Since the Smartphones and Internet have taken over the world (and all our lives), the way we consume content has significantly changed. Being in the education industry for over a decade, my team and I have had the unique opportunity to closely observe and study how the way we deliver and consume Educational Content has evolved over the last few years.

For a long time, Books (Print Media in general) were the only source of knowledge. Knowledge seekers would spend hours in the libraries reading books, magazines, articles, journals educating themselves in their areas of interest

With the advent of the Personal Computer, education companies saw the need to open up a second channel – a digital channel. We started seeing CD’s and DVDs packed at the very end of the books. While the book was still the primary product here, the CDs or DVDs would often contain supplementary content such as video snippets, additional quizzes etc.rnals educating themselves in their areas of interest

As Internet became popular, CDs and DVDs slowly faded away, and were replaced with an “Online Access Code” that users could redeem to access content online. It was basically the same content as in the CDs or DVDs, but available online, so that the content could be updated regularly without having the ship a whole new CD or DVD again.

With the Internet becoming a ubiquity in most parts of the world, people are starting to prefer online content over print media. Most of us today read our morning news online, access digital version of our favorite magazines, buy and access e-books instead of printed books. Education companies are being forced to flip their business models. The Online Product is now becoming now the primary product, and printed books for the first time, are seen as a supplementary offering.

With more and more people preferring online learning products over books, many education companies are being forced to roll out their first set of “Online Only” products, which do not come with any print offering! Publishing companies that traditionally printed books are focussed on building digital online products and creating digital learning experiences!

The advent of the “Smart Phone” has opened up yet another digital channel that can be used to engage learners beyond the online experience, with supplementary quizzes, extended reading, video snippets that could be consumed anytime anywhere on personal devices. Learners typically get free access to the mobile content along with their online product purchase.

Within the increasing popularity and growing adoption of the smartphones, we will soon be seeing many “Mobile First” products that would be targeted to the growing population of smartphone users. All the traditional online content will now have to be tweaked to work responsively on mobile or completely re-designed for a Mobile First experience.

The Smartphone today is arguably the Most Natural Way for all of us to consume digital content. It’s a very personal device that lives in our pockets for most part of the day. We breath, eat, sleep with our smartphones next to us. Its an integral part of every individual today. If I want to learn about something, I do not run to the nearby library, I do not run to my desk to find my computer. All I do is reach out to my pocket and pull out my phone, and start swiping. I don’t even have to type in my question, I can just use my voice to get answers. The best part is, I can do it anywhere, anytime, on-the-go.

Smartphones are a strong digital channel that connects each and everyone of us to the world of internet. This is a channel that will be leveraged effectively for learning and education!

Very soon, we will be seeing an increasing number of smartphone based education products in the market, and this will only grow in the years to come!