Curating Tech Developments in Online Learning

[While this Campus Technology article focuses on online learning for higher education, it’s worth examining for anyone looking for ways to use technology to transform learning. The success stories provide strong evidence how technology can make learning happen in ways not possible otherwise. The projects range from an avatar for nursing students to bring the Great Barrier Reef to students through teleconferencing.]

By David Raths 08/10/16

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

New ways to deploy artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, gamification and robotic telepresence are making their way into classrooms across the globe every day. Two leaders in the field of online learning are building a website called Virtually Inspired to curate examples of what they consider the most promising efforts.

Susan Aldridge, senior vice president for online learning at Drexel University and president of Drexel University Online, and Marci Powell, chair emerita of the U.S. Distance Learning Association, looked at more than 250 projects deploying new technologies in online learning and initially narrowed that number down to approximately 50 they plan to highlight on their website, which is still a work in progress.

Aldridge and Powell want the site to provide one-stop shopping for faculty and administrators looking for innovative approaches to online learning. Increasingly, Aldridge said, students will not sit still for talks in large lecture halls, and still too much of online education involves a talking-head video rather than an engaging experience. As she went looking for new approaches that might be applied to Drexel’s curriculum, she and Powell decided to share those findings with colleagues in higher education, who could pick and choose what might be beneficial for them.

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MITx u.lab: Education As Activating Social Fields

Until last year, the number of students in my classes at MIT numbered 50 or so. Less than twelve months later, I have just completed my first class with 50,000 registered participants. They came from 185 countries, and together they co-generated:
• >400 prototype (action learning) initiatives
• >560 self-organized hubs in a vibrant global eco-system
• >1,000 self-organized coaching circles.

What explains the growth in group size from 50 to 50,000? It’s moving my class at MIT Sloan to the edX platform, making it a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

Designed to blend open access with deep learning, the u.lab was first launched in early 2015 with 26,000 registered participants. When we offered it for a second time, in September, we had 50,000 registered participants. According to the exit survey, 93% found their experience “inspiring” (60%) or “life changing” (33%); and 62% of those who came into the u.lab without any contemplative practice have one now.

Inverting the 21st-Century University

One-third of the participants had “life changing” experiences? How is that possible in a mere seven-week online course? The answer is: it’s not. The u.lab isn’t just an online course. It’s an o2o (online-to-offline) blended learning environment that provides participants with quality spaces for reflection, dialogue, and collaborative action.

From the perspective of the course co-facilitation team, the whole u.lab experience felt like a journey of profound personal, relational, and institutional inversion. To invert something means to turn it inside-out or outside-in. In the case of the u.lab, not only was the classroom experience inverted, but so was the conversation among learners and the learners’ cognitive experience. Unlike traditional classrooms, the u.lab is characterized by:

distributed organizing: opening up the classroom to many self-organized hubsaround the world;
generative dialogue: opening up the conversation from teacher-centric downloading to student-centric generative dialogue;
collective governance: opening up the institution to a global innovation context while cultivating spaces that help the system sense and see itself;
prototyping practices: opening up the learning modes through hands-on action learning methodologies;
self-transformation: opening up the deeper sources of human intelligence by activating the open mind, open heart, and open will.

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Improved Analytics Critical to the Personalization of Online Learning

[In this article from EvoLLLution Michael Horn, the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, shares his insights into how tools, like Knewton, are opening the door for personalizing learning.]

July 31, 2015

Improved data collection and analysis is critical to the expansion of personalized learning in higher education, which itself is central to the move towards a more hybrid and online postsecondary environment.

Improved data collection and analysis is critical to the expansion of personalized learning in higher education, which itself is central to the move towards a more hybrid and online post-secondary environment.

The evolution of technology and technological tools over recent years has positively impacted the effectiveness of online learning, which has transformed into a highly engaging, highly integrated platform for students to pursue post-secondary credentials with maximum flexibility. Of course, as with any technology, there is still room for improvement and growth. Online learning has the space to become even more personalized. In this interview, Michael Horn discusses the current state of personalization in the online learning space and shares his thoughts on what the future might hold for online education.

Click here to read key takeaways.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): How truly personalized is online programming today?

Michael Horn (MH): Online learning today is personalized in the sense that it starts to give students control over the pace of their learning and the time when it occurs. It can offer much more flexibility given the asynchronous technologies.

Where there is still a lack of personalization is in the different pathways that students take towards mastery. Certain programs are certainly addressing this and we’re seeing adaptive learning engines like Knewton appear to do some exciting things to better target and personalize for different students. It still feels like we’re really in the early beginnings of the dramatic revolution that we’ve seen in a lot of other technology sectors where really smart recommendation engines come in and assist the student in picking and choosing their unique path.

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