Is there a new kid in town?

leanringIn todays international learning landscape the role of e-Learning -On-line learning is providing more and more opportunities for International Schools to leverage a greater capacity to provide a differentiated venue for learning to support their respective learning communities.

The growth of this learning medium in education and industry is significant, the number reflect this “ 5.6 million students took at least one on-line course in the Fall. of 2010 based on research by the Sloan Consortium” and according to US News Online Education report “65.5 percent of all chief academic officers reporting that on-line education is critical to the long-term strategy of an institution in 2011.”

Many international schools have embraced blended learning in an effort to provide resources, information, lessons, assignments and discussions outside of the traditional classroom, to enhance and support the opportunities for students to interact with the curriculum. This blended approach often facilitated through Moodle, Blackboard, Haiku and other Learning Management Systems.

In certain areas of the world these Learning Management Systems have played a critical role in supporting International Schools to deliver their curriculum and classes when the school has had to close due to environmental issues and political instability in the host country. There are many cases of this happening over the years, and this has provided essential continuity of learning, communication and support  to their respective learning communities. These experiences by different international schools have given these venues greater importance and air time by schools. There is the World Virtual School Project  consortium, of the 8 International School regions that over the years has been a key player in building capacity of collaboration and implementation of Learning Management Systems to support international schools around these 8 regions. There is also the Virtual High School and http://www.k12.com/ two of the many growing offerings available to schools to supplement and tap into this growing area. The IB has http://www.pamojaeducation.com/ a full IB authorized on-line learning platform which many schools are adopting to supplement their own face to face course offerings and giving smaller schools the flexibility to offer a wider scope of topics to their communities.

Today it is almost an non negotiable for International Schools not to have some presence and resource to support on-line or blended learning. The flexibility, and opportunities to extend the learning experience outside of the school walls, and ability to support students that are sick, absent, or out for personal reasons, allows learning to continue beyond the school walls has become a key ingredient to a school’s culture.

On-line learning is here to stay, and in its various forms  blended learning or fully On-line learning comes in two flavours: Synchronous is live, the learner and course facilitator (teacher) interact live in real time, in a virtual classroom setting, in many ways a simulation of a real classroom live on-line, through a video feed, or a video conferencing environment such as Adobe Connect.  Asynchronous is not live, but  allows the learner to work at their own pace within a time-line and not at the same time as other participants or the course facilitator (teacher) often with little live interaction.

Many Universities adopting on-line learning called MOOCs (Massive open on-line course) have been getting a lot of attention in the media. Today more and more universities are adopted these eleanring platforms to deliver a variety of courses (Massive open on-line course MOOC) options some of these are free and others are fee paying. The MOOC model  is set up to facilitate learning at a big scale in an open access format. This is a growing area in higher education, and something which long term will also impact International Schools. This model is already being used with a variety high schools ( an example: http://ohs.stanford.edu/) which are now offering an on-line high school in different venues and is becoming a rapidly growing market.

In industry On-line Learning has also been adopted and more and more companies and organizations are using this medium to support their workers for training and professional development purposes. The advantages of this medium for these companies and organizations are cost saving and the ability to replace in person training with on-line training.

A couple facts to help frame this growing industry;

  • There were an estimated 1,816,400 enrollments in distance-education courses in K-12 school districts in  the USA 2009 – 2010, almost all of which were online courses. 74% of these enrollments were in high schools. (Queen, B., and Lewis, L. (2011). Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10 (NCES 2012-009). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012008.pdf)

In the context of these dynamics, and the huge growth, and use of on-line learning ecosystems worldwide, for International Schools this has become an area which cannot be ignored. There is already an on-line international school in Switzerland at the International School of Bern  The conveniences of these on-line ecosystems which can include schedule flexibility, ease of access, student’s having the option to control their learning,  multimedia tools, potential for differentiated learning, and the costs savings are all factors to be considered.

For International Schools on-line learning is and going to continue to become an important part of our learning ecosystem. As this industry grows and continues to gain capacity, both locally and globally, to provide a robust engaging education, International Schools will need to provide this resource to their community. As educational institutions part of the 21 century learning landscape it is something we need to harness, understand and be able to deliver to our own communities of learners. If we do not, someone else will!

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

while I was waking up…

This post is dedicated in memory of Gil Scott-Heron.

Connectivity, seamless integration, multiple digital devices all connected to my habits and likes. The seamless options to integrate my blogs with my social media accounts…..all provide wonderful opportunities. They simplify many tasks and interactions I deal with on a day to day basis. At times these can get messy and I understand that many of these integrations between the digital devices I use and social media platforms I interact with are still trying to evolve. I believe the future of this convergence of digital devices and communication platforms will only get more seamless and effective, that is exciting. For users the potential is huge in leveraging  these tools and opportunities into our social and professional lives.

and now……

I am noticing something, and it seems in the last few months all this seamless integration of digital devices and social networking media is generating some caution by a few. For me the first odd event was when Facebook suddenly decided without asking me (actually they never asking me anything especially if there are changes) that it would only feature in my news feeds the friends I interact with on a regular basis and not the  friends who I just interact with rarely or periodically…. my news feed narrowed in its diversity of people I could see. Good news you can change this, and I did. The issue is who should make the decisions for us?

I also am noticing with my search results (Google/Bing/Yahoo) that they tend to be little different when I search the same topic as my wife and kids….. the search algorithms seem to learn my likes and dislikes and then provide me with information which falls into my previous search patterns and within my opinion and interest range. Diversity of opinions or information which I do not agree with seems slowly to be pushed away from me, I am reading only what I want to believe .  This seems to be a growing trend as explained in an excellent: TedTalk Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

The Apple Developers conference again showed how our devices, operating systems and virtual worlds are now taking on more tasks without us having to be involved, as a way to increase our efficiencies. Now you do not need to save in OS Lion, if you have iCloud there is sinking of content between different devices automatically without you being involved. Your digital devices in the Apple environment now can be independent of your desktop or laptop, giving these devices the ability to do all the necessary tasks right there and now. These are exciting changes and definitely provide the user with more seamless tasks which we do not need to be involved with. This in someways is pushed even further with the IOS5 function that if you have list or tasks to do there is a geographic locater embedded so when say you drive by a grocery store and in your IOS5 device you have a shopping list it will pop up and remind you of the list and the option of doing this now as it has located a grocery store.

The list goes on…. our technology tools and environments are being equipped with algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks which are becoming more intelligent, and at a level are given more independence to make executive decisions to enhance tasks in reaction to our online behaviors and habits. This is a huge shift, and with this a whole set of philosophical questions and dilemmas arise which delve into privacy, who has ownership, who gets to decide what these tools and algorithms do, and how much independence should they have? I am reading and seeing more evidence of this change, where we are asking our technology tools and systems to think for us and help make decisions. At this stage it all seems useful, helpful and harmless. Who minds having something save everything without you having to remember. Who minds having their devices do in the background of our awareness, updates, sinking, and analysis ? At this time it is useful and a time saver….and to be honest this has been going on for a while with a variety of technology tools. An example is commercial aviation which has been relying on automatic pilot controls for a large percentage of tasks related to flying. There are definitely huge advantages, and at many levels these make the processes we rely on more efficient and seamless .

As we move forward with our digital evolution:  our tools, operating systems and devices are given greater independence to manage our lives. The question I currently struggle with is at what point do we feel comfortable giving up control and let many of these devices  have complete autonomy of certain tasks, decisions, and information we get to have access too. To what point do we let convenience and efficiency erode potentially our own independence to make decision ourselves with these digital environments. There is no doubt that for the companies behind these tools, devices and operating systems, this control and information is becoming a critical commodity to generate information databases which leverage a greater capacity to target products, habits and behaviors effectively to the user. This then generating profits for the companies behind these devices, software and operating systems.

I am like many, I love the seamless integration, the fact that more mundane tasks are being taken over, and me not having to think about them. But when is too much, and when will we suddenly wake up and realize so much has fallen over to algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks that we have lost control and now are having many of our decisions and tasks dictated by others who we have little input with.

As Gil Scott Heron says so aptly ” the revolution will not be televised

John@https://beyonddigital.org