Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Keeping Pace with the Changing Face of Online Learning via @OLCToday

The Online Learning Consortium has just published a smashing new infographic about the changing face of on-line learning. Third level colleges are now offering more affordable degrees on-line than ever before and it has become much easier for students to study as broadband penetrates further into the learning sphere. Does this spell the death-knell of classroom based colleges? Not yet in my view, but it is coming and our Colleges need to be ready for it. Recent media reports point to our growing population and the pressure it is causing on primary and secondary education provision. Inevitably this will reach our Colleges in a few years and we have to be ready for it. Short-sighted and short-term strategies at individual college level is not enough in my view - the Department of Education and the Higher Education Authority need to be the drivers of this change. As the world gets smaller, on-line education providers like Udacity are offering on-line degrees that will some day replace our existing college degree. Someday employers will compare a Computer Science degree from Udacity with Trinity or DCU and think - there's no difference!

Jobs? Am I a turkey voting for Christmas? Doesn't supporting on-line education mean that us Lecturers will all lose  our jobs? This was a question asked of me back in 1989 when I joined the then CBT Systems (now SkillSoft) - computer-based training (CBT) was going to take over the world! Well - it hasn't happened yet.

The Online Learning Consortium contains lots of interesting points about the future of learning, and here's what it says about what the future holds for "New Types of Educators":

ADVISORS & MENTORS:
  • will digitally track and assess performance

INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS:
  • will pilot blended and flipped classes

INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNERS:
  • will build and teach digital curricula and oversee MOOCs that thousands of students could enrol in

No mention of a lecture!

Education is changing rapidly - according to the infographic "Jet Blue and Virgin America are offering in-flight video college lectures from Coursera and the Great Courses series allowing continued learning even in the air". Never did I think that a student of mine could be learning on a cheap flight!

My fear is that each Higher Education Institution in Ireland will go ahead and do their own thing (as most seem to do now for classroom-based courses, albeit under the QQI standards) - this doesn't make sense. Why not have one central degree per subject (eg Computer Science) delivered on-line by top educators available to anyone - rather than 40 odd different programmes from 40 odd different institutions? Joined up thinking required!

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