There’s a wonderful confluence between two technologies that held center stage in the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project 2013 Higher Education report, released this week, on “new and emerging technologies, and their potential impact on teaching, learning, and research”: MOOCs (massive open online courses) and tablets.
While each is its own massive subject for exploration and is expected to “see widespread adoption in higher education over the next 12 months,” the two are linked by how much they have already done and promise to do in breaking down barriers in a variety of fields—not the least of which is training-teaching learning. With tablets in our hands, we are immediately connected to the world of mobile learning (m-learning) and numerous online resources (e.g., search engines, libraries, educational videos, education blogs, open-source textbooks, and MOOCs themselves). MOOCs, by definition, are a massive move toward making learning accessible, affordable, and appealing—although critics (many of whom seem not to have even participated as a learner in a MOOC) remain skeptical of their efficacy and inaccurately see them as an either-or option to more traditional learning offerings.
MOOCS are also capable of fostering extremely and justifiably divergent reactions, as we are seeing this week: while many of us were raving about how engaging the Educational Technology & Media massive online open course (#etmooc) is, others were documenting one of the most visible and embarrassing failures imaginable for a MOOC: a problematic Coursera offering on “The Fundamental of Online Education.” There is clearly room for plenty of growth in MOOCs, and one of the most interesting challenges I see ahead for those involved in developing and promoting MOOCs is the ongoing reaction educators and learners alike have to failure and perceived failures in online learning: they seem to be far more inclined to walk away from online learning after one bad experience than they are to walking away permanently after having one (or multiple) bad experiences to face-to-face learning. When we review research studies on how well-designed face-to-face learning opportunities compare to well-designed online learning opportunities, we find that strong opposition to good online learning is unwarranted.
The latest Horizon Report helps put the development of MOOCs in perspective while also humanizing them by providing links to a variety of wonderful examples and explorations. The Games MOOC, for example, provides a glimpse into “a community site woven around a series of three courses about the use of games in education, including traditional games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, game-based learning, and immersive environments,” the writers of the report tell us. The link to Laura Pappano’s New York Times article “The Year of the MOOC” (November 2, 2012) further introduces us to the state of MOOCs and highlights innovations.
Drawing our attention to tablet computing, the Horizon Report writers are equally engaging: “The rising popularity of tablets in higher education is partly the product of campuses across the world embracing the BYOD (bring your own device) movement. It is so easy for students to carry tablets from class to class, using them to seamlessly access their textbooks and other course materials as needed, that schools and universities are rethinking the need for computer labs, or even personal laptops. A student’s choice of apps for his or her tablet makes it easy to build a personalized learning environment, with all the resources, tools, and other materials they need on a single device, and with most tablets, the Internet is woven into almost every aspect of it” (p. 16). Specific examples of tablet computing supporting learning include the use of Samsung Galaxy tablets at Lavington Primary School, in Africa, and the Stanford University School of Medicine project which gives all entering students in iPad or PDF annotation software. There is also a link to a wonderful story about “How a Classroom of iPads Changed My approach to Learning,” written by Chris Blundell, from Redlands College.
Most encouraging of all, in these explorations of technology in learning, is the idea that while the technology is intriguing, the learners are the focus.
Next: On the Two- to Three-Year Horizon (Gaming/Gamification and Learning Analytics)