NMC Horizon Report 2013 (Pt. 3 of 4): Gamification and Learning Analytics

February 7, 2013

Two emerging technologies—gamification and learning analytics—are less than three years away from reaching widespread use among educators and learners, the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project 2013 Higher Education report, released earlier this week, suggests.

Horizon_Report--2013While each subject receives separate attention in the report’s two- to three-year “Time-to-Adoption” section, it’s not at all difficult to see how these two technologies, like the two technologies in the report one-year adoption section (tablets and MOOCs), can and should be thematically linked. Both appear to be strongly grounded in a learner-centric vision of training-teaching-learning; respond to learners’ needs with a sense of immediacy that provides support rather than hindrances during the learning process; and are already receiving plenty of attention worldwide.

“Whatever the scenario, online gaming enables strangers to build camaraderie and social networks in mere minutes, and to compete in a public forum where recognition is highly desirable,” we read in the report (p. 20). “Research has long indicated that video games help stimulate the production of dopamine, a chemical that provokes learning by reinforcing neuronal connections and communications. Furthermore, educational game-play has proven to increase soft skills in learners, such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork” (p. 21).

And just as game-based learning provides these obvious sources of support for learners, learning analytics—the real-time use of up-to-the-minute data to help learning facilitators identify and respond to obstacles hindering learners—provides a powerful tool to “build better pedagogies, target at-risk student populations, and to assess whether programs designed to improve retention have been effective and should be sustained—important outcomes for administrators, policy makers, and legislators” (p. 24), we learn from the latest Horizon Report.

As is always the case, the real meat of the report is in the links to examples and resources showing us how these technologies are already developing. We visit the Henry Madden Library at California State University, Fresno, for example to see how a game introduces learners to library resources and helps them develop the skills to those resources—and the library is smart enough to show us (and its learners) several winning entries from a gamification contest which encouraged students to produce videos and other materials to help others use the library. We learn about McGill University’s Open Orchestra simulation game through a well-developed website. And a link to an EdTech magazine article and infographic takes us further into the subject as engagingly as the gamification process it explores.

In the same way, the examples in the learning analytics section of the report introduce us to the dynamic examples of Santa Monica College’s Glass Classroom project; the American Public University System (APUS) multi-campus data-collection effort designed to “identify trends contributing to student success, program momentum, and online course completion” (quote taken from APUS press release); and Stanford University’s five-year multimodal learning analytics project that is “investigating new ways to assess project-based activities, examining students’ speeches, gestures, sketches, and artifacts in order to better characterize their learning over extended periods of time” (quote taken from the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab website). And in what can only be described as a big-bang finish, the learning analytics section includes a link to a PDF of the entire 337-page October 2012 issue of the Journal of Educational Technology & Society with 10 articles—nearly half of its content—focused on “the maturation of learning analytics and its impact on teaching and learning” (p. 27 of the Horizon Report).

Next: On the Four- to Five-Year Horizon (3D Printing & Wearable Technology)


NMC Horizon Report 2013 (Pt. 2 of 4): The Near (One-Year) Horizon of MOOCs and Tablets

February 6, 2013

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.

Horizon_Report--2013While 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)


The Present, Presents, and Presence of Libraries

July 9, 2010

After writing yesterday about how newspapers and magazines are evolving and redefining themselves, I woke up this morning to a National Public Radio (NPR) report about the continuing evolution and redefining of libraries—those familiar institutions which, among other things, house and provide one among many potential points of access to the evolving newspapers and magazines.

The point of the NPR report was that Stanford University’s Engineering Library is reopening soon in a new building with major changes, including an 85 percent reduction in the number of books on its shelves to make room for digital and e-learning resources as well as an “engineering commons” along the lines of the increasingly popular information commons model. The changes parallel what has occurred elsewhere, as documented in a Boston Globe report in September 2009 about the complete elimination of books in a New England prep school’s library. And in a CNN report that same month about the changing nature of libraries to include their role as “digital learning centers.” And in a New York Times article published in May 2005 to document the removal of books from the library at the University of Texas at Austin.

For those of us who love books and all they offer, the news might have been expected to have induced a new onslaught of depression over rapid change and the ensuing sense of loss. But, strangely enough, I found it more interesting than frightening since it doesn’t leave me with visions of a bleak, bookless future. It inspires, instead, an acknowledgment of the present situation of libraries which set books alongside other resources. An appreciation for the multitude of presents (in the dual sense of “presents” as gifts and “presents” as time frames) available in libraries. And an appreciation for the presence of different types of vital, vibrant libraries in our lives.

I still am a complete library junkie. I finished earning my Master of Library and Information Sciences degree last year—17 years after taking my first job in a library. Part of my work as a trainer, writer, and consultant keeps me in touch with colleagues in libraries throughout the country. And whether I’m in Washington, D.C. to attend a conference, in Florence on vacation, or in a small town like Benicia, California on a training assignment, it doesn’t take me long to find a physical library so I can see what it offers the community it serves. But I’m just as likely to use the services of online (digital) libraries; to maintain a small, bursting-at-the-seams personal library at home; and to explore ideas of what actually constitutes a library at this point in our lives.

If we define libraries as places where information resources are organized, preserved, and made available to the customers they serve; as places where learning occurs; and as community centers in the spirit of the “library as place” movement, we find that the containers—the books—are only one part of the entire mix of what defines contemporary libraries. And if we recognize that “community” can be a small geographic setting or an online group spread over a region, a country, a continent, or the entire world, we broaden our concept of who libraries serve and how they deliver those services.

Talking about libraries in personal terms brings these reflections and changes to a level any of us can understand. If we look at our own personal (home) libraries, we are likely to find that they include books; magazines; CDs; DVDs; and laptops and/or desktop computers and/or smartphones and/or iPads. We even find that our methods of organizing our own collections are rapidly changing. We might have our books arranged in any number of ways which make sense for the collections we have developed; our online files in Google Docs or some other cloud-computing tool; and our links to online versions of newspapers and magazines and websites organized though an aggregator such as iGoogle or Netvibes or Pageflakes.

So as I think about the Stanford University Engineering Library and others that are reducing the presence of books while creating homes for and access to other resources which are becoming essential elements of large and small contemporary libraries, I acknowledge the sense of loss that frequently accompanies change. But I find it balanced by a sense of excitement and anticipation as I watch information containers such as books being joined by a variety of other information containers. And I take comfort in the thought that we don’t need to fall into the trap of making this an either-or choice since there is nothing stopping us from creating libraries with as many information containers as we need to meet our ever-evolving needs.


FreE-Learning

January 19, 2010

Bill Hogan’s feature on free e-learning opportunities—“FREE-Learningin the January-February 2010 issue of AARP Bulletin provides yet another reminder that online learning is quickly becoming more and more accessible to increasingly large numbers of students of all ages.

Not only “can you learn just about anything you want to learn without setting foot in a classroom,” he writes, but a lot of what is available is “free, without restrictions or catches” for anyone with access to the Internet—which, of course, means most people with access to public libraries.

Hogan does a great job of introducing his readers to how to access these free resources by providing short tips on the types of Internet connections learners need, how to play audio and video files, what software is needed, and what sort of devices are available for those wanting to “learn on the go.”

More importantly, he leads learners to resources including “nearly 2,000 academic courses that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” has posted online at no charge to users. Even the most cursory tour of the MIT site reveals links to more than 1,900 courses in broad subject areas including architecture and planning; engineering; health sciences and technology; humanities, arts, and social sciences; management; science; and cross-disciplinary topics. Courses appear to include a variety of resources including video lectures and lecture notes, reading lists, assignments, exams and solutions, and, in some cases, links to online textbooks—a boon for those all too familiar with the cost of printed textbooks.

Another gem within the article is an introduction to Stanford University’s Open Culture website which, in turn, provides links to “250 free online courses from top universities” including Columbia, Stanford, UC Berkeley,  UCLA, Yale, and others. Among the subject areas covered are architecture, art history, biology, computer science and artificial intelligence, cultural studies, economics, history, information science, literature, and philosophy.

A guide to e-learning sites at the end of the online version of the article leads learners to a variety of resources ranging from webcast.berkeley and howcast to TED Talks and interviews and lectures involving Nobel Prize winners.  

And for those who have been wanting to experiment with e-learning and need guidance on how to learn effectively using online learning resources, that too is readily available. With e-learning continuing to expand into what Hogan has so wonderfully dubbed Free-Learning, our biggest challenge may be to carve out the time to absorb even a fraction of what is available to us.


%d bloggers like this: