“Skate to where the puck’s going, not where it’s been,” – Wayne Gretsky
The quote from hockey star Wayne Gretsky was one of the recurring themes of EDUCAUSE 2013. Many of the EDUCAUSE sessions were striving to help IT get out in front of their user base and prepare to support new, emerging styles of learning. Here’s a cross section of some of those sessions, related hallway discussions, and a general wrap up of EDUCAUSE 2013.
If there is one product that IT people universally groan about, it’s Blackboard. This is partially due to Blackboard’s ubiquity; any product with so many users is bound to elicit complaints. But there are also substantive issues, like weak support, poor software performance, and lack of a mobile strategy. As a side note, it should be noted that some of Blackboard’s largest competitors, like Jenzabar, are not faring much better. On the other hand, Canvas, a relatively new contender, is emerging as the hot LMS platform.
With this as the backdrop, Blackboard delivered a session on the future of education: Education 2020. To clear the air, a manager from Blackboard admitted that they had taken their eye off the ball while busy acquiring other companies, and had missed the transition to mobile. The good news is that they now have a solid plan to integrate their family of companies and products, and they will be launching a series of innovate new products. They are also offering a free MOOC platform and even a MOOC course of their own – on the subject of badging.
Blackboard’s view of the future of education includes mobile everywhere, embracing non-traditional learners, making education truly learner-centric, incorporating consumer preferences, and making more use of big data. They have witnessed an explosion of online learning, even in the lower grades. Research shows that 26% of 3-5th graders are interested in taking an online class. Parents are now value shopping and looking for schools that offer the most engaging content.
The concept of adaptive learning involves applying computing technology to specifically tailor content to students’ individual needs. The technology to accomplish this was pioneered by, among others, Knewton and Arizona State University. Inside Higher Ed’s Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology found that one-third of faculty members have used adaptive learning and 61% agree that adaptive learning has “great potential to make a positive impact on higher education.”
McGraw Hill launched a product line in this space called LearnSmart in 2009. At EDUCAUSE 13, they hosted Unleashing the power of adaptive learning, a session on how their adaptive learning product works and how it benefits students and faculty.
Session presenter Michael Windelspecht, director of the introductory biology program at Appalachian State University, discussed how LearnSmart is structured. Students are given questions to answer at the end of each assignment. Along with their answers, they indicate how sure they are of each answer. The software not only lets the instructors know which students are completing the assignments, it also predicts when individual students will start to forget the content and which students are starting to feel stress.
Text books are no longer simply passive in how they provide content to the student. With adaptive learning software integrated into eBooks, they are capable of highlighting passages that individual students need to concentrate on, based on how the student has answered the questions. Just when you thought the cost of college texts might be headed downward with the advent of on-line and digital textbooks, adaptive learning technology will be sending prices in the other direction. However, the benefits in terms of individualized and self-paced learning could far outweigh these costs.
The Future Of Classroom Design
One of the most popular sessions at EDUCAUSE was Building for Global Collaboration: Transforming Your Campus Learning Spaces through Pedagogy, People, Technology, and Vision by Maya Georgieva, Associate Director, Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at NYU Stern School of Business. The session described how NYU is designing classrooms for their global network university, which encompasses three major world-wide campuses.
Here is some of the advice that Georgieva gave to the highly-engaged audience:
- Consider pedagogy first with clearly defined pedagogic goals
- Strive to keep it flexible and future-proofed, yet bold and creative
- Keep it student centered
- Start by building a prototype
- Be prepared to be disruptive
What are your thoughts on these topics? Feel free to comment here or tweet the author at twitter.com/RHNilsson.