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Friday, November 14, 2014

Futurology: Virtual Classrooms Frequent for Universities, Slow for K-12

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Lindsey Cook, data reporter for U.S. News & World Report writes, "We tackle another prediction from the Pew Internet Center, this time for education."

Like health, the technological revolution that would disrupt education has been heavy on optimistic predictions, but short on change. Schools still look much the same as when our parents or grandparents attended: teachers stand in the front of classrooms, lecturing on different topics, while students try to pay attention and learn something. What they learn is later tested and grades are awarded based on their improvement or the knowledge learned.

Computers in schools have skyrocketed in the past two decades and by 2000 most had Internet. Still, the model is much the same, no matter what a student uses to do assignments, take tests or access the library.

In 2004, experts imagined a different landscape for education by 2014. Here's what they thought and how it has turned out: 

Formal education
2004 prediction: Enabled by information technologies, the pace of learning in the next decade will increasingly be set by student choices. In 10 years, most students will spend at least part of their “school days” in virtual classes, grouped online with others who share their interests, mastery and skills.

Almost 60 percent agreed with this prediction and 18 percent disagreed. Education was also ranked No. 2 for institutions experts thought would be disrupted most by the Internet, behind only news/publishing. 

Predictions made this year about 2025 also included many guesses about the future of education. Education and health were mentioned in theme four of the Pew Internet Center's Killer Apps in the Gigabit Age report as economic and social sectors that will be especially impacted by faster Internet. In another report, Digital Life in 2025, one theme was: "an Internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities, with less money spent on real estate and teachers."

Despite the lofty predictions, education has been slow to change. Adult education has been the most receptive to change from the Internet, while universities have started adapting on a wide scale in the last few years. K-12 education is the slowest to change.

Culture is largely to blame. Although the technology for all online learning is there, the desire to push all learning online is not. Like health, things have been done a certain way for a long time and turning the ship takes time, especially in K-12 where decision-makers are spread all over the country and have little competition (if any) from other schools.

Dissenters of the 2004 prediction mentioned culture. One wrote, "I expect that this will take longer than a decade, but it will happen. Schools and colleges are enormously resistant to this kind of change – more so than I would have predicted 10 years ago. As a result, traditional methods of learning will slowly start to compete with the 'upstarts,' first, the 'proprietary colleges.' Then, one or more of the older institutions will get aggressive in this arena – and then an avalanche will occur. At that point, we will truly move from 'teaching' environments to 'learning' environments, where students have more control over when, how, and with whom they learn. Master teachers will copyright their courses and lectures, and multimedia versions of those will become 'best sellers.' In the midterm, this will all lead to a 'crisis' in higher education, as the old breaks away and gives place to the new. The new will be better."The market has changed, even if we haven't fully lost the expert teacher model. Courses are available online from colleges, high schools and free, online learning platforms such as Coursera and Khan Academy. Startups like these and more specific ones such as Code Academy, provide a place for adult learners to increase their skills and knowledge without the rigid educational standards of a formal institution and a learn-what-you-want, when-you-want attitude.

These institutions are just starting to seep into universities. Technology departments use Code Academy as homework lessons. Coursera now offers specialized certificates and many courses through mainstream universities, such as John Hopkins University. Distance learning for adult learners is also the norm for colleges such as Harvard University and the University of California. For postsecondary education, 20 percent of students took at least one distance education course in 2007 – 2008, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

Read more... 

Source: U.S. News & World Report (blog) 

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Helge Scherlund said...

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I appreciate your comment.