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Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Is the Next Generation? | EDUCAUSE Review

If we want to see our digital learning environments evolve quickly and in a particular direction, we need to understand what evolution means. What are the generational changes that have happened so far, and what were the drivers for those changes?

Photo: Michael Feldstein
"When people use the phrase "next generation," they often mean something as vague as "better than what we have now."" argues Michael Feldstein, has a long and eclectic background in education, from teacher to blended an online education program administrator to educational technology product designer to ed tech analyst and consultant.

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative used the phrase in its 2015 paper The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment: A Report on Research.1 The title begs certain questions. Next generation of what? What have been the generations so far? What defines a shift from one generation to the next? What drives that shift? These are important questions to answer if we want to see our digital learning environments evolve quickly and in a particular direction. We need to understand what evolution means and how it happens.

In the definitions section of the report, the authors' description of what they mean by "next generation" includes the following:
We have adopted the term next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE) for what should come after the LMS [learning management system] era. The term pulls together several key themes. What comes next must be informed by the new learning-centered model that increasingly characterizes higher education practice (hence next generation). It must of course be digital, given that digital technology has become a component of virtually all teaching and learning practice. It must be about learning, since learning ties together learner and instructor. Finally, it must be an environment or ecosystem — a dynamic, interconnected, ever-evolving community of learners, instructors, tools, and content.
These ideas — a digital learning environment that is focused on learning (rather than administration) and is modular to accommodate different pedagogical needs — are not new. There are some specifics in the paper that address details that update the concept based on recent developments such as the growth of learning analytics, but the basic idea of a "next generation LMS" or "post-LMS" that is modular enough and pedagogically focused enough to feel like a generational shift has been around for over a decade now.

I was involved with one effort to promote these principles at the State University of New York (SUNY) back in 2005.2 We failed — by which I mean that we did not gain enough traction to persuade SUNY to fund the system. Since then, I have seen various incarnations of the idea come and go. LMSs have made some progress toward these goals through the incorporation of integration standards like the IMS Global Learning Consortium's Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). But the progress hasn't yet amounted to the kind of holistic step-function change that EDUCAUSE is calling for in the NGDLE framework or that others have called for in the past, even though the idea seems popular enough and evergreen.

This is not to say that the LMS has remained in complete stasis for the past twenty years. There have been several inflection points that could be described as "generational" changes. If we want to drive an intentional generational change, then it's worthwhile to look back at the evolution of the LMS, how one might define the generational changes that have happened so far, and what the drivers for those changes have been. Perhaps we can learn how to be more effective at catalyzing change in the learning platforms that are available to us. 

Michael Feldstein end his article with following, "If we want a next generation digital learning environment, then we'd better be ready to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty."   
Read more... 

Recommended Reading
Acceleration: A Degree-Completion Strategy for Online Adult Students by Robin Colson, Director of Research & Evaluation at the University of West Florida Innovation Institute.

Additional contributions to this article were provided by Peter Shapiro, Florida State College at Jacksonville; Naomi Boyer, Polk State College; and Kendall St. Hillaire, Indian River State College. 

Source: EDUCAUSE Review