I am loving this from EDUCAUSE REVIEW: “Our thinking about digital technology in higher education is shifting away from seeing it as IT infrastructure and instead toward conceiving it as a digital learning environment.”
YES! It is not about the technology. It’s about technology supporting learning.
The article described six trajectories about digital technology in higher education:
- device ownership and mobile-first;
- the textbook and open educational resources (OER);
- adaptive learning technology;
- learning spaces;
- the next-generation learning management system (LMS); and
- learning analytics and integrated planning and advising services (IPAS).
They had lots to say about each. Worth reading if you have chance.
I am most interested in the LMS. In this same publication, they have an article on What’s Next for the LMS? Considering the LMS market in the US is projected to grow at a rate of 23.2% from 2014-2019 according to this report, it is an excellent question. I can see that growth in my work with the growing interest and number of requests for a LMS.
The article notes five critical domains of core functionality.
- Interoperability and Integration: ability to integrate tools and to exchange content and learning data
- Personalization: ability to have different pathways to reach learning goals and adapt to the learner
- Analytics, Advising, and Learning Assessment: ability to analyze all forms of learning data
- Collaboration: ability to collaborate at various levels and digital spaces
- Accessibility and Universal Design: ability for all learners and instructors to participate
I love how they break it down. I am able to map some of it my learning vision.
Interoperability and Integration
ability to integrate tools and to exchange content and learning data
Interoperability is why I am so interested in the Open Health Information Exchange. OpenHIE’s vision is to empower countries to implement health information sharing architectures that improve health outcomes. If we are collecting learning data and people are completing trainings, how do we connect what is happening in learning to government health systems and registries? How can data can be transferred and exchanged from one system to another? It is through interoperatibility that these systems can talk to each other.
ability to have different pathways to reach learning goals and adapt to the learner
Essential for learning. Technology can enable better learning. It is an area for future development that I would come back to. It takes alot to set something like this up.
Analytics, Advising, and Learning Assessment
ability to analyze all forms of learning data and “must include support for new learning assessment approaches, especially in the area of competency-based education”
Competency-based education (CBE) is a big focus these days. What do people actually know and can do with that knowledge? In the US, a Senate hearing was recently held on “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Exploring Barriers and Opportunities within Innovation.” CBE is one of those innovations.
In a letter sent to Congress by a group of 17 institutions piloting CBE, they said “Accreditation, no matter the organization doing it, tends to focus on inputs and prescription, whereas CBE shifts the focus to outputs (the claims one makes for learning and what students can do) and assessment (how we know students have mastered the competencies).”
So how can it be demonstrated that the person achieved the competency? And specifically, what indicator can show that? How can we use the LMS to collect the indicator? Everyone loves data.
One such mechanism is the Experience API. It is a specification to track learners’ experiences. The learner performed an action. “I did this.” An event took place. These events can be as simple as “accessed a resource”, “watched a movie”, “played a game”, “passed a test” or “visited a location”.
With xAPI these actions are collected and stored. It is an overview about what and how people have developed their knowledge, skills and competencies. It is a way to track learning with performance. Can they do that competency?
Designing xAPI will take time. You have decide what are the actions to track and what would be the most helpful in what you want to assess. That is the challenge but totally possible.
ability to collaborate at various levels and digital spaces
Social collaboration. Some people use the phase social learning. People learning, sharing, asking questions among their peers and mentors. Does it matter what term: social learning or social collaboration? I am not sure, but I find it interesting as I think about how social interactions support learning.
Jane Hart describes the difference between social learning and social collaboration:
“Social learning, is of course, not a new concept or a new term; we’ve always learned socially – from our parents, siblings, friends and from our colleagues at work…But a new definition of social learning has emerged in the last few years; one that implies the use of social technology to underpin learning…”
She believes that something is missing in the new definition “…since it takes no account of where and how most social learning takes place…” Additionally, how do you take into account “…when teams and other groups of people, learn IMPLICITLY from one another as a consequence of working together?”
She uses “… social collaboration to describe the sub-set of social learning that is focused around the learning that takes place from working together, and where the emphasis is on achieving business objectives, and measuring its success in business or performance terms.”
Like I said, it probably doesn’t matter which term you prefer to describe the learning. But when it comes to describing the tools, they are collaboration tools. They do need to be part of learning system and made available, whether it is for students doing group work for an assignment or business teams creating a product or simply to pick someone’s brain. Nonetheless, in any case, it is still up to people to develop techniques and strategies on how to engage with each other using the tools. That is what I want to work on.
Accessibility and Universal Design
ability for all learners and instructors to participate and start from a universal design approach
Of course! And globally, got that in many goals and plans. For example:
World Summit Information Society‘s Plan of Action – Action Line 3 “Access to Information and Knowledge” and other lines include action points on inclusion of persons with disabilities. They focus alot on how to gain access to information and knowledge using accessible and inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). At the recent World Summit Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2015 in May, they further discussed “Making Empowerment a Reality – Accessibility for All.”
The Sustainable Development Goals talk about ‘inclusive’ in many of the goals:
- Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all
- Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
I want to integrate some of these concepts in my work as I talk about a LMS. Will one system have all these features? Most likely, not. It will be a mash-up. Is it the future of learning systems? Absolutely.
People come to me and request a LMS. The initial thought is that with this piece of IT infrastructure to disseminate and access content, people will learn. It is much more than that. It is to use digital technology to create the environment conducive to learning. What a huge mindset change. It is the next generation.