Updated: Oct 20
From eLearning to lifelong learning, from virtual classrooms to virtual models and simulations, and from continuing education to future education, Educational Technology (EdTech) continues to redefine the limits of possibilities in education. One relatively unexplored area in EdTech is the human-centric approach to learning design. This article examines how technology must adapt to learning experiences.
Learning should drive technology, and not vice versa
Until some years ago, it was inconceivable that a small handheld device would be a part of life. Learning experiences are yet to see a transformation like the one that happened in mobile phones. For mobile phones, it happened because telecom companies saw value in investing in making mobile technology more ubiquitous. It is time that learning technology organizations follow the example of mobile companies and ask: “Tell us what you want” instead of saying: “This is what we have to offer.”
Virtual classrooms need to be more immersive
The iPhone redefined the touch interface. It made for a more immersive experience. Virtual classrooms need to be more immersive than they are currently. They need to create an environment with which the learner interacts in a natural manner, an environment where everything works. If a lesson describes the top of Mount Everest, then the learner should feel they are at the top of Mount Everest. The learner should not be aware that they are looking from the top of the world through a digital device. They should feel they are (literally and figuratively) on top of the world.
eLearning needs a revamp from the ground up
eLearning needs a rebuild and a reinstall. Rebuild and reinstall are terms used in information technology (IT). That is the first thing eLearning needs to change — being overly IT-focused. It needs to branch out into the non-IT domain. Second, eLearning needs to be more engaging. It cannot just be an interactive slideshow. Finally, eLearning needs to stop being an alternative to the teacher. It is an adjunct to teaching, not teaching itself.
Technology needs to break into behavioral learning or give up trying
Learning instructions have three categories: knowledge, skill, and attitude. Edtech is excellent at imparting knowledge and teaching skills (to some level). However, when it comes to attitude or behavior change, organizations usually prefer a human-human interaction. It makes sense since attitudes are necessarily a human trait. The challenge before EdTech is to impart learning that instills behavioral change. In reality, the eLearning dropout rate suggests that eLearning is not proving to be very useful when it comes to teaching knowledge or skills. Changing an attitude is more complicated than learning a skill or gaining knowledge, and EdTech has struggled with behavior change. EdTech needs to deliver results in behavior training, or reconcile with the fact that it can only aid, but not effect, behavior change.
EdTech needs to leverage Artificial Intelligence
The future lies in adaptive learning, where the curriculum adapts to learner needs, rather than learner adapting to the curriculum. There is a need for Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms that adjust learning content according to learner needs. AI can further help instructors by evaluating assignments and marking assessments. Further, predictive modeling can help identify trends that course designers can leverage to remodel learning strategies.
EdTech needs to realize “Anywhere, Anytime, Anyone” learning
What makes mobile media so effective is its omnipresence (there are countries where smartphone penetration is as high as 80%). The other reason is the availability (due to their form factor). Last but not least, mobile devices are becoming more accessible.
Through the Internet, EdTech can provide learning almost anywhere. However, it is yet to reach the pervasiveness of mobile phones. Maybe, mobile phones can be crucial in delivering learning content, but learning content needs to be mobile-friendly. While EdTech enables anytime learning, one area where it can improve is faster turnaround times in certifications, assessments, and assignments. The biggest challenge that EdTech faces is making learning available to anyone. Section 508 effectively addresses accessibility requirements. However, compliance remains a challenge. Learning programs are yet to break the language barrier, let alone people with special needs.
Mobile phones succeeded because of human-centric design. EdTech possesses the capability to write an even bigger success story by adopting a learner-centric approach.