Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Online Education: Podcast and Article

Interesting discussion on online education. Check out related article.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

President Obama's Push for Education

I was thrilled to read that President Obama strongly believes in investing in education to help the US find its way out of this economic mess.

"Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result -- by tapping the incredible innovative and generative potential of a skilled American workforce," Obama said.

President Obama is absolutely right. The future lies in investing in education. As someone in the elearning industry it is self-evident that the US has the technology know how to leverage present-day technologies (without having to invest in futuristic programs) to educate its citizens in new and innovative ways. And yes, this is an understatement.

"Now is the time to build a firmer, stronger foundation for growth that will not only withstand future economic storms, but that will help us thrive," he said on the Macomb campus.

Technologies such as WebEx Training Center from Cisco (and similar technologies), Instant Messenger (IM), Voice-over-IP (VOIP), Google Apps, Broadband Internet connection are mature and widely used, especially in the technology industry today. There is absolutely no reason why with a little assistance from the government these technologies can't be extended to average citizens, community colleges and schools. Moreover there is no shortage of open source technologies with ample following and support that can be leveraged to achieve the goal of making education and training easily available, effective and affordable to the every US citizen.

Despite the downturn and the threat of losing American jobs, there is little doubt that the US is still very much the center of technological innovation the world. The President has set the stage by emphasizing the Government's commitment, it up to Congress to follow through on his vision and for the industry to help realize this vision.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Push for Online Universities

I read an interesting article recently by CHRISTOPHER EDLEY JR, Dean of UC-Berkeley School of Law suggesting that California should go in for a full-fledged Online University.

No budgetary alchemy will allow us to educate the state's future university students in the same way we do now but with less money. The budget cuts caused by the state economic crisis are real and huge, leaving two choices. Educators can do less with less, or we can explore new ways of providing value to California and the nation by doing more — albeit differently — with less.

I couldn't agree with him more. With new technologies emerging (cloud computing, netbooks, online collaboration solutions) every day and relatively established mature technologies such as Learning management systems, VOIP, desktop sharing, online meeting solutions etc. there is no reason why the state of California with all it technology potential can't make this a success.

With a computer (equipped with a headset, microphone and webcam), and Internet access, students and teachers can be pretty much located anywhere in the world. The content (homeworks, course material, tests etc.) can all be available in the cloud using technologies such as Google Apps, for instance. Recordings of each lecture can be made available after the class (much like businesses recording a Webex meeting). Students can collaborate and communicate among themselves and the teacher through IM, Message boards, Email, Twitter etc. The intent is not to replace the conventional classroom but to provide other options for education that takes advantage of available emerging technologies and is in tune with the times.

Britain's government-funded Open University, begun 40 years ago, offers some lectures in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corp. It claims 5 percent of Britain's adult population has taken at least one of its courses, and it ranks second in student satisfaction out of 258 British institutions, with high marks from government inspectors, too. Closer to home, many talented Californians opt for the pricier online University of Phoenix over California's public four-year campuses, presumably for convenience and schedules — or because of our shortage of seats

While businesses have adopted these new technologies for training, sales and marketing, the Universities have been remained slow in doing so. For example, a number of people work from home these days. Email, IM, and screen sharing technologies have become common place in most companies (and even social networking!).

Universities have been slow partly due to bureaucracy and partly because there hasn't exactly been pressure on them from any quarters in this direction. With the shortage of funds, and a dire need to educate the workforce in a globally competitive world, perhaps the time has finally come when the Universities might take more notice than ever before. The move towards Online has been a no-brainer to most people in the industry but its great to see University leadership pushing for education to go online in addition to the traditional methods.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Educational Sites: Citizen Journalists, Civics' Lessons for kids

There is little doubt about the power of Internet in the field of education. I came across two useful educational sites today, each useful in its own way.

The first is a site promoted by retired Supreme Court Justice Day O'Connor, aimed at teaching kids about the Government, the Courts and Civics, in general. It a simple and informative site targeted and tuned for kids. To develop greater civic engagement there is no better place to start than with kids. Teachers can make use of this site as well to teach, develop lesson plans etc.

The second is a site aimed at educating the "citizen journalist" to be a better reporter. (I first read about this site here). In this day and age where pretty much anyone with Internet access and PC (or cell phone) can be a reporter (of some sort), a site of this nature can be of great help in learning from the experts.

As someone in the education business, it is always great to see new sites emerge to serve specific targeted educational needs.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Online Learning Gets a Boost

The WSJ had a news article about Jack Welch lending his name to an Online University program.
A couple of interesting data points from the article:

Boston research firm EduVentures Inc. estimates that 11% of the roughly 18.5 million U.S. college students took most of their classes online in the fall of 2008, up from 1% a decade ago.

Online higher education will generate revenue of $11.5 billion this year, EduVentures says.

Here is another interesting article describing the threat to traditional universities from the growth of new technologies.

One thing for sure. The smartest students want to get an "A" without having ever gone to the lectures. They understand that there are better ways of learning than being the passive recipient of a one-way, one size fits all, teacher-focused model where the student is isolated in the learning process. When the cream of the crop of an entire generation is boycotting the formal model of pedagogy, the writing is in the wall.

The same author has another article on the same issue with links to related articles.

I argued that is a widening gap between the model of learning offered by many big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up digital best learn. The reaction on Twitter, mainly from students has been enormously positive.