Unfortunately today we are still seeing some echoes of the ‘Harvard’ and ‘Oxford’ approach to learning which has left some people in the new generation still trying to fulfil what their parents see as the ‘right’ college or university to attend, whereas in fact the real learning for 99.999% of the rest of the universe is expected to be done at a low cost, low expense and yet at a high quality level and this will sooner or later overtake these ‘old-school’ educational elephants that need to be put out to pasture.
So putting it simply, due to the intense growth of learning through technology it is now clear that online learning is now being taken extremely seriously and people are wanting it more than anything.
As with any kind of change (particularly technologically), the onset comes in three steps.
- The introduction of the new e-learning idea, creating an amazing buzz and a lot of people jumping on the new latest thing and running with it. Why? Because it is new and exciting and different. Only problem is, it is too new. Therefore there are a lot of things that just don’t work well, and often they collapse and everyone loses their money and people are disillusioned by it. E.g. the bubble, etc In other words, the expectation exceeds the reality, so the consumer becomes disappointed.
However the real movers and shakers keep persisting. Not only in making their software better, but also understanding how people interact online. They realise it is not the same….but how?
- And so becomes the second stage. The re-introduction of the new e-learning idea – which is the second launch of a new technology, and again the same thing happens, people have already been feed on a diet of technological developments so have changed how they perceive things online and are therefore expecting something different again. Ultimately the match is still not made perfectly and disillusionment and mismatching of expectations is still present, but though business drops again, the market can see something in what is happening, and so are a little less ruthless with those who failed. In other words, the expectations of the market are not unrealistic, but different.
But for those who are aware that there is still something in this technology approach and persist, do tend to spend more time listening to the market rather than their own grand ideas. This is where the simple and brilliant ideas start to take hold, and often the learning that is done here is the most long term and most consistent.
- And finally begins the real development of e-learning. This is not about the computer, it is not about the software itself, it is not about the content, it is all about the customer and what they actually want and how they want it. This is where e-learning has had it’s biggest shake up. One of the most important developments in this stage was that the provider had to realise that the customer, purely because they are receiving something online, expect that it has to be more convenient than face to face, it has to be more effective than face to face and most of all extremely cheap. In other words, the market has shifted as well as the technological development. So begins the true marriage of today’s business world.
No. 3 is a very tall order, and face to face learning has always been considered the ultimate. For years educational philosophers were saying that no one will ever take away the great teacher, a computer will never be able to do what a great teacher does (something I still believe in to a certain extent), but in turn a great teacher will cost you a lot of money. So therefore, does that mean that people who cannot pay the big price for a real live great teacher is only going to receive second best? No, this is where things get interesting. In fact, it is now up to schools to consider how in fact students can get more and pay less for it from incredibly useful technologies. This is the sweet spot that most companies are trying to find and a lot still don’t get it.
A lot of schools today say, we are not a tech company we are a school….my answer is that if you want to stay in the education business, you had better become a tech company because if you don’t you’ll be left behind, or you will be stuck with all the second hand ‘customised’ technologies that saturate the middle ground and end up being just like everyone else, trying to teach your subjects the old fashioned way with a new tool. This is the biggest trap.
Trying to solve the problem of understanding the minds of the new learners today and how they want to learn and at what cost is the key to truly educating our future generations. Fortunately today there are solutions to these problems, we just haven’t totally found them yet, but we need to all be ready and/or searching ourselves because it will definitely happen.