Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Virtualization of Education

I attended an online webinar earlier today, sponsored by Ambient Insight, an online market based research firm, on the topic of the virtualization of education. I've read more and more about this topic online of late. It is hard to avoid hearing about it online, and Clayton Christensen's book Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns has made its way around our district so there's been some discussion locally as well.

This is a topic that fosters great discussion among educators and the public alike. Everyone has an opinion on school, and most people I've talked with are firmly in the camp that there is little chance online learning will substantially impact traditional education

I disagree. Ambient's research, and predictions based on existing trends, would seem to support my position! Here is a slide from their presentation showing the growth of pre-K-12 online learning:

What I find really interesting though is the predicted growth of blended learning that takes place in both schools and online. Check out the growth in the yellow slice of pie, above! Here is some other interesting, recent, information:

Even the U.S. Government appears to be getting in on the game. Here is a slide providing an overview of a recent US Education report, with the headline touting the effectiveness of online learning! In one of the most interesting parts of today's webinar, the presenter was talking about the number of U.S. states that are starting to mandate giving students access to online learning. The topic of cost savings came up when it was shared that online students draw, on average, half of what brick and mortar students get in education funding. Those are potentially huge savings.

The final interesting point I took out of today's webinar is this final slide, showing the evolution of a variety of different online educational trends. LMSs, which we have spent so much time focusing on, yet don't even use yet, are the first wave with Social Learning Platforms the third wave. Licensing models are moving towards no licenses, and business models are then looking to collect $ from subscriptions and advertising.

The social part of these trends is what appealed to me the most. Research I have read suggests teachers and pedagogy are at the top of the list in determining the effectiveness of online education. Social networks are taking off, and the trend is for peer to peer social learning to take more of a role with teachers developing more of a facilitator role than providing direct instruction.

I don't think there is going to be any avoiding this, and I also think that if we do this right, many of our students are going to benefit and get better educations than they do now.. I think I see some more reading in my future.


(if you want the .pdf of the whole presentation, it is available along with others here:

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