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Here are some notable quotes about the world of online learning from the past several months.

On blended learning

“Blended learning, which once referred to use of computer and web-based training in class, has now evolved into a mammoth education program that merges traditional classroom-based instruction with technology enhancements such as electronic whiteboards, Internet devices, multimedia assistance, digital textbooks and online lesson plans.”

Suren Ramasubbu, Co-founder & CEO, Mobicip.com

SOURCE: “The Evolution of Blended Learning,” Huffington Post, February 12, 2015


On the future of MOOCs

“Reports of the death of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may have been greatly exaggerated, but predictions of a pivot toward MOOCs that are more vocational in nature (as opposed to a pathway to a liberal arts degree) appear to have been right on target.”

Sonali Kohli, reporter, Quartz
SOURCE: ““The MOOC model attracting big money from investors,” Quartz, January 15, 2015


On suit over online closed captioning

“Advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing are suing two top-tier U.S. universities for discrimination due to lack of closed captioning in their online educational material.”

Katie Bascuas, Associations Now
SOURCE: ““Deaf Advocates Sue Harvard, MIT For Lack of Online Closed Captioning” Associations Now, February 20, 2015


On online certificates

“In a job market that is increasingly filled with job descriptions that didn’t exist a decade ago or less, workers and employers alike are recognising the value of online certificates…”

Rick Levin, CEO, Coursera

SOURCE: ““Coursera teams up with Google, Snapdeal to develop online courses,” Tech2, February, 14, 2015


On higher education resistance to change

“College and university administrators whose institutions exist to educate—share information with students—believe it’s ‘critical’ to use the greatest system for delivering information ever devised by man, but they’re getting resistance from employees who’d rather cling to the old-fashioned way.”

J.D. Tuccille, managing editor, Reason.com

SOURCE: “Professors Resist Attitudes in Higher Education Innovation,” Reason.com, February 10, 2015


On online career education

“Since 2012, most ed-tech companies have quietly rewritten their product promise from unbridled learning for learning’s sake to a path to a job or career goal — website copy now essentially says “jobs, jobs, careers, jobs.”

Shawn Drost, co-founder, Hack Reactor

SOURCE: ““A Wave Crests: Silicon Valley, Postsecondary Education And A Half-Trillion Dollars”, TechCrunch, December 16, 2014


Copyright © 2015 MindEdge, Inc.

One learner at a time

On a recent visit to a large community college in the South, I heard from faculty members about some of the considerable challenges their students faced balancing work, family life, and their studies. Some had not been well-prepared for college. Not surprisingly, many struggle.

I found the discussion a welcome reminder of how important the personal is in education—and how those of us involved in applying high technology to learning should never lose sight of the individual.

There’s been a great deal of talk the last several years about dramatically expanding access to education through the Internet. Many educators have been excited about reaching vast numbers of learners through massive open online courses, or MOOCs. But it’s worth noting that the first letter of the acronym stands for “massive,” because all too often it seems the emphasis with MOOCs is on signing up as many students at possible, not on actually achieving positive educational outcomes. (Completion rates for MOOCs continue to disappoint).

If we’re serious about improving outcomes, however, we need to focus first on the individual learner—and his or her success. We need to create and perfect learning experiences that are tailored for individuals. The idea is to succeed one learner at a time.

We’ve concentrated on that goal at MindEdge. Our online adaptive learning and diagnostic tools are meant to ensure student success by providing the specific guidance a given learner needs. For example, students can take a diagnostic assessment offered through MindEdge’s writing program and surface those elements or topics (grammar, thesis development, tone of writing, etc.) where improvement is needed, and they are immediately connected to learning resources designed to shore up their skills. We also have found that “pre-tests” are a valuable way to help students “fail forward.” (For more on this, see “The value of pretesting.”)

We’ve taken a similar personalized approach to adaptive learning (AL). Relying on the wisdom of experienced educators, we’ve identified content areas where students struggle and responded with layers of scaffolding—additional explanations, exercises, and drills. Students can opt out of this adaptive learning with a click, but few do. The response to our AL has been very positive. (For more on this, see “Adaptive Learning: Exploring the Iceberg”).

There’s little doubt that the digital revolution can transform the way we learn. Starting from the individual student—and getting that experience right—is the key. If we can do that, then expanding personalized learning to large scale will indeed lead to the much-hoped-for transformation of education generally.


Jefferson Flanders is president of MindEdge. He has taught at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, at Babson College, and at Boston University.

Copyright © 2015 Jefferson Flanders

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-man-working-computer-image35591013

Failure can be a scary word. When we fail at something, we often question our self-worth, our skills, and our goals. But is there a way that “failing” can actually tell us something different about ourselves? Is there a way, rather than be struck down by failure, we can be motivated and even guided by it?

There would be no reason to take a course if you already knew everything about that subject. That said, it can be hard to determine where your gaps in knowledge might fall. This is where pretesting comes in.

Many MindEdge learning resources start with a pretest.

Pretesting is an important part of the learning process. Knowing where students stand in relationship to course material, from the get-go, helps guide their learning. Taking a pretest at the beginning of a course, and at the beginning of each learning module or assignment, can help students in understanding their starting place. They can see which areas need extra attention as they work through the course material. In essence, a pretest guides their learning.

Research by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays, and Robert Bjork at UCLA has shown that “People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail.” Their research further found that “if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information. Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning. It’s an idea that has obvious applications for education, but could be useful for anyone who is trying to learn new material of any kind.” (Source: Henry L. Roediger and Bridgid Finn, Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn,”Scientific American, October 20, 2009)

By initially “failing,” students can see exactly where they need to grow. Benedict Carey, a science reporter for The New York Times who has written a book on learning, puts it well: “We fail, but we fail forward.”


Copyright © 2014 MindEdge, Inc.

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