The year 2017 has been a great success for the e-learning industry. Looking back, we have seen advances in trends like gamification, blended learning, the rise of Experience API (xAPI), and numerous other developments. Being on the verge of 2018, one can only guess what the next year will have in store for the e-learning and education landscape.
To gain an idea of what to expect in the coming year, I turned to the experts here at EDGE Learning Media, to see what their predictions are for the education industry in 2018. Here’s what they had to say:
Chief Executive Officer
Blended learning will come to mean both off-campus and on-campus learning. Moreover, there will be a migration from the traditional face-to-face and distance learning models, to blended learning. As such, off-campus teaching and learning will become organised and scheduled in the same way as on-campus learning.
Education providers have collected decades worth of content. As the off-campus learning opportunity becomes more learning-resource-centric, these education providers will need to take greater responsibility for managing their own learning resources.
Investopedia (n.d.) defines a ‘gig economy’ as one in which ‘temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace’ and ‘companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees’. I predict that this ever-growing gig economy will significantly affect education, and especially the importance of online learning.
Traditionally, the data that could be obtained about a student’s progress was limited to factors such as attendance or assessment scores (e.g. tests, assignments and examinations). Furthermore, it often relied on anecdotal evidence of performance, provided by lecturers or tutors. All of these are only a finite representation of a student’s level of understanding and ability.
On the whole, the learning experience is increasingly migrating to an online space. As such, it has also become possible to record and codify student behaviour, and map it against progress and outcomes. By identifying patterns, predicting stumbling blocks, and then altering the experience in real time, learning can become more efficient. In this way, education providers will become increasingly reliant on big data, to help them shape the learning experience. Additionally, through big data, as well as the application of artificial intelligence (AI), online learning will be able to fulfil the role of the tutor, lecturer or teacher, who can identify with and respond to the individual.
Focus on throughput rates
Local universities are under significant pressure to serve over 1 000 000 students – despite only being equipped to serve around 600 000. In addition, it typically takes students four to six years to complete a three to four year degree. This means that admission of new students is limited. The higher education industry needs to find solutions to these challenges – to not only give students access, but also an opportunity to succeed. Whether this is done through focus on research rather than assessment, or complete redesign of the curriculum, something must give.
Marilette Van der Colff
Lead Content Specialist at EDGE Learning Media for Humanities, Media and Management Studies
Symbiotic relationship between print textbooks and learning in cyberspace
The Oxford English dictionary defines ‘symbiosis’ as the ‘interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both’ (Oxford Dictionaries, n.d.). Based on my recent virtual and face-to-face interactions with students from various private higher education institutions, I believe that we will have to nurture the symbiotic relationship between online and face-to-face modes of tuition – now, more than ever.
At EDGE, we are definitely geared toward a blended learning experience, in that we cater for the student who has access to state-of-the-art technology, as well as the student who does not. The future of teaching and learning in South African tertiary education should revolve around our students, and their unique learning needs and profiles. Therefore, in my mind, 2018 should draw from the best that technology and traditional print textbooks can offer, in order to provide South African students with the holistic and rock-solid academic foundation that they need.
A focus on assessment in the blended learning context
This is not a prediction as such, but rather, a brief comment on the requirement for education providers, textbook creators and instructional designers, to engage with curriculum specifications responsibly. Cyberspace provides us with a beautifully explosive and disruptive space for teaching and learning, and textbooks are written portals into new knowledge domains. I feel strongly that, as creators of learning experiences (whether these experiences occur online, in the classroom, by lamplight, or by candlelight), we should remember that learning outcomes (and their associated assessment criteria) remain unchanged across various modes of delivery. Outcomes and assessment criteria should therefore always be the blueprint that informs assessment opportunities, which we, as architects of learning experiences, create for the student – whether this student engages with interactive content, reads an e-book by lamplight, or studies a print textbook by candlelight. Ultimately, all of these students write the same exams. Let us always remember this.
Fees Must Fall
After another year of disruptions, public universities will begin to offer online learning in a more significant way. This move will serve to mitigate the impact of protests on studies, and possibly to provide lower-cost alternatives to in-house degree programmes.
Head of Instructional Design (Team Lead)
Neuroscience has a role to play in education
With diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) on the rise, psychologists and educators alike are recognising the role that neuroscience has to play in education and learning. We may find an increase in neurocognitive or neuropsychological strategies being implemented in the classrooms of both schools and tertiary institutions – as well as in blended learning environments.
Education versus learning: Is education becoming irrelevant?
The classic view of education is one in which elders (possessors of knowledge) disseminate knowledge to the youth (empty vessels waiting to be filled). However, with advances in technology, as well as the emerging views and approaches of millennials, members of the youth are rapidly deciding how and what they want to learn. At times, they are even surpassing the knowledge of their elders, by having greater access to information at their fingertips. This may continue to change the face of education, both locally and globally.
Instructional Design Research and Development
SETA accredited online courses
Thus far, it seems that SETA accreditation has not yet been achieved in any significant way in the e-learning space. This creates a window of opportunity, and it is only a matter of time before someone pursues it.
Virtual reality (VR) in education
Virtual reality will be given a lesser focus in 2018. Because VR has failed to gain traction in other areas, it is likely that education will follow suit in the year to come.
Globalisation and shared economies of knowledge in the e-learning landscape
The term ‘globalisation’ has become well-entrenched in our modern vocabulary. Its applications are broad; however, in a general sense, it refers to the process of global convergence, which leads to increased interconnectedness, interdependence and exchange. This can be applied to all areas of human life – from economics, to commerce, communication, culture, art, and knowledge at large. Linked to this, is the notion of ‘knowledge economies’. This concept denotes a shift away from previous models for determining value – toward an ‘economic value’ defined by ideas, innovation, creativity and know-how.
Both of these concepts have become intrinsic to how we understand, and participate in, the modern world. Because of this, they also have significant implications for education – i.e. how, why and what we learn. E-learning has, and will continue to, play a pivotal role in this regard, by encouraging worldwide exchange of ideas, and thereby adding value to our knowledge economy. This is noteworthy in the local context. As citizens of a non-first-world country, South African students are not simply passive observers; rather, they are able to participate in global conversation and exchange, and thus contribute to it, through the development of thoughts, ideas and innovation. My prediction is that, as our local institutions continue to face a state of crisis, students will turn more directly to the global community for knowledge formation. As such, even when online learning opportunities are targeted directly at the local market, students will be encouraged to locate this knowledge within the broader global context, and orientate themselves accordingly.
This might mean showing favour toward international online learning programmes (e.g. Coursera), disseminating and sharing knowledge in domains that bring global communities together (e.g. online social/business networks or forums), or even seeking employment at multinational organisations (e.g. Dimension Data).
Private universities to boom
In light of the Fees Must Fall and Free Education Bills that are about to be passed, we will see many private universities being established across the country. Curro is a salient example of this, as they are preparing to open two universities in 2018.
Rather than following a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, online courses will become more personalised. In this way, students will be able to select courses that cater to their unique requirements, so that they can grow and develop in line with their individual aspirations and interests.
Development Project Manager
Online short courses / YouTube how-to’s
We are currently seeing a variety of how-to’s emerging on YouTube – from cooking to coding, and everything in-between. The viewer chooses what to watch, and whom to follow, and curates the content accordingly. This well-written and beautifully presented content is setting new expectations, especially with regard to the kind of content that people are willing to pay for. As the saying goes: ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’. Educators seeking to migrate to online video formats will therefore need to rise with the tide, if they want to keep their students fully engaged. I predict that we will see more short courses emerging online, as YouTubers continue to experiment in this space.
Analytics is not only about collecting data; it is also about what you do with this data. Concurrently, collecting too much data makes it difficult to identify trends and behaviours. I predict that the analytics trend will continue to move toward capturing only what is needed – in other words, the objectives have to be clearly defined upfront, in product development. This will act as a form of protection, by safeguarding users against hacks and government subpoenas. The popular messaging app, Whisper, refers to this as ‘privacy by design’.
A focus on online pedagogy (and andragogy) in the South African higher education environment
Higher education institutions are planning to shift their traditional classroom-based courses to online platforms (primarily due to political and financial factors). As such, education research is likely to place greater focus on how students experience online learning, and how online learning can be improved through pedagogies (and andragogies in particular). Perhaps, there will be research into new ‘e-pedagogy’ itself.
Instructional design courses offered in South Africa
In South Africa, instructional design is still a relatively new field of profession. Because of this, education providers (particularly those offering qualifications and training to teachers) may introduce this as a subject in their teacher training programmes, or even create a degree qualification that is entirely focused on instructional design.
The impact of the rise in e-learning on disadvantaged populations
As online learning becomes more popular in South Africa (as a result of numerous sociopolitical factors), the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is likely to widen, in terms of access to education. Printing of paper-based textbooks may decrease, which will impact the prices of these learning resources. Concurrently, as data costs continue to rise, a large percentage of the population will be unable to afford the technology that is necessary for participation in online courses.
Competition in the e-learning industry
As more institutions and organisations turn to online learning, South Africa’s e-learning industry is likely to experience rapid growth. This growth will be accompanied by fierce competitiveness, which will drive companies to become increasingly innovative. This is bound to have consequences, as innovation comes with a price (literally). As a result, those who were unable to access online courses before (see previous topic), may be even less likely to do so now.
Multi-language online learning
South Africa has 11 official languages. In light of this, I believe that it will become imperative for online learning platforms to consider offering text-based content in multiple languages; or, similarly, to provide language selection for video content. It has been documented that learning in one’s home language does not require students to ‘relearn’ content in English, as they will be able to communicate the content in English once they have gained a conceptual understanding thereof. This is the future of diverse online learning, and we will begin to see this soon.
Remote (electronic) internships
E-learning platforms will begin to offer internships in conjunction with reputable universities and institutions, so that students can gain valuable experience from different countries. These ‘e-interns’ would learn the different methods, philosophies and practical approaches that these international (or national) institutions use in their respective fields. South Africa will benefit from this, as e-interns can gain experience at a fraction of the cost, and will likely choose to work in their home country once they have this experience.