Three technological changes in on-line adult education that are still underappreciated
The beginning of each year is the time for forecasting what is going to happen in a given industry. These forecasts not always prove accurate, but it is well worth to know the trends, because even the most advanced technologies one day become easily accessible and friendly to educators. This holds true about virtual reality, mobile learning and webinars, although for many years they seemed to be rocket science, for which we were not ready. And definitely education, which can only dream about budgets available in the marketing or industry sectors, was not ready for them.
Fot. Creative Commons Zero (CC0)
So it is time to have a glimpse into the future, but from the present perspective, and concentrate on the aspects, which seem to be underappreciated, because they are our daily bread. I have picked out the phenomena, which are not completely abstract and with each year have a growing impact on how we teach and learn. And the most important part; they can be used almost on the spot.
1. A new wave of on-line courses
Offering your own courses has become not only possible and readily available, but also, to tell the truth, easy and fun. The success of marketplaces like Udemy (also the expansion of its products outside the English speaking countries) proves that anyone can be an educator today. Although it is not based on any refined technology, the functionalities offered by educational platform are impressive. You can not only design and develop your own courses, but also plan and execute their sales.
Not so long ago, the distribution of your own course required skills, such as Moodle installation and operation, whereas business matters, such as marketing and sales were the domain of completely different sectors, which an average educator was completely unfamiliar with. Today, you do not need to worry about servers, plugs, LMSes, and configuring paid or free advertising, not to mention payment gateways. The only thing you need to do is to design and develop a valuable course, and the system will take care of the rest. The system is based on revshare. It provides you with free tools and services, but you need to contribute your knowledge, and, more or less fairly, share the profits.
The key to success, however, is the value of the course. Since the tool and technology are available for everyone, educator roles can be played by individuals unprepared for it. They may be experts in their fields, but not necessarily be fitted to teach adult learners. Are they fiends? Yes, but the majority of them have never heard the word andragogy.
This trend cannot be stopped or counteracted, because technology has become widely available and easy to use (which we have always dreamt of), but this is not the point. This is why it is worth trying to verify what this craze is all about. All you need to do is to set up an account in any educational service and take a look at the methods of creating courses presented there. Those of you who adopt a radical approach to adult education will be disappointed or even angry that anyone can teach now and with such a great ease, the contents are superficial and the form of poor quality. But this is reality, and existing solutions must be improved, not denied.
A good practice example: Artur Jabłoński, an on-line course entitled: Effective advertising on Facebook - excellent marketing of the course is clearly visible here.
2. Video everywhere
Today, it is hard to imagine an on-line course that is not based on video. I think everyone is sick and tired of classic screens to be clicked through as part of e-learning training based on flash technology. Although it pretended to be interactive, in practice it was not user-friendly and made you feel isolated once you logged into the system. And this is a typical shortfall of e-learning: tools are interesting and technology inspiring, but learners do not establish rapport with teachers.
Yet, the simplest solution here is to use video. It may seem simple and straightforward, because talking head does not seem to pose a big challenge, and technology allows us to distribute recordings even without having knowledge of technical aspects of the process. Obvious? Not necessarily! Even a decade ago, uploading a video on a website required not only programming skills, but also proficiency in formats, codecs and encoders. What is more, you had to constantly wrack your brain to ensure that any computer and web browser can play the video.
Today, you can make recordings with a video camera, digital camera or smartphone and the end result can be uploaded on any video platform. And you can do it for free, with ease and without any fuss. The same is true about watching it. Not only computers and mobile devices, but even some cars are being equipped with multimedia centres and dashboards featuring tablets. Video is virtually everywhere.
A good practice example: Arlena Witt, YouTube channel entitled “Po cudzemu”. The author teaches English in an accessible way using a lot of video for this purpose.
3. Going live!
There were times when webinars attracted hundreds of viewers who were mainly interested in participating in this technological phenomenon. Just the mere fact of live broadcasting of video, audio, presentations and instant communicating seemed supernatural. Until now, even television, the temple of audio-visual media services, does not offer interaction opportunities presented by webinars.
There were also disadvantages: broadcasting required a powerful (or at least a well-tested) computer with a robust internet connection. Access to tools and specialised applications was limited and simply expensive. What is more, live education was new to everyone and, as a result, we all feared that a mysterious technology goblin would trip us up. We really were terrified that something would stop working at the worst possible moment. And finally: mastering it all! You have to: speak, write, change slides, launch surveys, look in the camera and read the chat notifications, all at the same time.
Today, launching your live educational programme takes less than a minute. The viewers moved to the social media and coaches seem to be natural born for the camera. Obviously, not always everything runs smoothly, but the most important thing is that we no longer are afraid of technology. Do you want to teach others something important? You create an event on Facebook, switch on an internet camera and get started. And right here we seem to fall into the trap of mediocrity, which results from the lack of preparation, experience and sometimes simply from the fact that you have nothing to say. Fortunately, a new generation of digital natives has arrived, which (unlike the previous one) has independently learned to start the fire and control it. Instead of bowing down before the god of technology, they produce live content en masse.
A good practice example: LiveEdu project, as part of which thousands of programmers learned programming from one another in the form of live meetings.
All these phenomena can be summed up by the following statement: Technology-based adult education has become dead easy, and has dangerously touched upon the topics typical for the world of marketing and social media. Tools have become widely available and relatively easy to use, right at the time when a common believe that knowledge is money prevails. The year 2019 will see the renaissance of using social media as learning tools, and a number of people who are experts in their respective fields will play the role of educators, whether you like it or not.
Piotr Maczuga - for more than a decade has focused on the issues related to the use of new technologies in adult education. Co-author of handbooks on webinars, webcasts, knowledge pills and other. Methodologists, author of training on the use of multimedia in learning and business and publications on the same topic. Head of Digital Knowledge Lab - an educational multimedia production studio operating in Poland as part of the Digital Knowledge Village ecosystem. His professional mission is to remove technological barriers for those who have ambitions to teach others and to contribute to the development of a society, which knowingly and efficiently uses the available tools.
translation NSS Poland
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