Trends and Emerging Issues as a result of tremendous growth in E & M Learning
Trends and Emerging Issues as a result of tremendous growth in E & MLearningADRIAN VALENTINE OTENG‘I – SIT/G/01/11ABSTRACTE-learning and m-learning have become key adjuncts to the business world.Organizations use it as a powerful strategy to better leverage their intellectual capital.There are trends and emerging issues in several distinct arenas that influence andshape e-learning‘sand m-learning‘s growth.The first trend in e-learning and m-learning, deals with policy makers andregulators. Nowadays, several national and international policies are happeningtopromote lifelong learning practices. These policies can lead toquantifiableoutcomes such asemployability, human resource development, and digital literacy.Second deals with increasingly complex, competitive workplaces need informationfor businesses: workforce performance improvement. This leads to increaseddemands for better management of an organization‘s intellectual assets: itsknowledge, history, shared experiences, discoveries, record of successes and failures,innovations, and when or where these resources are needed most.The third trend in e-learningand m-learningconcerns the industry. It was no accidentthat teaching at a distance began with thedevelopment of industrial technologies,especially in postalcommunications and transport. The first trains and thefirstcorrespondence courses started at the same time.Even today distance trainingwould not be possible in a society that hadnot yet achieved an adequate level ofindustrialisation.The fourth trend is very important and concerns society and the general public. Anumber of studies suggest that, from a long-term perspective, a wide array ofsocialand community benefits are associated with improved education. These benefitsinclude reduced criminal activity, reduced reliance on welfare and other socialprograms, increased charitable giving and volunteer activity—even attainment ofdesired family size and improved health for the individual and his or her family.Knowing the many ways in which e-learning can improve education, it‘s intriguing toconsider that e-learning may indirectly enhance these areas as well.
INTRODUCTION―E-learning is the collection of teaching – and information packages – in furthereducation which is available at any time and any place and is delivered to learnerselectronically. They contain units of information, self-testing batteries and tests,which allow a quick self-evaluation for quick placement. E-learning offers lowerlevel learning goals. Higher order goals like understanding, reasoning and (moral)judging are more difficult to achieve. They require an individualized interactivediscourse and can hardly be planned‖ (Dichantz 2001)Mobile learning refers to the use of mobile or wireless devices for the purpose oflearning while on the move. Typical examples of the devices used for mobile learninginclude cell phones, smartphones, palmtops, and handheld computers; tablet PCs,laptops, and personal media players can also fall within this scope (Kukulska-Hulme& Traxler, 2005). The first generation of truly portable information has beenintegrated with many functions in small, portable electronic devices (Peters, 2007).Recent innovations in program applications and social software using Web 2.0technologies (e.g., blogs, wikis, Twitter, YouTube) or social networking sites (such asFacebook and MySpace) have made mobile devices more dynamic and pervasive andalso promise more educational potential.The evolution in education and training at a distance can be characterised as a movefrom d-learning (distance learning) to e-learning (electronic learning) to m-learning(mobile learning). These three stages of development correspond to the influence onsociety of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th to 19th centuries, the ElectronicsRevolution of the 1980s and the Wireless Revolution of the present century.Irrespective of the exact definition, mobileand wireless technologies,includinghandheldcomputers, personal digital assistants, camera- phones,smartphones, graphingcalculators, personal response systems, games consolesand personal media players, are ubiquitous in most parts of the world and have led tothe development of ‗mobile learning‘ as a distinctive entity.A key feature of ICT and e-learning is the pace of change and it is critical to considerfuture trends not simply in terms of technological developments, but also in teachers‘and learners‘ skills and expectations. However, it is well established that makingpredictions in relation to technology is often difficult and frequently inaccurate.Digital inclusion is not simply about access to technology it involves meaningfulaccess, technical skills and information literacy. There is considerable interest in thepotential for individuals to become independent learners through the use oftechnology but this assumes a sophisticated learner and at the moment probably onlya tiny proportion of learners have the required skills, knowledge and attitudes.
1. Policy Makers and RegulatorsPrior to the Electronics Revolution, governments regardedtelecommunications as alucrative, monopoly industry. It was linked tosecret defence installations. There wastotal regulation. Developmentcontracts were negotiated between the few monopolyproviders and themilitary or government contractors.Policies, however, associated with the Thatcher government in the UnitedKingdomled to open tenders, and a seeking for improved services, andbetter value forgovernment money.Policies associated with the Reagan government in the United States ofAmerica led tothe breaking of monopolies, especially for the newcellular licences.Telecommunications became consumer driven.Pattern to development of e-learning policyFrom‖ e-learning policy issues: Global trends, themes and tensions‖ by Mark Brown,Bill Anderson and Fiona Murray, we identify a discernible pattern to the developmentof e-learning policy. The firststage occurs as governments act to make e-learningpossible, the second as they work to integrate e-learninginto the education system,effectively, to mainstream e-learning. In the third stage, atransformative role for e-learning is seen, with changes to views of learning and to the nature andoperation ofthe tertiary institutions and the tertiary system.Issues emerging from policy initiativesThese issues aregeneral in nature, focusing on broader questions about e-learningpolicy and its development, not onspecific policy issues. Questions are raised aboutthe way policies might define e-learning; address andacknowledge gaps in e-learningpolicy; align and differentiate levels of policy, and account for thenational and globaleducation context.i. Conceptions of e-learningIn the policy documents, there is no generally accepted definition of e-learning. Thispoint is illustrated clearly by the many variations of spelling and the way e-learning,online learning and distance learning seem to be synonymous. Often the conceptionof e-learning is very broad and in many cases, no explicit definition was provided inpolicy documentation. The idea of blended learning also appears more recently insome policy texts but there is a danger of seeing this concept as largely business asusual. It is noteworthy, however, that poorly defined conceptions of e-learning are notentirely a bad thing as there is reason to suggest that in some countries this may havehelped to avoid setting up a policy framework which does not align with otherinitiatives. In other words, the lack of an explicit definition may have encouraged theembedding of e-learning within existing policy texts.
ii. Supply of and demand for e-learningThroughout policy texts, the emphasis has been on providing supply by buildinginfrastructure rather than focusing on why there would be demand in the first place.The assumption has been that if the right infrastructure is built, people will follow.The fact is that some groups have not made use of the infrastructure to access tertiaryeducation and other services. There was little evidence of any attempt to find outwhat it is that disadvantaged groups and students studying at a distance actually wantin support of their educational aspirations. This point also raises questions about someof the deeper structural barriers to promoting wider access to tertiary education thathave largely been ignored by e-learning policy. The key point is that provision ofaccess is a complex issue and in the current move to personalise learning, moreattention is required on understanding the demand side of tertiary education.iii. Strategies for disadvantaged and under-represented groupsA common feature of the policy texts was few specific strategies for disadvantagedand under-represented groups. In a majority of policy documents, there is little or noreference to such groups and even fewer evaluations that specifically focused ondisadvantaged groups. This is somewhat surprising given the acknowledged genderissues associated with the adoption of technology in society and the number ofminority and indigenous cultures spread across different countries.iv. Current emphasis on e-learning is restrictiveWhen reflecting on the policy initiatives as a whole, there is a sense in which thecurrent emphasis on e-learning is too narrow. Most of the isolated and remote e-learning initiatives took little advantage of the opportunities to widen access to basicgovernment, financial and social services, which may have been lost or neveravailable to these communities. To ensure uptake, arguably, e-learning needs to beembedded within a more comprehensive package of initiatives that allows access to arange of services and addresses issues of social exclusion and access for all. Thus,there is a sound argument for expanding the policy focus beyond e-learning to awider strategy for e-development.v. Maturity of the policy landscapeIn terms of evaluation, there is reason to suggest that research has not always beenacted on or used to inform the next iteration of policy, as the new policy cycle is oftenalready underway by the time findings of any evaluation have been published.Another problem is that while there has been a shift away from infrastructure to astronger focus on learning in a number of policy texts, infrastructure keeps changingand technological developments continue to shape the nature of e-learning.Questions of what citizens truly want from e-learning are not addressed in such ashort policy cycle. Largely the benefits of e-learning are taken-for-granted and few, ifany, cases were found where governments engaged in wide ranging consultation to
establish the type of society and education system people might want to createthrough the use of new digital technology.vi. Greater emphasis on formal aspects of tertiary educationWith some notable exceptions, such as Australia, the vast majority of policy textsappear to focus on formal academic tertiary education, as opposed to post-secondaryvocational training and non-formal e-learningexperiences. The European Open andDistance Learning Liaison Committee share this viewand identify the focus on formaleducation as an important weakness of policy. This does not mean thate-learning isnot happening in less formal learning contexts. There is evidence tosuggest thatprivatetraining organisations and large multi-national corporations use e-learningregardless of governmentpolicy. An emphasis on national e-learning policy may failto recognise these kinds of privatecorporations and organisations with reasonablylarge initiatives in the area of e-learning.vii. Lack of debate and critical dialogueFinally, the lack of debate and critical dialogue on the risks of the investment in e-learning is a consistent theme across the policy texts. The value of e-learning is rarelyquestioned and the discourse is removed from any deeper consideration ofeducational policy. The missing question in the policy discourse is: What kind ofeducation do we want e-learning to help deliver? With notable Scandinavianexceptions, there is rarely any consideration of what type of widely accessible tertiaryeducation system a country might want to create. Most of the policy texts do notexplain ‗why‘ an investment in e-learning will help to meet the commonly agreedgoals of education—such as equity, fairness and social justice.
2. BusinessesDemands for Workplace Performance ImprovementJobs will go where the best trained workforce is. Poor educational skills and illiteracycost business daily through miscalculations, misspellings, or poor comprehension.Industry needs highly educated individuals to drive the growth and productivity.Technology can help lower costs of providing education or provide more effectiveeducation through use of technology. Companies like Cisco increasingly are turningto computer and interactive classes to train their own employees.To succeed in today‘s economy; organizations need to develop core competencies inresponding to and even thriving on change. These competencies depend onemployees‘ ability to think critically, to solve problems, and to anticipate newpossibilities.Growing workplaces demand information, instruction, and training resources whenand where needed. Individuals‘ requirements drive the need for "just-in-time, just forme" learning and performance support tools, both as they perform their current jobsand as they prepare for new challenges. The growing online learning and performancesupport marketplace shows this shift in the balance of power away from providers toindividual learners. No wonder there is a growing impatience with traditionalmethods of designing, delivering, and managing learning experiences. Traditionalmethods are often seen as out of touch with our wired world.To assist in content filtering and selection, e-learning and m-learning typicallycombines the functionality of "just-in-time" access to digital, web-delivered contentwith profiling functionality. Further, it actively leverages online collaborationopportunities, and offers "e-commerce" transactional functionality to facilitatesubscription, purchase or "pay-per-view/hit" options. (Ironically, e-commercetransactional functionality is the cause of so much business-to-business and business-to-consumer attention on e-learning.)e-learningand m-learning provide a combination of features unconstrained byconventional training. e-learning tools can offer individualized, personalized learningby profiling variables such as interests, learning styles, presentation preferences andperformance requirements. They can diagnose skill gaps and prescribe professionaldevelopment activities ensuring the link between learning events and on-the-jobpractice. Individuals can monitor their own progress and determine what the next stepin their professional development should be. Learning resources, ranging fromindividual objects to online communities of professional practice to professionaladvisors and mentors, can be available when and where the learner needs thoseresources.
3. IndustryThe telecommunications industry underwent swift and complex changes inthe 1980s,which constitute an electronics revolution. These changes canbe attributed to threefactors:An urge to deregulateSpeeding up of chipsIntroduction of broadband technologies.Computing technology was introduced into telecommunications in the 1960swith thefirst public, analogue software switchboards dating from themid-1970s. These weredigitalised almost immediately, and were followedby the development of IntegratedServices Digitalised Networking (ISDN)in the 1980s. In the 1990s, seamlessdigitalised connections between fixed and air networks were achieved. In all thesedevelopments, theever-increasing speed of chips was crucial. The processwill beaccelerated with the replacement of silicon chips by nano-chips in theearly 2000s.The development of broadband technology is of vital importance fordistance training,because one needs extensive bandwidth for pictures,audio, video and virtual realities.Broadband is usually defined asrates of more than 2 Mbits per second over a publicswitched network.Interactive multimedia, image processing, data and video are alllargeconsumers of bandwidth.The electronics revolution led to group-baseddistancetraining and opened the way to the net and the web.The electronics revolution changed the nature of distanceeducation, making itpossible to teach face-to-face at a distance, torestore eye-to-eye contact electronically,and to teach groups as wellas individuals at a distance. The mobile revolution willchange the distance student from a citizen who chooses not to go tocollege, to aperson who not only chooses not to go to college, but ismoving at a distance from thecollege.The development of the didactic structures for the implementation of themobilerevolution will fall largely to the open universities and thegovernment distance-training systems, as there is little likelihood thatuniversities will focus didactically onstudents who choose to be mobileaway from them.If there is a rule about the choice of technology for distance trainingit is thattechnologiesthat are available to citizens may succeed.Rarely has a technologypenetrated so quickly andas widely as themobile telephone.There is an unprecedented take up of wireless telephones and wirelesscomputersindeveloped and developing countries alike. The World WideWeb and the Internetare not enough, says the telecommunicationsindustry: wireless access independent of
location and Internet serviceseverywhere is the requirement. The air interface isreplacing the wireinterface.We have only seen the beginning of the wirelessinformation society. But theprotocols for provision are already beingput in place: Bluetooth, GPRS, and WAP.Bluetooth is the universal radio interface for wireless connectivity.Previous portabledevices used infrared links, were limited to 2m, weresensitive to direction, neededdirect line-of-sight, and could only link twodevices. By contrast, the Bluetooth airconnectivity uses radio links,which have much greater range, can function aroundobjects, can gothrough certain materials, and they canalso connect many devices atthe same time.General packet radio system (GPRS) brings official data and internet connectivity tomobile terminals giving instant, transparent, IP accesswith no call set up time.Wireless access protocol (WAP) brings webbrowser usability of the Internet tomobile terminals. It provides data-oriented, non-voice, services, anywhere and at anytime The majormanufacturers are committed to global standardisation of thirdgeneration mobile systems in radio environments like wide-band codedivisionmultiple access.The challenge for distance systems at the dawn of the third millenniumis to developdidactic environments for mobile phones and mobilecomputers as the availability ofmobile devices spreads to a billionusers. The mobile telephone is becoming a trusted,personal device with Internet access, smart card usage, and a range of possibilitiesforkeeping the distance student in touch with the institutions studentsupport services,in contact with learning materials and fellowstudents, while at home, or at work, ortravelling.
4. Society and the General PublicWe cant accurately predict the future of course, but what we can do is watch thetrends. So will learners in 2020 be any different from those we see in our schoolstoday? Will their needs and aspirations have changed from our own? Its highly likelythey will.i. BloggingBlogging is a technology whose time has definitely come as far as e-learning, andindeed the whole academic community, is concerned.In fact, learning to blog effectively is seen as an important skill for those seeking toenter the research community of practice. A study carried out at the Open Universityof the blogging habits of a group of postgraduate researchers over a four-year period(Ferguson et al., 2010), observed how the blogging changed from the first year ofresearch to the completion of the doctorate and early-career researcher jobs.The researchers moved from using blogs as a tool for reflection and collaboration, toa more atomized approach where ideas related to their research were hidden in darkor password-protected blogs (to prevent other researchers getting there first), whilegeneral discussion with the scholarly community was moved to more collaborativetools.Blogging epitomizes the social nature of learning and knowledge, with bloggers andtheir respondents co-creating meaning. It is an excellent tool for academic dialogue –as Wheeler (2010) points out, it is much easier to express a contrary opinion to a blogthan it is to an academic journal article.The way in which the group studied by the OU used a combination of blogging andother media – Twitter for conferences, humour and references, communication toolssuch as Cloudworks, Google Docs and Google Wave for more serious research –illustrates a key new skill researchers must acquire: digital literacy.They must be willing to learn about new tools such as Cloudworks (a type ofcollaborative blog, with members developing web pages or "clouds" for particularideas or issues for discussion), and how best to exploit them.ii. Social GamingSocial Gaming is a term for games that are based on social interaction. Byaugmenting the game logic with social aspects players have to deal with each other invarious ways to advance throughout the game. While social aspects have been part ofmassively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) like World of Warcraftfor quite a while already, the rise of Facebook and Co created the ground for a newfield of games with social interaction as the main focus.
iii. Beyond Learning: Performance SupportThe more common use of mobile learning is in performance support, in effectaugmenting our brains. The goal is to take the digital support we can have at ourdesktops, and make a usable version available wherever and whenever we are. It‘sabout bringing the capabilities our minds don‘t handle well to the problems we face:rote memory, complex computation, exact context capture, and distantcommunication.Typical examples of mobile performance support include job aids, checklists, andmore on phones (see Figure 4). Individuals can access price lists, productspecifications, and more so that they do not have to memorize them. Moreover, datain the environment– bar codes, QR codes, and more – can provide additionalinformation. This goes beyond mobile learning, although context specific tagging canalso augment formal learning.Hybrid Learning Systems Mobile Performance Support ExampleMuch of this is not unique to mobile: we have developed computers as the perfectcomplement to our brains, but the opportunity now is to untether that support fromthe desktop, and let it roam free. Mobile brings the power of digital augmentation,and more, to us wherever and whenever we are. However, there are ways in whichmobile is unique.
This means that while we can use our devices for content viewing for convenience(I‘ve time on the drive/bus/plane/waiting in line), the just-in-time model is the bigorganizational opportunity to affect the performance indicators. Performance supportcan also be in terms of the same content/capture/compute/ communicate model thatapplies to formal learning.iv. Web 2.0 and mobile devicesBut perhaps the most powerful development in mobile learning (m-learning) is thepossibility of combining it with Web 2.0 learning, because mobile devices can nowbe used for social networking and user generated content. This means that m-learningcan be underpinned by the pedagogy of social constructivism.Cochrane and Bateman (2010) offer a powerful case history of a degree course wheremobile Web 2.0 was integrated into all three years of the course, offering aprogression from a teacher-directed pedagogy to student-generated content aroundprojects (heutagogy).In the first year, students were given considerable guidance on how to use the devicesappropriately, but even then they were expected to use them in a fairly advanced way,i.e. for reflective blogging.Claiming that mobile Web 2.0 can be used to facilitate "collaborative, authenticlearning within authentic contexts" as well as metacognition and reflection, Cochraneand Bateman (2010: p. 12) provide the following table showing the affordances ofsmartphones mapped to social constructivist activities:Table I. The affordances of smartphones mapped to social constructivist activities(Cochrane and Bateman, 2010: p. 12)
Mobile technology has proved effective not only for its affordances, but also becausethe mobile network can be cheaper and more reliable than that for broadband. This iswhy mobile phone usage is revolutionizing some parts of the world, for exampleAfrica, as it compensates for poor broadband connectivity and electricity shortages.CONCLUSIONSTechnology is a major force for change. It is a dynamic subject that is continuouslyproducing new ideas and development. However, the adoption and effective use oftechnology in learning operates to a different timeline.Future ChallengesICT and e-learning provide a wide range of challenges including:i. Staff training – the need to ensure the educational workforce has the e-learning and technical skills to employ technology effectively.ii. Equality of opportunity – the need for the whole of adult education to be ableto offer access to, support with and effective use of ICT. At the moment thereare major differences across the different sectors that make up adult education.iii. Learners‘ skills – for individuals to benefit from the potential of technologythey require not only technical but also learning skills and information andmedia literacy. These are often not considered in policies or strategicdevelopments.iv. Dynamic – the rapid and continuous change means that policy must bereviewed regularly and programmes sustained. Time limited initiatives arelikely to be insufficient to realise the full benefit of technology.v. Trends – ICT and e-learning are difficult areas to predict beyond theimmediate future except that change is inevitable and is likely to impact onwhere, when and how education is provided.ICT and e-learning are often described as having the potential to enable learners tolearn at anytime, anywhere and at their own pace. Learners are predicted as beingable to take responsibility for their own learning using online content, learningnetworks and communities of practice. However, achieving these results is not simplyabout access to technology. It is also about being confident and competent users oftechnology, having e-learning skills and being media and information literate. Theseare not simple achievements.Unquestionably, e-learning will continue to grow in our organizations. In anticipationof this growth, the governments, business companies and professional associationscan start focusing on applications and the effective and efficient implementation of e-learning. By recognizing that e-learning truly is a methodology, one can experiencethe greatest benefits that e-learning has to offer now and in the future.
In the end, the fact remains that, with respect to e-learning, poor quality procurementpractices (in all sectors but especially in the public sector) are a barrier to growth andadoption. So it is necessary to make a thorough evaluation when it comes to choose e-learning software for education in order to improve the knowledge of learners, thelearning outcomes, the performance outcomes, and the business and policy impactand in order to value the money spent.REFERENCES1. Alan Clarke and Ewa Luger, ICT and E-learning,2. Ellen D. Wagner, Ph.D., Emerging Technology Trends in e-learning.3. Luciana Carabaneanu, Romica Trandafir and Ion Mierlus-mazilu, TRENDS INE-LEARNING4. Mark Brown, Bill Anderson and Fiona Murray, e-learning policy issues:Globaltrends, themes and tensions.5. Truls Fagerberg, Torstein Rekkedal and John Russell, EU Leonardo Project“From e-Learning to m-Learning.”6. WHITE PAPER Education Transformation. The Positive Impact of eLearning- 2012 UPDATE.