eLearning advances to new levels in New York City - New York Gadgets
eLearning advances to new levels in New York City - New
Manhattan has become a hub of eLearning, with several companies developing innovative
technologies. In addition, eLearning has captured the interest and support of startup incubators
such as the Varick Street Business Incubator. And both Columbia University and New York
University have outstanding degree programs in Education Technology. No wonder the New York
startup community has produced such impressive eLearning technologies.
To review, the umbrella term "eLearning" comprises all forms of computer-supported learning (for
students) and teaching (for instructors). Although eLearning is associated with a variety of learning
paradigms and technologies, they have in common that a computer or network is a vehicle for
delivering functions and capturing data to facilitate learning. Overall, eLearning provides several
Training sessions can be conducted anytime and anywhere.
Trainees can learn at their own pace.
eLearning is cost effective. A company doesn't have to pay a trainer or cover travel costs.
A firm can update eLearning modules quickly and easily.
The company's HR department can track course offerings, schedule or assign training for
employees, and track their progress and results.
With virtual world, simulation, and web-design development services, one can accommodate a
variety of learning styles by incorporating audio components, visual graphics, testing, and printable
exercises into eLearning courses.
There are a number of mature companies offering tools that share these basic advantages, such as
Adobe, IBM, and Skillsoft.
Beyond familiar business applications, eLearning also increasingly is used in academics, principally
in two ways. In a pure online implementation, which typifies new online universities, a specialized
learning platform coordinates asynchronous posts and assignments by students and instructors.
Some online schools also are employing screencasting tools and web-based screencasting, which
allow users and instructors to create screencasts directly from their browsers and make videos
available online for streaming. With a combination of video and audio, a professor can mimic the
experience of the classroom and deliver more vivid lectures. From the learner's point of view, this
approach provides additional convenient capabilities, such as the capability to pause and to rewind.
There also are hybrid eLearning universities that integrate classroom instruction with online tools to
produce perhaps the most effective paradigm. For example, the Management Information Systems
(MIS) department at Temple University's Fox School of Business uses an integrated content-
management system to communicate with students on class assignments, course documents,
internship information, and study groups. Said one student, "Fox MIS wanted to create an interface
that was all-inclusive, with features from Facebook and Twitter, and link them with features that
duplicate Blackboard-like functionality to provide students with an open forum." The site allows
students to get course information, practice test questions, share ideas about projects, hear about
upcoming seminars, and find jobs. Because students in the MIS department already were using
social media to connect with classmates, it made sense to create a cohesive, standard portal. The
site is effective in that students not only can access course-specific information easily, but in
addition they can create profiles, post possible test questions, and share ideas. Notes Andrew Cohen,
Managing Director of Brainscape, "Brainscape helps teachers take 'drill practice' out of the
classroom so that instructors can focus class time on more collaborative, project-based activities."
Although eLearning is not new, it is supported by a growing toolbox of differentiated learning
paradigms and supporting technologies that represents substantial advances in the field. Computer-
based training, for example, is self-paced learning accessible via a computer or handheld device,
such as a smartphone. These systems typically present content in a linear fashion, much like reading
an online book or manual on one's iPad. For this reason they are often used to teach static
processes, such as using software.Computer-supported collaborative learning is another paradigm
that is maturing, under which collaborative or group learning instructional methods are designed to
encourage or require students to work together on learning tasks.
One particularly promising eLearning technology space is computer-aided-assessment, which
encompasses simple technologies, such as automated multiple-choice tests, as well as increasingly
more sophisticated systems that provide an experience geared towards a student's specific errors. In
addition, these new systems can navigate the student through a series of questions adapting to what
the student appears to have learned or not learned. Such is the paradigm of New York companies
such as Brainscape, Knewton, Smart.sm, Watermelon Express, Voxy, and others. Notes Cohen,
"Seven years ago your main option for teaching yourself a language was a Rosetta Stone DVD.
Nowadays, savvy learners are increasingly practicing their language skills in dozens of online
language learning forums. The same goes for just about any other subject."
Brainscape in particular already is inventing the next generation of methods that combine cognitive
science with interactive online learning technologies to produce a new, more sophisticated and
effective way to learn. More specifically, Brainscape is a synchronous web and mobile flashcard
program designed to improve the retention of declarative knowledge. It is different from other
spaced-repetition flashcard programs in that its pattern for reassessment is based not on a
randomization algorithm or on the user's history of correctness, but rather, on the user's own
judgment of confidence in each chunk of intellectual capital learned - a process that Brainscape calls
The goal of Brainscape's designers was to create a simple study tool for learners whose study habits
are sporadic and unpredictable. Says Cohen, "Mobile learning is different. Learners don't want to
study on their phone for an hour. They'd rather study for two minutes at a time while waiting for
trains and busses. Mobile learning apps need to be particularly modular so that learners can easily
pick up where they left off." Because a typical learner might study for varying lengths of time and
separate her study sessions by varying intervals, Brainscape allows content creators (students,
teachers, educational publishers, and Brainscape curriculum designers) to break concepts into their
most fundamental building blocks that can be repeated systematically in customized intervals of
Speculating on the future of eLearning, Cohen says, "Like everything on the web, the trend in
education technology is toward consolidation and optimization. Yet no consolidation can occur until
someone creates a standard platform that can support both professional-publishers' content as well
as user-generated content capabilities. Brainscape hopes to become that platform."