Transformation of Education


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Transformation of Education

  1. 1. 2009 IABR & TLC Conference Proceedings San Antonio, Texas, USA The Transformation Of The Fabric Of Education In The Twenty-First Century Philip E. Burian, Colorado Technical University – Sioux Falls Francis R. “Skip” Maffei III Colorado Technical University- Online ABSTRACT Education has changed significantly over the past three decades. Technology has been a key driver but not the only element that has contributed to changing the fabric of the way we learn. Institutions of all education levels now have to strategize about the way the curriculum is delivered as well as improving their technology infrastructure, media source integration, an extremely mobile workforce; all from a global perspective. Policies and procedures must adapt to this education revolution. What has worked in the past may no longer be a valid set of assumptions.Keywords: Online, Remote, Distance, Learning Technology, Choices, Professional Learning ModelINTRODUCTION What is education? Education is “the general term for institutional learning and implies the guidance andtraining intended to develop a person’s full capacities and intelligence” (Webster’s New Encyclopedic Dictionary,1993, p. 318). What this definition means is the goal or vision of the institution is to make the student moresuccessful in life through the development of his or her knowledge and intellect. A quick review of the research report titled “Online Nation: Five Years of Growth of Online Learning” byI. Elaine Allen Ph.D. and Jeff Seaman Ph.D. addresses the adoption of online education as both a viable and credibleoption for academic institutions. The research report identified five online learning frameworks of which twocategories, engaged and fully engaged; tell an interesting and positive story. For example the engaged category has“A sizable set of institutions (around 800, or 18 percent of all higher education Institutions) currently have onlineofferings and believe that online is critical to the long-term strategy of their organization. However, theseinstitutions have not yet included online education in their formal strategic plan.”(Allen and Seaman 2007). For thefully engaged category, the results are even better “Slightly more than one-third (35 percent) of all higher educationinstitutions (around 1,500 total) are fully engaged in online education. They believe their online offerings arestrategic for their institution and they have fully incorporated online into their formal long-term plan….” (Allen andSeaman 2007). Simply stated, the future of online learning has the potential for positive growth as academicinstitutions, employers, and the adult learner become more familiar with the online learning model or framework. It has not been all that long ago that everything evolved around a traditional or physical campus classroomsetting. People could not watch a news story unfold on their television or iPod in real-time and across the globe.This paper will provide a snapshot of education nearly thirty years ago based on experiences and a brief overview ofhow learning and technology are intertwined today. Finally the paper will address a high-level blueprint that couldbe implemented to develop a value-added and outcomes based educational experience for the learner. Online orremote learning continues to gain momentum and instead of thinking and teaching local the model has become oneof thinking and teaching global. 1
  2. 2. 2009 IABR & TLC Conference Proceedings San Antonio, Texas, USATHE PAST From a student’s perspective, the campus and classroom was the center of the universe. Materials providedin the classroom were informative however; the real issue was what the student really needed to know. For theinstructor, a rather simple framework was deployed. The framework consisted of the following three points: 1. Tell them what you are going to tell them; 2. Tell them; and finally 3. Tell them what you told them. Students attended courses in a campus classroom setting where they sat through hours of lectures and labs.Exams were given weekly to assess student progress and a final exam was given to determine whether the studentcould remember everything that was taught regarding a specific topic item. Multiple copies of the exams were madeusing a mimeograph machine. Exams were not easy. Most exams were multiple choice and/or fill in the blanks withan occasional essay question thrown in for excitement. Typical weekly exams consisted of 20-50 questions and endof course exams could be well over a couple hundred questions. Students also received a lab grade which in somecases had to be accomplished over and over again until they became proficient. Each quarter or semester faculty would be randomly selected and evaluated based on specific classroompresentation criteria. The criteria and the evaluations could be fairly lengthy and intense. After the faculty memberfinished a specific lecture or lab session, the evaluating official would sit down and go over in detail the good, thebad, and the not so good. Part of the critique criteria was habits or actions that were considered less than acceptablein a learning environment such as looking at and reading the overhead transparencies as well as how to handle apointer or other teaching aid. Faculty members were trained, armed with the secret classroom presentation recipe, worked in teamsbefore being allowed to instruct on their own, responsible for their own courses and all materials, evaluated, andfinally responsible for a feedback process to continuously improve the curriculum. Looking back after all of theseyears the faculty was not a very student focused educational environment. The quality of the learning was not at thetop of the list of faculty responsibilities. Students turned in evaluations after each course. The organization considered these evaluations as animportant part of the education process. Each and every one of the evaluations was reviewed to determine whetherthe comment was invalid, valid, or needed follow-up. It was the instructor’s job to make sure every sentence,objective, and description in the lesson plan was up-to-date and could be mapped to a specific class activity, eventand learning outcome.THE PRESENT With all of the complexities and distractions today, considerable focus is being placed on customer service,flexibility, adaptability, and mobility. The questions are “What do students really need and want? Do students learndifferently than they did thirty years ago? Is the institution providing an education that will support the student needfor customized or tailored presentation? Is the institution leveraging technology properly? Can the institutionsuccessfully integrate technology and content to create a beneficial learning environment? Whats really ironic isthese questions were asked nearly thirty years ago when the institution implemented the transparency machine. One implementation of the student acquisition of needed skills and knowledge is the utilization oftechnology to facilitate the learning process. The key point to remember is the learning process rides on the back ofthe technology to present knowledge to the student wherever they may be at the time. The classroom is virtualized instructure, design, technology implementation, and the delivery method. The classroom is no longer just walls, awhiteboard, and professor at a podium but rather the class is on the notebook computer in a hotel room, iPod file,notebook computer in an airport, or watching an archived class presentation by the professor. Next take the need or desire by a student for an education as the goal of an academic institution in order forthe student to be successful. Add to the mix the adaptability of the academic institution to blend the conventional 2
  3. 3. 2009 IABR & TLC Conference Proceedings San Antonio, Texas, USAcampus academic environment with the online environment. What we now have is a student that given theirlifestyle, work demands, geographic location, and desire to acquire an academic degree, and the academic institutionthat wants fulfill the student’s need for adaptability, mobility, and the acquisition of a degree? Ultimately students want to be successful, but added into that desire to be successful is the academicinstitution’s implementation of technology to fulfill the mobility. Added to the student need to be successful is theuniversity structuring of their curriculum and degree programs to be adaptable to either the campus or onlineenvironment. What is really being talked about is giving the student “Choices” as to how they want to fulfill theiracademic needs. Today the faculty may be armed with notebook computers, Tablet PCs, iPods, interactive applicationsoftware, and all are connected to a wireless campus network so it is possible to communicate everywhere. Whenentering the classroom students are waiting and already connected to the wireless network. Once the facultymember is connected by the Tablet PC into the classroom interface the instructor can immediately engage the e-learning application on the Internet Browser. The instructor remembers the remote students so the audio capabilityis energized and records the session activities so the remote or distant student can view the activities and classsession at their convenience. When the instructor is not in the classroom there is plenty to do. The short list consists of developingrubrics, reviewing syllabi and course objectives, mentoring students, responding to email and voice mail, andgrading papers and exams. Students rarely turn in a hard or paper copy of an assignment. The classroomassignments are nearly all uploaded to the e-learning platform and graded. There will always be a few disciplinerelated situations, as well as a few cheating and plagiarism issues. Students need to be cautioned that instantmessaging a friend during an exam for answers is not acceptable. The faculty are continually looking for the secret process that integrates the whole thing just like it didthirty years ago. Academic institutions have moved forward by developing strategic objectives, leveragingtechnology, training faculty, evaluating student feedback, and consistently assess program and course outcomes.Maybe all of this is the new secret academic success process. Maybe the ingredients just changed slightly over thepast thirty years and the recipe still retains similar properties, it just looks a little different. In order to understandthe student of today we must first understand what the student wants, needs, or expects from their post secondaryacademic institution. Sloan Consortium in 2007 evaluated six delivery modes that the learners desire for theirpostsecondary education. The results were enlightening and provide considerable encouragement for a blending oftechnology, education presentation media, and the modeling of education to the needs of the workforce. Enclosed isan extract of a portion of the study: Consumer preference was evenly distributed across four of the six delivery modes. Seventy-six percent of consumers interested in postsecondary education stated a preference for a delivery mode with at least some online element, and eighty-one percent stated a preference for a delivery mode with at least some face-to- face element. While only 10.6% of consumers reported prior experience of a totally online program (and only 6.1% reported such experience within postsecondary education), 19% expressed a preference for wholly online programs. In terms of blended delivery, the experience and preference figures were also some distance apart. While 16.6% of consumers reported blended program experience (with an estimated two-thirds of this experience in a postsecondary setting), 32% expressed a preference for either primarily online or online/on-campus balanced programs. Indeed, as noted above, adherence to the Sloan-C definition of blended would further widen the gap between experience and preference. So for both online and blended delivery, consumer preference appears to significantly outpace prior consumer experience, and estimates of current market size.The student of today wants an educational experience that is adaptable to their life situation, mobility of access,flexibility of presentation, and above all options to gravitate between a campus setting and the online environment. 3
  4. 4. 2009 IABR & TLC Conference Proceedings San Antonio, Texas, USATHE FUTURE So whats the future of the academic institution? We believe we are only at the threshold of what liesahead. Online education is still in its infancy. Academic institutions are still struggling to integrate the tools withcontent so we can deliver solid and meaningful programs. Now institutions are looking at virtual based classroomshosting avatars. One academic institution- Colorado Technical University (CTU) has copyrighted a model for bring thereal-world into educational situations. The Professional Learning Model has provided Colorado TechnicalUniversity with the framework for making the student a more skilled and knowledge member of society through theapplication of group- or team-focused projects and presentations. The Professional Learning Model (PLM) like anymodel is not the universal fix-all model that will correct all woes, but is more of a template, the applicability ofwhich is more specific in nature and less universally applicable. The university has found PLM was more adaptableand malleable for a campus academic environment and required more adaptation for the e-learning or onlineacademic environment. In Practice: CTU PLM places students in the active role of collaborative problem solvers and project initiators confronted with the task of producing a deliverable that mirrors a real-world context and assessment. Regardless of the kinds of technology deployed or the next new framework developed, academicinstitutions will need to consider the following critical elements as they move forward: 1. The professors role needs to be changed to more of a coach or even a steward. Faculty must set the vision and direction and have the students more engaged with their own education and activities; 2. Academic institutions must implement and use an integrated suite of technology. Voice, video, and data must come together and it must absolutely be easy to use. If the institutions believe that email, voice mail, iPods, iPhones, Messaging and the like are going away were fooling ourselves. These tools must be integrated into the learning process; 3. Along with integrated technology, institutions must develop and provide rich content and simulations. Institutions must find ways to work content and simulations into the curriculum and not have massive slide presentations and lectures; 4. Relevant and to the point training must be provided. Programs, courses, content, and objectives must be threaded and meaningful and not just busy work. Courses must support more of the applied or hands-on learning and not just reading, memorizing and test taking. They must be configured to encourage the student to be more exploratory; 5. Academic institutions need to accommodate those with busy lives and schedules. Online delivery is an essential implementation solution. Whether a traditional educator or not, remote access is not going away, and we must facilitate anywhere, anytime and anyplace course availability and learning; 6. Practical and hands-on activities. Slide presentations are great for some things. Now that institutions have mastered them, put them away and get the students working and participating in real-world type situations and activities; 7. Academic institutions must partner with industry. We must listen to and understand their requirements. Industry should and must be an integral and active part of our advisory boards. Business organizations need people with specific skill-sets. These skills and needs must be 4
  5. 5. 2009 IABR & TLC Conference Proceedings San Antonio, Texas, USA integrated and threaded throughout the entire curriculum; and 8. Academic institutions need to make the classroom, online, and lab sessions both interesting and fun again. They need to create an environment that the student enjoys attending and not relate it to a lot of painstaking and nebulous busy work. These are only a few suggestions that can be used to put innovation back into education. As educator’s wemust also determine how to adjust processes and assessments to synch-up with this direction. Its been ourexperience when we develop the policies and standards first we limit ourselves and our creativity. It seems to boxus in. For those who havent even implemented the technology elements as of yet, your institution is already behindthe power curve and to grow the institution’s primary focus will be on making the technology work and integratingthe solutions. During the summer quarter of 2009 we will be conducting an experiment referred to as an online digitalsummer camp. This course will utilize a number of video and audio recording, social networking, and onlinedocument and collaboration tools. Specific objectives and deliverables have been defined and we will be observingindividual and group interaction and tool usage. Creativity, interaction, and quality are just a few of the criteria thatwill be observed and evaluated. We believe that students will not only learn how to use the technology but it willfacilitate a more exploratory approach toward learning and meeting the course objectives and deliverables. Giving a student a choice starts to address, from the online learning perspective, the needs of the studentand how the academic institution can fulfill those needs. The findings and implications for practice that wereidentified in the ALN Principles of Blended Environment study report will go a long way toward understanding howchoices provide opportunities for student academic success. The study found the following: (ALN Principles ofBlended Environment, 2004):  Learners want convenience, flexibility, affordability, relevance (immediate applicability, and usefulness for employability), competence, reliability, choice, personalization, and rapid feedback  To design courses to accommodate various learning and teaching styles, Twigg lists five key features for improving access and quality of learning, from the Pew Learning and Technology Program monograph “Innovations in Online Learning” The responsibility the online learning institution has is to support the student’s desire to excel, with aconvenient, flexible, mobile, and adaptable learning presentation environment. With all of this said, a few questions remain to be asked and addressed. Are we as academic institutionsjust fine-tuning over and over what we already do (continuous process improvement in order to reduce costs,improve efficiencies, and bolster value)? Are we really innovating and changing the very fabric of how we learn orare we being pulled in that direction? What about social skills? What about how we treat and deal with others?How about pride and job quality?SUMMARY The student learner of the 21st century seeks education that is adapted to their life-style, work commitments,and life events. They look to the post secondary educational systems to effectively embrace and implementtechnology, while ensuring the presentation of a quality and valuable learning experience. To achieve the studentlearner centered success, educational systems will need to constantly and continuously adapt the learning platformswhile providing the mobility the student learner needs to be successful. The technology changes, is changing, andwill continue to evolve and the academic community needs to adapt to the changes and present the student learnerwith the best possible educational opportunity that will fulfill their needs. It is our hope that this paper will provide some ideas and discussion on how we as individuals and learninginstitutions can successfully blend the technologies of today and tomorrow with the adaptability, mobility, and livesof our student learners of the future. We have some enormous challenges ahead. Challenges that will require us tothink differently about the very foundation and fabric of the way we learn, teach, and communicate. 5
  6. 6. 2009 IABR & TLC Conference Proceedings San Antonio, Texas, USAREFERENCESAllen I. Elaine PhD and Seaman, Jeff PhD; Online Nation Five Years of Growth in Online Learning, SloanConsortium (Sloan-C) Massachusetts; 2007Allen I. Elaine PhD; Garrett, Richard; and Seaman, Jeff PhD; Blending In The Extent and Promise of BlendedEducation in the United States; Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) Massachusetts; 2007Colorado Technical University Strategic Business Strategy and Plan; 2008Colorado Technical University Choices; 2007Leasure, David PhD; Teaching and Learning with CTU’s Professional Learning Model (CTU PLM™) ComputerScience Technical Report Number CTU-CS-2004-001; Colorado Technical University, Colorado Springs ColoradoALN Principles of Blended Environments A Collaboration; Edited by Janet C Moore; Sloan-C Online ResearchWorkshop, Sloan Consortium; Massachusetts; 2004Webster New Encyclopedic Dictionary. New York, New York, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers Inc. 1993United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Career Guide by Industries, 2008 (Computer Systems Design and Related Services – Training and Advancement) 6