CEO of Easygenerator

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about starting up my work as CEO for EasyGenerator. At the end of the blog I concluded that we needed to come up with a coherent vision and mission to determine the direction of future developments of EasyGenerator as a solution and as a company. Inspired by my visit to the development team, I will take the cow by the horns (I am not sure if that is a valid English expression). Therefore, here is the first raw concept version of “The future of e-Learning, according to Kasper Spiro”.

Let’s first look at where we are and how we got there.

e-Learning started out as digitized versions of courses, the so-called page-turners. We published them on CD-ROM’s as Computer Based training (CBT). Later on, we moved these courses to the web and we promoted them to Web-based training (WBT). Over a little more than a decade this developed into more mature forms of e-Learning. With the use of new media like video and flash animations we made e-Learning more attractive and interactive. But main stream e-learning is in most cases still a page turner with some nice interactive snacks in the middle. We created standards like Scorm that gives us some interchangeability and the possibility to track and trace progress and results. Nevertheless, in essence the courses have not moved forward that much in comparison with the original CBT’s.

We now have tools like Moodle (a virtual learning environment), they add extra dimensions to e-Learning. Social constructivism principles are at the fundamentals of Moodle. Therefore, it is about collaborative learning. It offers learners facilities like a forum, blogs and wiki’s to share knowledge and to experience the learning process together. A WBT is often part of such a course.

The feeling is that we are now on the verge of a new phase in the development of e-Learning. At the moment there are a ton of words buzzing around: Web 2.0, Virtual worlds, Informal learning, learning on the job, lifelong learning, collaborative learning, adaptive learning, blended learning, game based learning, skill based learning, communities of practice, et cetera. What is the trend in all this, where are we going?

Let us take a step back first. A few months ago, I met with to Joachim Levelt (the Dutch Education Sales Manager of Apple in the Netherlands) and we had an interesting discussion. He mentioned  Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR Model of the Technology Adoption Life Cycle. The theory states that all innovation and development goes through four phases.

Substitution. Technology acts as direct tool substitute, with no functional change.  Example: Word processor used like a typewriter.

Augmentation. Technology acts as direct tool substitute, with functional improvement. Example: Basic functions (e.g., cut and paste,  spell checking) used.

Modification. Technology allows for significant task redesign. Example: Integrated with email, spreadsheets, graphing packages.

Redefinition. Technology allows for the creation of new tasks,previously inconceivable. Example: Integrated with work group and content management software.

Source of  theory Ruben R. Puentedura

I will try to map these phases to the development of e-Learning to see where we are right now.

Substitution. At first, we created page-turners (CBT and WBT), in fact they add no real  extra possibilities other than the books and courses we used to have before that. It is just a change of medium.

Augmentation. Then we started to add extra value. We added assessments to see if the learner learned his lesson well. We created Scorm (an e-Learning standard) so we were able to track and report on the learners’ progress and results. We build smart structures like cases to let people start experiencing instead of letting them read knowledge facts.  We use media like sound, video and flash animations to create more interactive courses. All things we did not have in the first phase.

Modification. Switching to the web created the possibility to let people collaborate and learn together and create extra content of their own. By using the outcome of assessments, we are able to present (more) relevant learning materials, thus making the learning more adaptive. We have set our first steps on the path of game based learning and virtual worlds in order to offer learning in a more attractive way and let people experience more instead of just reading the lesson. Exiting developments but a lot of work and very expensive to create.

We are clearly in the modification phase with e-Learning, we have not yet started redefining (e-)Learning. Are we ready to take learning to the next level? I have some images of the future developments and outlooks. I do not know if they are part of this next step or that they just will be enhancements the adaption phase. For now, I just will share these images with you.

  1. One of the main attributes of e-Learning in the first three phases is the fact that learning is a one way street. It goes from learning author to the learner. The learner can only consume the material. In the adaptation phase, learners can contribute themselves to the learning process by collaborating and creating content of their own (in blogs, wiki’s and forum); the so called user generated content. But it is still a one way street, there is no connection between the source content and this user generated content. At the end of the course all this content vaporizes and disappears into thin air. If we succeed in capturing this user generated content and make it stick we can start to create a two way street. E-Learning content then will come to live.
  2. Adaptive e-Learning as we know it now is the first step to more dynamic content. At the end of (a part of the) course you take an assessment and based on the outcome you are directed to another part of relevant content. I call this the “if then else adaptive learning”. It is an important step because you no longer have to go through content about topics you already know.  But this needs to become much more dynamic and effective, we need to make true adaptive e-Learning. Where an individual learning path will develop itself instead of a predefined path set by an author.
  3. If we publish content in a Learning management system the published content is most of the times separated from the source (often wrapped in a scorm package). The only useful feed back we get is a fail or pass notice from an individual learner. If you change the content or add new or improved information at the source (in your authoring system) this has no effect on the published content, you have to republish everything again. This is very ineffective and it prohibits the learner from having the latest and most accurate information.
  4. Formal learning is now separated from our daily work. You go to a class or a on line course (and stop working), you learn, you come back and you will try to incorporate what you have learned in your daily work. You must try very hard not to forget what you have learned, because of the fact that you can’t apply it directly (that is what makes it stick). Studies show that already 80% of what we learn is informal learning. If we succeed in creating learning experiences in the context of your daily working and learning activities, it will be much more efficient and effective.

What is the common denominator in this; I think it is about dynamics and content: feeding back user generated content, create true adaptive e-Learning with true adaptive content, make publications dynamic instead of rigid and make learning content context aware. As I see it the old paradigm used to be ‘Content is king’. I think that authoring environments like EasyGenerator must facilitate the process of designing, creating, publishing, evaluating, redesigning, recreating and republishing the content that is the core of all these developments. In other words: Dynamic content will be king.

If we succeed in this, I can see learning truly merging with our daily work. You don’t follow a courses with a beginning or an end. You follow learning information on a subject that will grow and change, so you will keep on learning. There will be effective ways to share your knowledge and learning systems will present us with the correct information, just enough and just in time.

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