How about a glimpse into the future of online education? Stephen Dowes’ article about “The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On” is an informative read about recent trends in eLearning. It also gives quite plausible predictions for things to come. Besides statements about “informal learning” (have a look at our factsheet for all these terms) and technology trends – e.g. the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project – the most interesting part for me was the one about “Connectivism”.
The concept of a “learning theory for the digital age”, introduced by George Siemens, is based on the assumption that the amount of accessible knowledge is growing at an exponential rate: “Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.”
This summer Siemens, Dowes and some of their colleagues tried to put their words into action: At least 1,200 users enrolled in a Massive Open Online Course – MOOC – about Connecitivism. The participants used “blogs, Second Life, Page Flakes, attend[ed] UStream sessions, attend[ed] Elluminate sessions, participate[d] in discussions in Moodle forums, and so on.” Dowes sees a upcoming “determined population of ambitious, talented and self-sufficient students” educatinge themselves
But not everyone is so enthuisastic about MOOC: “It is great that the course is free and open. But is this real innovation? Are we not just reinventing mass rows of students sitting passively in tiered lecture [halls] albeit on-line? Is this just another Tayloristic model of education? Cheap – yes! Efficient – yes! Effective – perhaps not. Participation…learner support? Is the innovation technical or pedagogic?”
He is onto something: Every kind of self-organization and liberation has some neoliberal aspect to it; in this case, it is taking the responsibilty for education away from the state/society. But Dowes is more positive about that: “This will be the last generation in which education is the practice of authority, and the first where it becomes, as has always been intended by educators, an act of liberty.”