There is no shortage of predictions for the upcoming year of 2015. Micro-credentials, digital wearables and mobile learning are just a few of the many. Yet predictions are notorious for misleading and even wildly inaccurate assurances. But analyzing trends across industries in conjunction with developments within a sector—the education sector in this instance, is far more constructive and strategic than considering stand-alone predictions. There are themes and patterns worthy of educators, administrators and stakeholders investment of time and consideration. This post examines and explores three trends that meet the worthy criteria. The three: 1) Skill-specific education also known as competency-based education (CBE) is expanding to institutions and generating new education technology products and platforms, 2) Social learning facilitated by technology and the acceptance of MOOCs is a new and viable instructional method, and 3) Learning-on-the-go supported not just by mobile devices and internet connectivity, but by the availability of sophisticated applications with few barriers will expand learning to students seeking flexible access to education.
Sources for Trends Affecting Education in 2015
There’ve been several articles and reports written and shared by organizations, education entities and news agencies that highlight trends, developments, and hot topics to watch for in 2015. Not all are specific to education, but reading between the lines there are subtle implications that suggest which potential developments will affect if not change how people learn. The sources chosen for this post are few but solid. A key source and excellent resource for the education community is the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition Wiki which provides insight into educational technology trends. Its content is used for the annual NMC Horizon Project which uses the Wiki for the panel of experts to exchange ideas and engage in discourse. Another report rich in data is the 2015 Digital Trends Report created by GSW a communications agency working within the health sector. Additional sources include Innovating Pedagogy 2014 published by Open University, EDUCAUSE Review November/December 2014, among others. Collectively these sources and events over the past year (2014) in education provide a window into new developments in teaching and learning to watch for in 2015 .
1) Skill-Specific Education
The most significant innovations in education programs of this past year are those that focus on a specific skill set or knowledge area. These programs fall under the banner of micro-credentialing or competency-based education (CBE) and will be more disruptive to traditional education than anything we’ve seen to date. Traditional education in this context is defined as for-credit education measured by instruction time and grading of students work by teacher/instructor/faculty. Outcomes of traditional education typically are credentials in the form of a degree, diploma or certificate and are recognized by employers and institutions. On the other hand, skills education facilitates student’s learning technical skills or knowledge in a specific topic area that is measured by criteria-specific performance. Typically assessment is an observable outcome(s) that demonstrates mastery in the form of an e-portfolio or interactive transcript. Examples are competency-based degree programs such as the one offered at Purdue, or nano-degrees offered by Udacity, mirco-credential programs offered by edX or Coursera, certificates by Alison, and Mozilla’s Open Badges program.
We can expect more institutions offering competency education programs and employer involvement in skill-specific education this year, as in the example of AT&T giving funds to Udacity and Georgia Tech for development of online programs. We’ll also see companies serving as advisors for curriculum and program development for courses of study at institutions.
Drivers of Skill-Specific Education
- Pressure on education institutions from Department of Education and/or other government entities to offer more accessible and shorter education pathways (to a credential) to accommodate non-traditional learners. The non-traditional segment is a new and growing market of adult learners with prior skills and experience
- Expanding non-traditional student population who seek open, flexible learning
- Skills gap identified by employers
- High cost associated with higher education
Developments in Skill-Specific Education
- MOOCs on institution-affiliated platforms focusing on skill specific training in partnership with companies (edX offering Teacher PD)
- Courses focusing on skills with input from employers who have a hand in developing curriculum, e.g. Nano-degrees (Udacity), and professional courses for a fee — targeting professionals (edX and Coursera)
- LMS platform providers creating specific platforms that accommodate competency specific learning e.g. Helix LMS (Phil Hill on Helix LMS)
- Digital badges, e.g. Mozilla Open Badge Project
- Brandman University’s competency degree program incorporates digital badges for students to demonstrate skills to potential employers
2) Social Learning as a Pedagogical Method
Social learning is not a new concept, but social learning as a method of instruction is. We are beginning to see social learning adopted by education institutions as a method for learning through peer collaboration for instance, and in Human Resources departments as a method for employee training. Also technological advancement in the form of applications—mobile apps that support learners not just through collaboration but by learning core concepts through innovative software design. Gaming too has become more social, as well as learning management platforms (LMSs) which are incorporating features that support and promote interactivity and social connections among students.
Drivers of Social Learning
- Advancements in technology have lowered barriers to learner connectivity
- MOOCs uncovered a new demographic of learners—non-traditional students with a thirst for knowledge and learning
- Dissemination of knowledge—learners can now access knowledge through networks rather than institutions
- Companies seeking alternatives to traditional employee training and development leveraging social platforms and tools
- Bring your own Device (BYOD) policies in education institutions
Developments in Social Learning
- Features within Learning Management Platforms that facilitate social interactivity
- Smart phone applications (apps) that support learning with and from peers and/or tutors, e.g. P2P Chat
- Businesses using social media platforms for employee learning and development, e.g. Cisco introduces Project Squared a service delivered via an app or the Web that offers an online gathering place for getting work done.
Mobile devices along with low barriers to connectivity and the choice of hundreds of new apps specific to education puts access to education in the hands of learners making learning-on-the-go a reality. Learning-on-the-go, also known as mobile learning or m-learning is also not new, yet recent advancements in network capabilities and applications makes learning exclusively from a mobile device a reality.
Brandman University for example recently launched a competency based degree on a mobile platform where students have access to 30,000 pages of course material from a tablet or smart phone. Other education institutions are following suit by making education accessible to students from their mobile device for un-tethered learning— students aren’t bound by a physical institution or even a desktop computer. Numerous apps for mobile devices also support access to knowledge sources via video tutorials, lessons on topic-specific modules, or to access tutoring support, study resources etc.
Drivers of Learning-on-the-Go
- Non-traditional students looking for flexible learning that fits their busy schedule
- Low barriers to owning mobile devices
- Higher quality applications and infrastructure systems that deliver user-friendly learning options
Developments in Learning-on-the-Go
- Education institutions offering degree programs fully online with mobile friendly resources
- Sophisticated applications available for mobile devices that provide quality education options
- Apps that satisfy a variety of education needs including degree programs, developmental education programs, one-on-one tutoring, academic advising
Though we can’t predict exactly what will happen in 2015, we can make informed decisions and be strategic for the upcoming year. Nothing is certain in the future except change as the saying goes, yet being proactive rather than reactive will put educators in the best position for a successful and effective 2015.
Update: See my 2016 post: Three Trends that Will Influence Learning and Teaching in 2016
- NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition Wiki
- 2015 Digital Trends Report, GSW Communications
- Innovating Pedagogy 2014, The Open University
- Got Skills? Why Online Competency-Based Education Is the Disruptive Innovation for Higher Education, EDUCAUSE
- The Future of Mobile Learning, EDUCAUSE
- Making Moocs social is the next challenge, The Times of Higher Education
- 7 Higher Ed Stories to Watch in 2015, Education Dive
- Mobile Bachelor’s Degree, Inside Higher Ed
- Apple Watch Coming to a Classroom Near You?, The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Techie teens are shaping how we communicate, Ofcom
- The Case for Social Innovation Micro-Credentials, Stanford Social Innovation Review