Tech-Enhanced Learning and Mobile Natives

I consult with Eastern International College on topics around online learning. They use the LMS Canvas from Instructure for online courses and only started using it more widely about 3 years ago. It's a for-profit college that offers degrees and certifications in health and medical fields. That is a population of faculty and students who have always been reluctant to go online. These are very hands-on, in-a-lab classes primarily. But the move proved to be somewhat lifesaving when the Covid pandemic hit schools in the 2020 semester.

Instructure sent me some resources to think about for the fall semester and one was strategies for "Tech-Enhanced Learning." I will date myself by saying I recall when we were attaching the term "web-enhanced" to courses and strategies. I also remember very clearly when the term "digital natives" was used to describe the students we were meeting in our classrooms.

Thomas Husson had blogged some time ago about mobile natives from a marketing perspective. He notes that the first iPhone was released in 2007 and, on average, a kid gets their first cell phone around 11 years old. That means the first entire generation that mobile has impacted will enter the workforce about 2025 - but they are already in schools grades kindergarten through higher education. 

kids on phones in class
     Photo: Rodnae Productions

Technology-enhanced (or sometimes "infused")  learning is essential to best learning practices and also to keeping learning relevant. It surely will play a role - as it has already and not always in a positive way - in the survival of higher education institutions. Instructional technology is important to student engagement. The correct approach is not to digitize what is already being used. That's closer to what we called "web-enhanced" when we were starting to put materials online. 

How do you use technology to transform pedagogy to be more engaging, innovative, and inclusive?  here are their suggested strategies.

Though the pandemic forced coursework online out of necessity, digital learning should now be the default. All courses should be designed so that they could be taught online, even if the intent is to teach them in a classroom. When course content is and communication is available online students can access it anywhere and at any time.

As noted above, courses should also be optimized courses for mobile access since mobile phones are the primary tool used by many students and student income levels are no longer the deciding factor for that use. How many of your students have a desktop computer or even a laptop?

Engagement includes interactive experiences between faculty and students, and also connecting students with one another. This is also something that goes across face-to-face, hybrid and fully remote courses.

It is important that this shift goes beyond your classes. A "digital campus" means things beyond coursework. Virtual tutoring, office hours, counseling, tech support, and library access is especially critical for off-campus students to have that on-campus connection. And even residential students will often prefer digital over face-to-face. Mental health resources for psychological well-being are a leading factor for student success and schools can leverage technology to expand access to mental health resources including virtual counseling, staff mental health training, and student mental health apps.

HyFlex learning environments got a lot more attention during the pandemic. This approach is student-centered and offers equitable access to content. Students should be able to move between modalities based on their learning needs and the location - pandemic or not.

For a long time, educators have been told what to expect from Millennials. We have moved on to Generation Z which is usually defined as those 4 to 24 years old - which covers pre-school to graduate school. They are a group that has always had access to the Internet - as did many Millennials - but Gen Z also has mobile devices as their primary way of communicating and getting information in and out of classes.

I added this post to my category "Education 2.0" which for me meant where education was moving. I have seen articles about "Education 3.0" but I stick with version 2 because I haven't seen the really big seismic shift in education yet.

Some futurists say that by the end of this decade workers who still go to a workplace outside their home will walk in, plug their device into the network ( Is say "plug" but it will probably be wireless), connect to a bigger screen(s) and start working. Shifting to mobile is not in its early stage. There are 7 billion mobile subscriptions now. That's not everyone and not every student, but a report from Forrester Research said that mobile phone penetration is at 91 percent of Generation Y homes. (80 percent for all households across North America.) 79 present 13-20-year-olds say in surveys that they can't live without their smartphones compared to 70 percent of 21-39-year-olds.

 

SOURCES
instructure.com/higher-education/back-to-school/faculty

blogs.forrester.com/thomas_husson/14-12-02-mobile_and_mobile_natives...

linkedin.com/pulse/mobile-natives-eric-isham/

ypulse.com/article/2022/03/29/3-stats-on-how-gen-z-is-being-raised-on-smartphones/

marketingdive.com/ex/mobilemarketer/cms/news/research/1576.html

 

Machine Learning MOOC Updated

Python book
Photo by Christina Morillo

Andrew Ng's Machine Learning course on Coursera has been revamped and updated and it is getting good student ratings.

There are fewer online courses that I consider to be true MOOCs now. Massive is small. Open is more closed. But the "OC" portion remains for many. The three courses that make up the Machine Learning Specialization offered by DeepLearning.AI and Stanford on the Coursera platform still fit the MOOC definition more closely.

You can earn a certificate at the end, and enjoy the full experiences including quizzes and assignments if you enroll and pay a monthly subscription but the courses are free (Open) to audit and view the course materials. The Massive in this course is massive with over 20,000 students enrolled.

Andrew Ng is the co-founder of Coursera and was the founding lead of Google’s Brain Project, and served as Chief Scientist at Baidu. He then did two artificial intelligence startups - Deeplearning.ai (a training company founded in 2017) and Landing.ai (for transforming enterprises with AI). He remains an adjunct professor at Stanford University. His course on Machine Learning was one of the very first courses from Coursera when it first launched in 2012. I audited the course that year though I knew the content was way above my abilitiees but I was curious as to the structure of the course from a design perspective.

At that time, Machine Learning was a new concept and was close to applied statistics. Ng goes way back because his Stanford lectures were on YouTube in 2008 and got 200,000 views. Then, he converted them to an online format in Fall 2011 and they were offered for free. He had 104,000 students and 13,000 of them gained certificates.

On the tech side, this updated version:
uses Python rather than Octave
expanded list of topics including modern deep learning algorithms, decision trees, and tools such as TensorFlow
new ungraded code notebooks with sample code and interactive graphs to help you visualize what an algorithm is doing
programming exercises
practical advice section on applying machine learning based on best practices from the last decade

 

The Disconnected 2022 Edition

brain connectIt's 2022 and I am reading an article in The Chronicle by Beth McMurtrie about how the pandemic forced disconnections in early 2020. On the other hand, we also became more connected to friends, offices, campuses, and stores through technology and media.

The article took me back to a keynote presentation I did back in January 2016. I titled that talk "The Disconnected." The talk grew out of the many references I had been seeing to people who seemed disconnected from many aspects of society.

There was the observation that there was a re-emergence of people who wanted to learn on their own rather than in schools. These autodidacts were a new group of learners that I felt might be reshaping school, especially in higher education which is a choice rather than a requirement.

In 2015, the sharing economy, the maker movement, the DIY do-it-yourself movement, and open-source coding were all topics of interest.

These trends were not limited to young people or students. Many people were “cord cutting” from traditional media. But the trend was especially evident in young adults. Even broader was a “rent rather than buy” mindset that was affecting purchases of media (music, movies, books, magazines), cars (lease or use a car service rather than own a car), rent an apartment or home and avoid the self-maintenance, mortgage and taxes.

In 2015, the “disconnected” comprised about 25 percent of Americans, according to Forrester Research. They estimated that number would double by 2025. Has it?

That new article is about students who seem to have disconnected during the pandemic and are not reconnecting now. Maybe they will never reconnect. 

According to McMurtie's article, fewer students are going to classes. Her interviews with faculty show that those who do attend avoid speaking if possible. They are disconnected from the professor and their classmates. They don't do the assigned reading or homework and so they have trouble with tests. They are disconnected from the course content.

The Chronicle had more than 100 people tell them about their disconnected students. Some called them “exhausted,” “defeated,” or “overwhelmed.” This came from faculty at a range of institutions.

usb connect

Why are they disconnected?

Reasons given by professors include pandemic-related items. Many students lost their connection with their college or their purpose in attending. Hours of online learning that they had not chosen and which may have been sub-par added to those things.

The students who seemed to have the most trouble with learning were the freshmen who seemed unprepared. But the observations that these new students seemed underprepared, both academically and in their sense of responsibility. One example was that students don’t fully grasp the consequence of missing classes. I was teaching long before the pandemic and all of those things were true of students back then too. 

So my question is whether or not those disconnected students of 2015 have become even more disconnected in the subsequent seven years, and if they have is it because of the pandemic or just a trend that started well before the pandemic.

McMurtrie also gives some things from the perspective of students. One student said that when she returned to the classroom after virtual learning many professors relied more on technology than they had before the pandemic. Ironically, that was something that many schools had hoped would happen; that faculty would be greater tech users when they returned to their in-person classes. Professors who never used virtual conferencing or flipped the classroom using a learning management system. That student may have seen her college experience as "fake" but the professors (and possibly their department chairs and deans) saw the experience as "enhanced."

I don't explain the disconnecting as only the result of social anxiety and stress or what psychologists describe as “allostatic load.”  I don't think this problem is temporary. I agree with some of the faculty whose responses are in the article who think the entire structure of college needs to change and that this is not a new problem.

None of us know what the solution might be.

Emergency Remote Teaching May Not Be Online Learning

online student
  Image: Marc Thele

Though they get lumped together, there is a difference between emergency remote teaching (ERT) and online learning. Prior to the COVID pandemic, I knew of some isolated examples of emergency remote learning (ERL). It might have happened because of a natural disaster, such as when Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area in 2005. Tulane University was forced to send students to other schools. Going online wasn't an option. In 2009, the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic hit and few schools used online learning as one way to compensate. In that pandemic, schools often kept students isolated on campus and used more traditional learning options. It was the rare school that was able to go online for all or a large percentage of classes. 

I co-wrote two journal articles in 2021 (AJES, 80:1) about the COVID pandemic and higher education. The first article, "Online Education in a Pandemic: Stress Test or Fortuitous Disruption?" examined some of that history. One observation is that there were few lessons learned between the prior event and the COVID pandemic despite gains in using online learning in normal situations. The COVID-19  pandemic brought on more emergency remote learning than a switch to online learning. Switching from face-to-face (F2F) education to a virtual environment was forced and unplanned in the vast majority of cases. The second article, "Choosing Transformation Over Tradition" considers how advancements in online education did not have the effect of preparing all teachers and all courses to move online easily and asked whether lessons learned in 2020 and 2021 would be temporary or transformative. At that time, there were teachers, students and courses that were online - and there were those that were not. (both articles are available via academia.com).

Well-planned online learning experiences are significantly different from courses offered online in response to a crisis or disaster. I believe that most of the criticisms of K-12 and high education schools trying to maintain instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic stem from emergency remote teaching. Unfortunately, in the public perception and for some in academia, the experience of ERL is their perception of online learning overall.

Emergency remote teaching is defined as "a temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances." Though the teaching solutions used will certainly overlap those used for online instruction, ERT or ERL should not be considered the same as what we know to be planned and designed "online learning." 

An EDUCAUSE article considers how we might cautiously evaluate emergency online learning and though some criteria for evaluating online learning would certainly be in that rubric, it would be invalid to use the same criteria.

It reminds me of my earliest experiences teaching online 20 years ago. Not only did I need to change how I designed lessons and how I presented them pedagogically, but I also needed to reevaluate how I would evaluate student work. For example, could I use the same rubric for a student who did a presentation or demonstration in my physical classroom as I did for a student submitting a slide presentation with audio that had been carefully designed, revised and edited?

When I ran a university department that was the campus support of online courses, we worked with a small percentage of faculty and courses that were fully online. In emergency situations when all classes needed to be online and faculty and students needed support, my department and I believe most school's support teams will not be able to offer the same level of support to all faculty who need it.

If you are in a teaching position, are you, your students, and your institution in a better place now to move quickly online than you were in January of 2020?

In writing that second journal article, I and my co-author were somewhat pessimistic about where we would be in 2022 based on the lesson not learned in past instances of emergency shifts to online. However, since those articles were published in early 2021, we feel some optimism. We have seen positive changes in preparedness. Anecdotally, I know of K-12 schools that have smoothly moved to online modes because of snowstorms or other short-term situations because of what they experienced in 2020-21. I know higher education faculty who are now more comfortable taking on an online course section (though they still prefer to teach in a physical classroom). At all levels, there is more use of online delivery platforms and more hybrid teaching than before. 

Like other emergency situations, we often hear that it is not if we will ever have to go fully online again; it is when we will have to do it.

Professional Development's Future Online

Education has been moving online since online became an option. The move took a leap in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced education online in a much bigger way. Perhaps not as publically, professional learning for educators and also in the corporate world has been following the same timeline. It had been moving online for more than 20 years, but it also took a leap due to the pandemic.

Forbes magazine has said that online learning is the future of professional development. Degree-based programs and learning and development initiatives are expensive. Some employers were surprised at how well employees worked virtually after some ramping up of equipment and skills. Professional learning took a short break at the start of working from home but then moved online along with almost everything else.

The Forbes article points to a number of online learning advantages that make it something that will remain in place when things get "normal" again - which after 18 months hasn't arrived yet. These advantages for professional learning are not unlike the advantages of traditional classroom learning.

woman on laptop
 Image: Pixabay

Learners/employees discovered that web-based solutions offered flexibility and that they could learn at their own pace (though deadlines and scheduling may still exist). The article states that online requires 40% to 60% less time to complete the same material. 

But self-paced learning also requires a lot of reading and time management and not all learners can adapt.

Overall, online learning is more cost-effective for learners, trainers, and employers. You can save on facilities, transportation, printed materials, travel and lodging in some cases, and even catering costs.

However, some of that saving needs to be invested in web-based platforms for learning to reside and that is a sustained investment. Instructional designers and support personnel remain in place but shift their duties to online.

One advantage that departs from traditional online courses is that corporate training often offers more options. Since some of the learner goals are career advancement and some are required skills training, offerings might include "courses" offered outside the employer (such as MOOCs). Employees may want to improve their coding skills. Their employer may want them to do HR training. Topics that are beyond the capabilities of a training department can be outsourced. Accreditations can be tracked across programs.

For a global company, online allows employees from different locations across the globe to access the same training. Asynchronous learning eliminates issues with different time zones.

Flexibility was a quality that companies and learners discovered was more critical than ever during the pandemic. That has always been a key quality for online learning. Many lessons have been learned. More will be learned in the years to come.

 

Remote Learning Is Not Necessarily Online Learning

remote learnersThe COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and corporate trainers to move their content online. Teaching and training went remote. But are remote and online learning the same thing? I see the terms used almost interchangeably.

Remote teaching, training, or learning has been done before there was an Internet to get online. Correspondence models and instructional TV/video predate the Internet. Today, we are using Skype and Zoom lectures, apps and tools but remote learning is still considered different from online learning.

I have taken classes and done training remotely that don't have many of the elements of a classroom experience. Things like reading assignments and writing assignments, assessments, collaboration on work, or full discussion boards are not used. For example, I have watched a series of history lectures that were mostly one-way experiences. I watched and although there was an opportunity to ask questions in chat or a Q&A time if you were watching live, this is not online learning.

Online learning should be more robust. It resembles more of what we consider to be "education" and would include interactive modules, assessments based on real-world scenarios, discussion forums designed to discuss and solve problems, synchronous learning sessions that involve discussions and problem-solving. There may still be live or recorded lectures, but that is not the only component.

Remote learning certainly has a place, especially in corporate and training situations. This can be pre-recorded content that can be used as needed, has a shelf life, and can be viewed again by users if necessary. Training on using software is a good example of content that works as remote learning. "But it's all online," you might say, "Why isn't it online learning?" Well, it is and it isn't.

Educators have long been trying to elevate engagement in online learning. It is not training. It requires a teacher or facilitator. Some elements are synchronous. Progress is monitored.

I hedged on my title for this post - "Remote Learning Is Not Necessarily Online Learning" - because fortunately, some training uses the elements that we consider to be integral to online learning. And, unfortunately, some online learning seems to be more like just remote training. And training and education have both been experimenting with hybrid models where learners and instructors can be in the same classroom working together but be extending the classroom online.

Remote learning is not inferior to online learning. It has its place in the broader "learning" experience. Remote learners sitting on their couch at home with a laptop may look the same as students taking an online course, but what is being provided to them, what they are expected to do with that content and what is the final expectations for that learning should be different. Putting a label on learning platforms is tricky, but it is important to know the differences.