What are the opportunities for adult learning emerging from new communication technologies, especially around new information access and social media? What are the challenges in designing instruction for the new technologies?
We’ve talked about MOOCs so much in the program, but I still think they are one of the best emerging and growing ways for adults to learn. I’ve seen stories on MOOCs on morning talk shows. So many stories in the big papers are popping up.
When I did the student services for Summer Studies, I would get calls daily about teacher recertification courses. Coursera is expanding their offerings to include continuing education for teachers. I think this is a fantastic idea–one of the best programs to come out of MOOCs. K-12 Teachers are required to take recertification classes and keep up with the latest in classroom technologies as well as new developments in the topics they teach. It is brilliant to bring these classes online. I know many K-12 teachers–most are very educated young women and many are new mothers. An online recertification program would allow them to stay home instead of spending so much time outside of the house. Making a course self-directed over a semester would also work with busy teacher schedules.
A record number of teachers are retiring all across the country and I think the educational system would really benefit from making something easier for current and future teachers. I often don’t think of this as adult education, but it is a huge market and potentially, someone could make a lot of money of of this.
I tried to take a MOOC–sadly, I didn’t have enough time–but I was blown away by the rate of self-organization among the students, particularly on social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc.). MOOCs are showing what is possible for other hybrid and online classes. The Facebook group was so well-organized that there many documents on the page that gathered the social media sites of the students. Once I put my name on the Twitter list, I had twenty new followers, including the class’ instructor.
I don’t think Dr. Cowles’ students would be as motivated as the students in the MOOC I was in (it was about educational technology so the participants had a vested interest in the topic and the use of ed tech), but if we build a culture around online meetings, self-organization and social media, I think education–particularly adult education, since, according to some theories, adults are better at self-directed learning, which is more common in online education.
Designing instruction for these kinds of courses will differ greatly from in person instruction. There will be more videos, podcasts, webinars, message boards and social media to keep students engaged. I think this will require technology-savvy adult educators to step forward and move education in this direction (I’m thinking of Lindsey and Joanne designing training for older educators–it is a tough job).
I think Jeff’s class last semester opened our eyes to the amount of technologies available that can benefit instruction. It would be very difficult to keep up with all these new apps and social media sites. Departments like the CTE should exist at all universities that can sustain a program like it. Without a core group of designers and technologists doing the research, it would be difficult for teachers to find out methods to improve instruction through technology.
I fear that sometimes it will be difficult to strike the right balance in designing online courses–I, personally, love new technologies but I don’t want them to get in the way of quality information. Designers will have to judge, based on research and knowing the audience, if having the students read about the Abilene paradox (hey, 612!) is better than a video of the writer. Find a balance between technology and traditional instruction is not new, but it is becoming a tougher challenge in the digital age.
Photo of the child from the Netherland’s Photo Archives & computer lab photo from San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, both on flickr.