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In this post I have looked for very recent news which dates back to no later than a month in order to gain a greater understanding of what is currently happening at the forefront of my practice. This week I have chosen to develop my understanding of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) and look at how technologies including tablet and mobile, interactive tools and video calling facilitate the possibility of online learning that is rapidly growing in popularity across the world. MOOC’s are developing a lot of interest and their growth is undisputed. The material I have found below undoubtedly demonstrates how these practises are right at the forefront of my study because of their impact and the way they are viewed in society, education and among government officials.

Anderson, M. (2015) ‘Out of Africa: e-learning makes further education a reality for tens of thousands’. The Guardian [Online] 20 May. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/may/20/elearning-africa-conference-addis-ababa-further-education [Accessed on 18/06/15]

20 May 2015

Zuhar Yasin holds a bachelors degree from Indian University in America. However Yasin has never been to Indiana or the US; she attained her degree via the AVU (African Virtual University), which makes use of video and virtual learning environments online. The AVU was created in 1997 and has offered degrees to 43000 students to date, it is monumentally growing in popularity having announced the opening of 29 new distance learning courses. Teaching authorities utilise apps such as Skype and WhatsApp to communicate with students although specialist software is used to teach actual classes. There is also plans for the AVU to offer lecturers via mobile devices which would dramatically increase the possible penetration of Africa’s estimated 112 million smart phone devices.

Figure 1. An African virtual learning classroom.

Figure 1. An African virtual learning classroom.

However the fact that they use apps such as WhatsApp does reduce the potential reputation of the education that is delivered. There is an unavoidable impression that using such apps take away from the professionalism that degree education so favourably encourages. Although on the other hand WhatsApp is just as sufficient in some ways as email, and for many it is more convenient and accessible. Furthermore these contemporary methods of communication may veer away from a depicted view of professionalism but they are forever increasing in their use in a society where social media, networking and communication is developing through these sort of apps. It should also be essential to recognise that this method achieves what is required – effective communication. None the less, it still feels like a playful version of what should really be academic practice using email.

Yasin is from an independent state in Somalia, a region in Africa which in 2008 had the lowest university attendance in the world with just 6% of school leavers going onto further education, compared to the world average 26%. ‘eLearning Africa’ are an organisation who aim to reduce that gap and nurture the human resources necessary for economic development. The development of such online learning tools can help connect African students with MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) for free from such of the top universities in the world. Mark West who is a mobile learning expert says that “[Virtual learning] is a portal into educational opportunities that, frankly, hadn’t existed before, and some of those opportunities – if you can afford the broadband connection and the hardware to use that connection – are free. For really self-motivated learners, it’s remarkable.” (West, M in Anderson, M 2015). To consider the opportunities that are available, and especially what will be available in the future is quite unbelievable when we think about the economic stature of these countries.

Bakary Diallo of the AVU claims that “In Africa, the need for education is so important. Poverty, violence, extremism – I think the root of these problems is lack of education.” (Diallo, B in Anderson, M 2015). Taking this statement into account illustrates just how important education is and more so in countries which lack the opportunity’s to do so. Education in third world countries is more than knowledge. It is democratic empowerment.

Diallio claims that in his 15 years working in virtual learning, only recently have governments become really interested. It is now though that they have put eLearning high on their agenda as they begin to understand the monumental development in Africa that online learning could encourage. With many parts of the continent facing irregular power supply and internet access it will be a while before eLearning can be fully utilised. However 19 African countries have signed a charter that establishes the AVU as an intergovernmental organisation and the African Union has prioritised virtual learning in its long-term development strategy which highlights the increasing demand and importance of online learning.

This above extract exemplifies the growing importance of online learning and shows how instrumental it is within LEDC’s. This importance is proven by the AVU prioritsing online learning and at such a recent date it shows how it is in their interest for it to continue to develop.

PR Rocket. (2015) ‘E-learning: moving toward a self-servicing society by GSS Infosoft Limited-UK, Parinama Group Company’ [Online] Available at: http://www.pressreleaserocket.net/e-learning-moving-toward-a-self-servicing-society-by-gss-infosoft-limited-uk-parinama-group-company/218914/          [Accessed on 18/06/15]

 

June 15 2015

The authors of ‘Press Release Rocket’ discuss the rapid growth in eLearning and credit the huge growth in mobile, tablet and cloud services to helping this develop. Online learning has existed for quite a while but its popularity to grow in educational sectors is seeing its capabilities increase too.

It is becoming important to look critically at the outcomes of tasks and to adapt those outcomes. We are delving further away from requiring an endless accumulation of general knowledge with a higher focus on the skills to find those answers and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Students are encouraged to add to and modify the content of a course based on the forefront of their field and by increasing the use of eLearning facilities, students are constantly engaged with the course through their smartphones and they are able to capitalise on a dynamic learning experience.

PR Rocket make a bold statement by claiming that “In the near future, universities will not survive as the future is outside the traditional campus and outside the traditional classroom.” (PR Rocket 2015). Whilst this may be true to some degree I think it is very doubtful that universities will become redundant. There is certainly evidence to support the fact that the growth of online courses and MOOC’s could decrease the amount of university applicants, especially with the increased fees. However to assume this is close to happening by sating “near future” I think is possibly too optimistic but certainly not at some point given the increasing technology that allows for greater eLearning. Although to question the existence of university’s future’s is a long shot as there are many benefits it affords such as the social aspect and the peer contact which cannot be replicated via online amenities in quite the same way.

University’s have for so long been an established stronghold for education across the world. The possibility that MOOC’s and online learning could disrupt this fact are extremely important. At the minute this is of course very speculative but the argument remains important. There is no doubt that MOOC’s are gaining more popularity and whether they make physical establishments redundant or help to extend them is as issue which is right at the forefront of my study as the Internet and its capabilities are right at the hub of this observation.

 

Malik, A. (2015) ‘Growth of Smart Online Education Over Conventional Learning’ iamwire [Online] 16 June. Available at: http://www.iamwire.com/2015/06/growing-predominance-smart-online-education-conventional-learning/118182/comment-page-1 [Accessed on 18/06/15]

June 16 2015

Aditya Malik also discusses the debate of where the surge in online learning leaves traditional classroom teaching. He acknowledges the influence of eLearning within traditional education but claims that education restricted to just classroom teaching is now a passé. As true as this may be it should be recognised that universities do not sit in the past and do not impede the implementation of technology to enhance students’ experience and opportunities.

Malik does explain the increase of online learning well by acknowledging the dominance and importance of the university classroom for a long period of time. However he states that people are quickly beginning to welcome the use of eLearning as a way of expanding the concept of a classroom beyond 4 walls to enable greater opportunity.

He goes onto discuss important elements that online learning offers citing interactive tools such as gamification, collaborative and social learning which he says creates a more engaging experience. As well online learning provides students’ with a better ability to evaluate performance via assessment tools which are a lacking affordance of classroom teaching he claims. However he says that online learning benefits from interaction with a 50% increase from a traditional classroom because of the fact that individuals directly interact with professors and are not surrounded by their peers. However peer interaction is something which is in fact extremely beneficial to a students’ learning experience because of idea development, peer reviewing and moral increase and whilst these can be replicated online, they will not overtake what physical presence can offer.

Furthermore he claims that tools such as discussion forums and cloud services empower a learning system which is 24/7 and this surpasses the constrained borders of classroom teaching. However this is a very unjustified claim. There is no reason what so ever that traditional classroom teaching cannot offer online services, and in fact they do. Blackboard for example offers students the ability to further study at their own convenience.

Therefore whilst Malik and many others are right in advocating the benefit of online convenient learning, they also often undermine the fact that classroom teaching can offer the exact same opportunities to compliment the students’ ‘traditional’ experience. Of course this does not take away from the colossal pull of free education that MOOC’s offer but it cannot be wholly said that they offer opportunities that traditional courses cannot, as quite simply, they can.

Malik makes observations which all advocate the implementation of online learning in the classroom and this is something which is very current. It could very much be argued that the current generation are the first to grow up immersed in technology but they were not taught to live and work in this environment. Teaching did not prepare its students for this change but rather taught in such a way that reflected modes of thinking that relied on traditional media. Given this, Malik’s argument is very important to consider and his identification that the Internet can be fused with teaching is something that is right at the forefront of this subject area.

 

Mason, C. (2015) ‘Online courses: grown-up learning gets a makeover with MOOCS, from creative arts to business skills’ [online] Available at: http://www.high50.com/life/online-courses-the-rise-of-the-mooc-and-where-to-find-the-right-course [Accessed on 18/06/15]

3 June 2015

Claire Mason also discusses the tremendous opportunity that arises from MOOC’s by looking at the variety of course that are available. Not too long ago MOOC’s were an unknown term with little offering and now there are thousands of options available with prestigious institutes such as Oxford and Harvard also weighing in. MOOC’s offer the chance for everyone to study whether it be for the purposes of increasing ones skillset or merely as a trivial interest. All study material is provided online and so students are encouraged to interact via social communities which really allow individuals to enhance their learning experience by sharing and supporting each other. However whilst you may be studying with hundreds and even thousands of fellow students virtually, in reality you are very much on your own with just your computer and this is the very primitive structure of MOOC’s. For some people this works well and they would relish the chance to study alone and at their own time and pace, whereas others may feel the non-existent physical community reduces the attraction of online over traditional learning.

She highlights the versatility of courses available by bringing attention to those below; Film making with the NFTS and BFI, creative coding and the literal works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

 

 

 

 

Mason also talk about the benefit it can have to employment attraction. She claims that many employers are becoming more aware of MOOC’s and are beginning to appreciate and understand their value. Employees who have completed them are viewed favorably as having a thirst for knowledge, and the proactivity, enthusiasm and initiative to seek out the knowledge they wish to learn. Furthermore it also displays extremely high levels of motivation, time management skills and autonomy as well as the ability to engage with modern technology which is something that is very appealing to potential employers.

Mason recognises the appeal MOOC’s have and her argument that it is something that employers would appreciate is very important. Of the material I have come across, most of it has discussed MOOC’s on a level of education and improved skills. However there is little coverage in relation to MOOC’s and employability. As a collective we all are prone to develop our knowledge and understanding of our world and this is something MOOC’s can help achieve. An improvement in skills is also something which is highly sought after. However it could be argued that employment perspectives are a very high priority in continued education. Therefore Mason’s observations are very important to highlight when considering the currency and forefront of my study.

 

 

References

Figure 1. (see below)

Anderson, M. (2015) ‘Out of Africa: e-learning makes further education a reality for tens of thousands’. The Guardian [Online] 20 May. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/may/20/elearning-africa-conference-addis-ababa-further-education [Accessed on 18/06/15]

Malik, A. (2015) ‘Growth of Smart Online Education Over Conventional Learning’ iamwire [Online] 16 June. Available at: http://www.iamwire.com/2015/06/growing-predominance-smart-online-education-conventional-learning/118182/comment-page-1 [Accessed on 18/06/15]

Mason, C. (2015) ‘Online courses: grown-up learning gets a makeover with MOOCS, from creative arts to business skills’ [online] Available at: http://www.high50.com/life/online-courses-the-rise-of-the-mooc-and-where-to-find-the-right-course [Accessed on 18/06/15]

PR Rocket. (2015) ‘E-learning: moving toward a self-servicing society by GSS Infosoft Limited-UK, Parinama Group Company’ [Online] Available at: http://www.pressreleaserocket.net/e-learning-moving-toward-a-self-servicing-society-by-gss-infosoft-limited-uk-parinama-group-company/218914/          [Accessed on 18/06/15]

 

 

 

 

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