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.

 

The Virtual Internship

workplace
The in-person internship

Internships for college students (and sometimes high school students) have long been a good experience. They help young people develop a professional aptitude, learn real-world skills, and often create an opportunity for a follow-up job. They took a hit during the pandemic with offices closed and a reluctance on both sides to be out in the world.

Virtual internships became a thing. I assume some existed before but not in great numbers. I read about some undergrads at Brown University who began Intern From Home in March 2020. They wanted to salvage internships during the pandemic for classmates with a free, simple-to-use platform. They were connecting students at more than 200 colleges with virtual internships and it looks like they have doubled that.

They were not the first to do this. Sites like virtualinternships.com offer college and high school students internship opportunities.

When I was a college student many moons ago, internships were rare. When my sons were undergrads, internships were fairly common but often unpaid and in some cases, students had to pay tuition in order to get credit for the experience. If money is an issue for you as a student (as it was for me), then an unpaid summer or semester was not likely. The National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) reported that the average hourly wage for undergraduate interns rose from $16.35 in 2014 to $18.06 in 2017.

Career exploration is a big plus for internships. I knew several fellow undergrads who did internships or worked in the field that they planned on after graduation and the experience led them to decide that they did not want to pursue that career. That is disappointing but important.

Reading a report from the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions CCWT and other sites all list similar benefits for the internship experience.

    Gain valuable work experience
    Explore a career path
    Give yourself an edge in the job market
    Develop and refine skills
    Receive financial compensation.
    Network with professionals in the field
    Gain confidence
    Transition into a job

 

infographic

Infographic - for larger size see ccwt.wceruw.org

It is disappointing that a new study of online internships shows that, among more than 10,000 students at 11 colleges, most virtual internships last year went to students in middle- and upper-income families. Also more positions were unpaid than paid. (Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin- Madison) They also found that there were higher levels of dissatisfaction with virtual internships compared to in-person experiences. Not unlike online learning, students listed limited opportunities for engagement and learning.

Is Your Job Future Proof?

book coverAmber MacArthur's newsletter turned me on to a new book by The New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose called Futureproof. which considers the question Is your job future-proof? 

First thought: Is any job future-proof? I'd guess that we will always need doctors, farmers, teachers, police and a bunch of other professions, but as they change will they remain recognizable as their former professions?

As a teacher, I've been hearing for decades that we'd be replaced someday by computers, robots, and artificial intelligence. It hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it won't happen after I have left the planet.

The age of automation has been with us since the last century. We have all seen how some industries, like automakers, have automated many jobs that were done by humans. Some humans are still there working with robots and such but not very many. I once toured a beer bottling facility and the observation area was decorated with a timeline showing the place over the years. The thing that immediately hit me was that as we moved through the 20th-century photos was that people were vanishing from the photos. A crowd of humans was putting bottles into boxes in the 1920s and on the floor in front of me now was one person on a platform operating controls for it all to be done by automation.

Automation doesn't take breaks, call in sick, slow down at the end of the day, join a union, or mind working 24/7 for no extra pay.

Futureproof's subtitle is "9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation" and the first rule is to "Be Surprising, Social, and Scarce." Roose's approach is to do things yourself to protect your job.

It's not about defeating the machines because they are here and not leaving and it doesn’t just change our jobs. It changes our entire life experience with AI and algorithms influencing what you watch on screens, what you listen to, the news you get, and on and on. 

It's not about becoming like a machine. In fact, Roose thinks you need to be more human. What are the creative, inspiring, and meaningful things you can do that even the most advanced AI can’t do? At least, not yet.

Better technology for medical imaging was welcomed into hospitals, but you still needed humans to read those x-rays, scans, and such. But now, we are finding that AI might be able to more accurately read those results without bias and using comparisons to an ever-growing data collection of other results. 

Chess and Go players once thought no machine could beat a master. Wrong.

There is too much in the book to summarize here but think about some of these provocative personal rules: Resist machine drift; Leave handprints; Demote your devices; Treat AI like a chimp army.
 
Think about one of those rules: "Leave Handprints." It's the idea that we still value human artisanship and service. People are willing to pay a premium for some handmade items - such as artwork - or to be served in a restaurant. 

 

 

 

 

Gig Workers Versus Employees

work from homeTraditionally, "work" was described as a full-time worker with set working hours, duties and benefits. But the definition of work has changed more rapidly in the past 20 years due to changing economic conditions and continued technological advances. A new labor force characterized by independent and contractual labor has emerged.

I was listening to a podcast about how California’s Prop. 22 could affect the gig economy nationwide from Marketplace Tech. Proposition 22 is a California initiative sponsored by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig work platforms that would exempt app-based ride-hailing companies and food delivery companies from a new state law that requires them to classify drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. Gig companies have poured nearly $200 million into getting a Yes vote on Prop 22. That is the most spent on a ballot initiative in state history, but a No vote will cost them all (and others) a lot more money.

I have mixed feelings about it. As someone who unretired into gig work, I have no desire to be an "employee." But I'm past the full-time worker phase of life and have health insurance, so I'm not like younger gig workers who might be using gig work for the bigger companies as their main gig.

Those companies have threatened to leave California or dramatically raise prices if Prop 22 doesn't pass. I'm not sure how seriously I would take that threat. California represents a lot of business. And yes, I know it will cost them more to operate there and they will probably need to pass at least some of that along to customers but a "dramatic" increase in their prices will also hurt business.

California often takes the initiative on issues - environmental and otherwise - and other states often follow California.

Temporary work or temporary employment isn't really new. What we call gigs might once have been termed "odd jobs" by my parents. Any employment situation where the working arrangement is limited to a certain period of time that is based on the needs of the hiring organization is similar temp work to some new gigs. Those workers (who we should not be called "employees" at this time) have been called "contractual", "seasonal", "interim", "casual staff", "outsourcing", or "freelancers."

At the higher end of those positions are some highly skilled professionals and seasoned workers in "white-collar" worker fields, such as human resources, research and development, engineering, and accounting. Those people (and I include myself) often refer to themselves as consultants.

Gig workers and the "gig economy" are a 21st-century development. Gig workers are also known sometimes as independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers, or temporary workers. In most cases, gig workers enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies to provide services to the company's clients. It was the Internet and the digitalization of the economy and industry that allowed this type of work to emerge.

Digital technology has created jobs and employment forms that are differentiated from existing offline transactions. The economy is driven by accessibility, convenience and price competitiveness.

Presently, 36% of U.S. workers in the gig economy arrived there through either their primary or secondary jobs. In Europe, 9.7% of adults from 14 EU countries participated in the gig economy in 2017. , according to the survey. Meanwhile, it is estimated that gig worker's size, which covers independent or non-conventional workers, is 20% to 30% of the economically active population in the United States and Europe.

Will the Gig Economy someday be the dominant economy?