Can You Order Lifelong Learning from Amazon.com?

graduatesJeff Selingo is saying that something to watch this year concerning continuous learning/universal learning/60-year curriculum/lifelong learning (I'm not sure what the term du jour is) is not coming from universities but from Amazon. 

This idea that we are always learning is hardly a new idea. But the idea that schools (at all levels) should supply that learning to non-traditional students who have left the school or maybe never attended the school is fairly new. Distance-learning began in the U.S. in the late 1800s. "Distance" meant that the learning was not in a classroom.

It went from the correspondence-course model to the broadcast airwaves to the combination of snail-mailed CDs and DVDs and finally online.

Selingo says that Amazon plans to spend more than $700 million to train 100,000 employees for higher-skilled jobs over the next six years. What's missing? Any college or university to design or deliver that training.

I also think that this idea is not brand new. Companies have been designing their own training for many decades. When I started at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2000, my department was helping design and provide training courses to companies. But as the decade progressed, I noticed more companies were designing the training and we were simply the delivery method. And now, it's more likely that the company might design and deliver.

What might be different in the case of Amazon is that if it follows their past path in cloud computing this will have a different result. For the cloud, they built their own platform internally (Amazon Web Services - AWS), worked out the bugs and then licensed it to scale. Might they eventually do the same thing with their higher-skilled training?

The rate of change in the skills and training needed now is far beyond the rather slow course-creation process of higher education. Selingo says that the legacy undergraduate and graduate degree programs at traditional universities and even the certificates that came into vogue in the 21st century don't make it.

Why is that? Because they take too long, cover more than is needed, and cost too much. I helped develop corporate training and certificates, but the university always had an eye on trying to lure those learners back to the university for a degree. That's not a valid approach anymore.

"Amazon University" doesn't exist yet, but many lifelong learners are already turning to YouTube, Khan Academy, MOOCs, LinkedIn Learning, General Assembly and other sources for continuous learning opportunities.

Selingo concludes that colleges and universities need to shift their thinking from serving students to the needs of learners.

MORE

From The Warehouse To IT: Amazon Offering 100,000 Workers Tech Training (NPR)

The idea that college education is over after four years, or even eight or 12 is so — yesterday - but 60 Years of Higher Ed — Really?

The 3.0 Era of Schools in China

ChinaI wrote recently about Web 2.0, 3.0 and even the coming 4.0, but this post was inspired by an article that asked if traditional classrooms would become obsolete when schools in China usher in the "3.0 Era." 

A keynote by Zhang Zhi, director of Shanghai Educational Technology Center, said that "while ushering in 3.0 era (in China), schools will be marked by individuation and innovation, embracing massive amounts of information."

I have posted here in the category of Web 3.0, but my Education 2.0 category seems to be one step behind.

Is the "3.0 Era" referred to in that article about the Web 3.0, Education 3.0 or the merging of the two? Zhi sees the school of industrial age as School 2.0. For me, that is School/Education 1.0. I agree that this is education based on a classroom teaching model designed to prepare students for an industrial society. 

We moved into Education 2.0 when we started to move away from a classroom with a teacher in front giving out information. I say we are still moving through the 2.0 information age in education.   

What Zhi sees as a school in the 3.0 era is what I see happening now. Classroom and campus boundaries are becoming less clear. Online learning did this more than anything. The role of teachers is changing. Artificial intelligence is changing how we learn and how we will teach.

When asked how schools in this new era will look, Zhi replies: "Now, the role of teachers has shifted from the authority to facilitators, companions and supporters. The time-space of learning has become ubiquitous. The future of school 3.0 will empower every learner by data including teaching, interpreting, making the decision, management, and innovation, which is the trend of school evolution.” 

This sounds like my version of Education 2.0, but in Zhi’s vision, the focus is on elementary and secondary school more than higher education. In these schools, he says these scenarios will exist. I don't know that in the United States we are doing these things - or that we want to do all these things.

  1. Each student will have a digital profile in light of the continuous data collection of his or her learning activities since the first day he or she is enrolled and this digital profile will be constantly updated through the individual’s growth. 
  2. Every teacher will have an AI assistant. 
  3. Each subject is interwoven with a knowledge map.
  4. Each teaching task is likely to be outsourced. For example, the workload of school principals will be significantly lightened, but they will need to evaluate and select the services providers.
  5. Every physical school is a part of the overall virtual school similar to the concept of Cloud Classroom.
  6. All the learning activities will be recorded. People used to read books and now “read the screen” but we also  interpret and better serve each learner through the analysis of eye movements, expression changes, internet operating behaviors and results.
  7. Each learner’s learning tasks are personalized. Thanks to the advanced technology, every student will be assigned different homework according to their level of knowledge mastery which is difficult to achieve relying on traditional education. 
  8. The length of schooling for each student will be flexible. Students move at their own pace.
  9. Every legitimate approach to learning will be admitted.
  10. Education will focus on collaboration and symbiosis. Future schools should be learning-centered communities and students will no longer see each other as competitors.
  11. Each family will form a unique educational unit. 
  12. Every piece of educational equipment tends to be intelligent. 
  13. Every school will embrace a hidden curriculum such as museums, sports games, and film festivals. Future schools must place great emphasis on the design of this so-called hidden curriculum.

One thing that is not revolutionary or radical in this vision of the next era is that Zhi sees physical schools as still necessary because “attending school is for communication, and exchanging ideas is for verification which can help us know ourselves. People cannot be taught but need to be guided to find the true self.”

This school 3.0 era is driven at all levels by technology but he cautions that "technology cannot replace emotion, experience, and communication, which should not be overlooked. Education is a process of exchanging feelings of affection in the collision of two hearts. From this perspective, the education industry will always be flourishing. Although much work may be accomplished by the advanced technology, the jobs that entail teachers to devote their love will never be replaced.”

The Online Learning Perfect Storm

online learnerAwhile back, edX CEO Anant Agarwal wrote in Forbes "How Four Technologies Created The 'Perfect Storm' For Online Learning." The four technologies are cloud computing, video distribution at scale, gamification, and social networking. A commentary by Stephen Downes doesn't question the impact these four have had on online learning, but he does question Agarwal's claim that each is a part of edX.

For example, he notes that the claim that "social networking" is present is because it uses a discussion board. That is certainly a stretch. For gamification he cites "simulation-based games, virtual labs, and other interactive assignments," none of which is integral to edX.

Downes considers the article "lightweight" but though there may not be a perfect storm it is worth noting the impact of those four things beyond edX.

Cloud computing has allowed exponential scalability in many sectors including online learning. Online learning platforms (Does anyone say learning management systems anymore?) became more responsive and faster.

Scalability was certainly key to the emergence of MOOCs. When some colleges tried their own MOOC offerings they realized that they couldn't handle the jump from courses with 25 or 100 students to ones with thousands of students. Of curse, even if you are still offering smaller online courses, the cloud allows all students to benefit from faster, more responsive platforms.

Video has been a part of online learning for 40 years if you go back to ITV, videotapes, CDs and DVDs. Broadbandallowed video to stream and sharing and distribution really hit about the same time as MOOCs were starting to gain initial momentum. YouTube and Vimeo allowed some smaller institutions a way to distribute high-quality videos.

When I was at NJIT, I got the university to sign on in 2007 as one of the first of 16 universities to use Apple's iTunes U. That gave us a much larger presence in online learning. I wrote about it extensively on this blog. But iTunes U didn't grab the market share the way MOOCs and YouTube did. The interface was not friendly to universities or to users. You don't hear it mentioned much by educators now and I doubt that it will exist in 2020.

iTunes U was important for sharing university lectures and some supporting documents. It was more open than what we would expect from Apple because the content was opened up by the institutions (colleges and also educational institutions like museums). I consider it an early tool in the MOOC movement. 

Gamification has been a buzzword for a long time, but it still hasn't made its way into most learning platforms by for-profits or in colleges. There's no doubt that instant feedback and more active engagement in the learning process produces better success, but I find faculty still back off at the word gamification. Some of that fear or disdain is because they associate it with videogames and gaming sounds less "educational." This is a misconception, but one that has persisted. I always used to say that just say "simulation" instead of gamification and you'll get more buy-in from faculty. Sometimes that worked.

Simulations that use game strategies and components can be used in virtual labs and many interactive activities, knowledge checks (graded or not) and assignments in order to promote higher-order thinking tasks such as design, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The "fun factor" shouldn't be ignored although that is part of the hesitation from faculty. There is this sadly persistent idea that learning is supposed to be difficult and not fun.

Social networking came on strong in the era of Web 2.0. Today it comes in for a lot of criticism. I believe that many educators who were using Twitter, Facebook and other social sites in their teaching have backed away. part of that is the criticism and privacy issues on such sites and part of it is that there are some tools built into platforms that allow for a more private social experience. However, posting your thoughts in an LMS for the rest of the class really doesn't duplicate or approach the experience of posting it online for a large part of the world. Twitter boasts 330 million monthly active users (as of 2019 Q1) and 40 percent (134 million) use the service on a daily basis (Twitter, 2019).    The chance to interact and possibly collaborate across the globe is no small thing.

What will create the next perfect storm in online learning? Agarwal suggests that the next four high-impact technologies will be AI, big data analytics, AR/VR and robotics.

Hack Clubs

anonymous hacker

I saw an interesting article about teen hackers who have to convince their parents that what they're doing is good rather than evil.

Wikipedia defines a hacker as a skilled computer expert that uses their technical knowledge to overcome a problem. But while "hacker" can refer to any skilled computer programmer, the term has become associated in popular culture with a "security hacker", someone who, with their technical knowledge, uses bugs or exploits to break into computer systems.

These high-school students are forming hack clubs to solve problems through coding in their schools. In this context, we can define hacking as coding, creating sites and apps, as in hackathons.  The hack clubs are generally student-led after school activities.

The term "white hat" refers to an ethical computer hacker. This computer security expert specializes in penetration testing and in other testing methodologies to ensure the security of an organization's information systems. They hack for good. The term "ethical hacking" is a broader term that means more than just penetration testing.

Following the cowboy movie iconography, the "black hat" is a malicious hacker. I have also seen the blended gray hat hacker described as one who hacks with good intentions but without permission.

I suppose the question that parents of a hacker - and educators and the authorities - might have is whether a young person starting as a white hat might become gray and be drawn to the dark side of black hat hacking.