The Future of Online Education

Trying, belatedly, to live up to Jon Udell’s “principle of the conservation of keystrokes,” I’m posting a little something I wrote a couple of weeks ago in answer my friend and colleague Chuck Dziuban’s question: “what is the future of online education?” Frequent readers will recognize some of my usual riffs–oldies but hopefully still goodies. It will also be obvious how much Brian Lamb has influenced my thinking: his piece on mashups in last month’s EDUCAUSE Review is a honey, particularly because of the passionate hymn to open content and open education with which he concludes his essay.

At any rate, here’s my .02:

Traditional models of distance education–education delivered, assessed, and credentialed by institutions of higher education–still dominate our thinking about online learning. Over the next decade, however, online learning will increasingly occur in ad-hoc contexts that rely on personally-aggregated feeds of syndicated, open content and tap into new kinds of credential-granting structures, including assessment-driven certification granted by agencies whose membership cuts across traditional institutional structures. Traditional course-for-credit models will persist–they certainly have their uses–but more and more learners will arrange their own “cognitive apprenticeships” by means of RSS feeds of content generated by a personal suite of trusted and inspiring experts, and they will build their reputations through certifications, testimonials, and a body of their own online work that generates persistent, sophisticated commentary.

Discuss!

3 thoughts on “The Future of Online Education

  1. Hey G–I just read an article today about online learning at the top music conservatories. Apparently, Berklee College of Music has an entire suite of online courses offered through its extension school. The New School allows prospective students to audition online through a new software called ekomi. But leading the pack is the Manhattan School of Music which is the nation’s largest distributor of online jazz music instruction. Apparently, its working very well. They believe that they are totally reinventing jazz education.

    As for your comment above, Berklee offers an array of certificates. And they report that most of their students are non-degree seeking folks who already have full-time nonmusical careers.

  2. Hey Dolen! Thanks for the info about New School/ekomi and Manhattan School of Music–I’ll look these folks up pronto (though I’m probably not going to audition just yet–gotta get my chops together first :)). Berklee’s been my Gold Standard for awhile in this area, since I first heard Debbie Cavalier’s podcast way back in 2005. I got to meet her and hear her talk in the hectic spring of 2006 and was once again blown away by the thoughtfulness and inventiveness of Berklee’s online presence. Truly stunning stuff, and very forward-thinking in just the ways you’ve outlined. There’s even a set of free lessons out there that do double duty as pro bono music instruction and enticements for further, paid instruction. A win for everyone so far as I’m concerned.

    Can’t wait to check out the other sites you’ve mentioned. Thanks!

  3. I’ve wanted to respond to this post for awhile, but I have been unable to put into words what I want to say.
    I hope more than anything you are right about the future of online education because that is exactly what I want. Education in this context seems more like a journey and more compelling than the average abbreviated and sometimes static learning going on in the classroom.
    Over the past fews month I’ve felt like I have been experiencing this sort of learning online. My own sort of secret education about anything and everything. A blog post, tweet, class wiki, and del.icio.us links from various “trusted and inspiring experts” has led me to engage topics I would have never considered or have heard about. One snag that I have run into is finding time (and the courage) to ask and discuss with other people what I want to learn and what I have been learning. Also learning to balance time and energy between school work with what I want to learn (although these two sometimes intersect).

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