In a recent blog, I wrote how elearning has the two aspects of means & consequence
that uses innovative technologies and learning models (the means) to transform the way individuals and organizations acquire new skills and knowledge and access information (the consequence). Note that I slightly change the last part of this definition from the original post.
It is important to understand this concept if you want to play a part, or at least a meaningful part in elearning's growth, which according to IDC
, should look similar to this:
When elearning first arrived on the scene, it was hyped to grow at a phenomenal rate:
The next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education. Education over the Internet is going to be so big it is going to make email usage look like a rounding error. - John Chambers , president and CEO of Cisco Systems (2000).
Now it has enjoyed a modest growth rate so far, but nowhere near the growth that was first hyped. Thus, it is kind of refreshing to see IDC's modest growth prediction, although it still might be slightly on the high side. And this growth rate is going to be fueled by four things:
- Technology (means)
- Learning Methodology (means)
- Acquire new skills and knowledge (consequence)
- Access information (consequence).
Until recently, most of the discussions on elearning were about the technology aspects. For example, elearning is about learning anything, anyplace, at anytime. Yet it is just about impossible to get very deep into a topic when you are consistently interrupted by phones and co-workers. In addition, elearning is normally done at a computer, which of course does not go everywhere. However, with wireless (m-learning) and iPods
, this is starting to change.
Thus, there are basically three technologies at the moment that will help with elearning's growth:
The Gilder Paradigm (Wired, 4.12 - Dec 1996)
reports that in the future, if the law of thrift in the current paradigm is waste watts and transistors, the law of thrift in the new paradigm will be waste bandwidth and save watts. That is, if bandwidth is free, you get a completely different computer architecture and information economy. While other futurist simply tell about the future, George Gilder (Wired 4.03 - Mar 1996)
gives us the nuts and bolts about the future.
Cheap, unlimited bandwidth is not yet reality, however, when it does arrive, it will give an extremely big boost to elearning. Much of the elearning programs developed today are text-based adaptations due to the extra bandwidth required to carry multimedia programs. Learners do not enjoy looking at an hourglass while waiting for downloads of huge video and audio clips. Thus, faster connections will mean that we will be able to add the correct instructional methods to support the learning
and WiFi networking is becoming more popular, mlearning will boost the feasibility of learning anyplace and anytime (as long as you can get away from those pesky interruptions).
Right now, most people vision elearning as sitting in front of a computer, yet if we change that scenario slightly to listening to a ipod, that is, rather than downloading music, you download some verbal information and perhaps some pictures, then e-learning starts to expand...
Podcasting works similar to a desktop aggregator, in that you subscribe
to a set of feeds, and then view the new stuff from all of the feeds together, or each feed separately.
Podcasting has one major difference -- instead of reading the new content on a computer screen, you listen to the new content on an iPod or iPod-like device. Think of your iPod as having a set of subscriptions that are checked regularly for updates. For a list of some of the podcasts now available, see podcasts
Fuel for Growth
The technology aspect of the internet provided the first means
for the beginning of elearning. And by growing it through cheap broadband, mlearning, and podcasting, we further fuel its growth.
This is the first of a four-part series on the growth of elearning. The second means
of fueling the growth of elearning via "learning methods" will be discussed in the next blog. Skills & knowledge and accessing information will then follow.