There have been countless articles published on eLearning trends for 2016 since the end of last year. Industry experts pay attention to keywords such as gamification, personalization, social, mobile learning, augmented learning, and automation – many of which are extension from previous years.
Not surprisingly, sharing, community, storytelling, and change were underlying themes presented at eLearning’s mega conference “DevLearn” last fall. The release of the 2016 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Education Edition in early February acknowledged that these trends also exist in academic institutions. The messages are clear – we do, and will continue to, rely on technology to engage and educate learners both in schools and at workplaces.
With increasingly affordable technologies available at hand, the student populations are evolving, and so are their needs and approaches to learning. Notice that the emerging trends support learners both socially and individually. Interaction with others help promote the distribution of knowledge and extend student learning as supported by Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory and related research. On the other hand, students with varying backgrounds and learning ability can advance further when learning is personalized and adapted to their levels. Teaching and learning in the 21st century occurs with help from technology. Teaching with technology is no longer optional. It is expected and is becoming the norm.
Does this change anything for online instructors?
It is true that you can’t teach online without using technology, but what kind of technology are you using? It has been too long if you don’t remember the last time you tried a fun-filled learning activity, implemented a new way for students to interact or collaborate, or ventured out in the wide, wild Internet searching for the right tool. Technology innovations are here to meet the lifestyles of over 310 million Internet users in North America alone. As Internet penetration is forecasted to reach 71% of the world by 2019, technology development for consumers will not be stagnant. The best we can do is keep up.
It is never too late to take yet another small step. A quick student survey is a good start to collect student feedback: what students see is working and what they don’t get enough of. Rethink and revise one assignment at a time to add more excitement, a social component, or a small competition with recognition. Extend learning outside of the “official” classroom without the instructor. Can students participate without a computer? “There is an app for that” is a familiar phrase. Educational tools exist to help facilitate and accommodate learning and you should be able to find one that fits your objectives.