The way we take in new information has dramatically changed since the introduction of the Internet. The constant action of flipping through endless pages in the Encyclopedia Britannica has been simplified to a couple of taps on a keyboard to browse Wikipedia. Our access to knowledge has never been more effortless or free.
With a large percentage of what we learn belonging to the digital world, it has disrupted the traditional education landscape of in-person lectures and core curriculum. More and more digital learning trends have emerged, enabling more accessible, efficient and bespoke ways of learning.
1. Mobile Learning
Buying a phone or a tablet costs significantly less than owning a laptop or enrolling in a formal higher education program. Over the years, the integration of mobile experiences with traditional education environments has improved. More and more classrooms have replaced textbooks with digital learning tools available on mobile phones and tablets to offer students a more accessible and interactive alternative for learning.
There are apps and platforms dedicated to a systematic means of learning via mobile, with organized lessons, learning paths and achievement systems. Apps like Duolingo, Udacity, and edX have done just this by offering mobile courses with specific learning goals. These help users learn whenever they want, wherever they are, just with an internet connection and a battery.
2. Personalized Learning
Alt School, a San Francisco startup that aims to revolutionize the education system in primary to middle school environments via personalized learning has recently received $100M funding from Mark Zuckerberg. Also, the digital personalized learning platform Knewton has worked with numerous institutions to offer them personalized learning solutions for student and employee education.
It is also important to note while Personalized Learning aims to tailor the learning experience for every student, it is unfortunately not accessible to the masses. In addition to the substantial amount of research, content creation, and personal interaction between the teacher and the student needed to create a personalized learning experience, there’s also an enormous price tag attached to it with a minimum cost of $3,000 per month to attend Alt School in New York City.
3. Micro Learning
This method can be found everywhere--to the point where experiencing it can go unnoticed. Took a lesson in Duolingo? Signed up for daily UX challenge? Subscribed to Crash Course on Youtube? Though these examples are in slightly different formats, they are all considered to be micro learning. Micro learning is able to cover diverse topics, but is not suitable for every topic. The fragmented style of learning is not suitable to convey new, abstract, and in-depth topics. For example, it is suitable to teach the learner new visual design tips and tricks daily, but it is not suitable to grasp the general theory of relativity.
4. Peer Learning
Peer learning has proven to be more effective than doing solo exercises. While teachers do provide the bulk of information during a class, there’s always new and undiscovered things you can learn from your classmates who usually provide a more approachable atmosphere. Unlike a lecture environment in which information is mass fed from instructors to students, interaction among students can promote a more active learning experience.
Furthermore, in a traditional peer learning environment such as a discussion group, it is difficult to ensure equal participation, a positive environment, and the same level of understand of certain topic among students even with an experienced moderator. Converting this to a software based environment allows the digital peer learning environment to be self-organized without the need for a moderator to initiate collaborative learning in real-time.
5. Virtual Reality Learning
Google Expedition has been developing 360 videos and experience to offer students an affordable way to experience VR learning. Through the device and application, students are able to be virtually underwater, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to understand the ecosystem, or be on the top floor of The Burj Khalifa in Dubai to appreciate its literal architectural grandeur.
While there are certainly a lot of benefits to these learning methods, no single one is considered to be ideal. Personalized Learning, while tailored, requires a huge amount of research, content creation, and interaction between teachers and students. Mobile Learning is limited by x x screen size and battery life while Micro Learning is only suitable for certain topics.
Creating a well-rounded learning experience is only achievable on a handful of platforms and applications, since most of them have specific emphasis on learning methodology, but this is not the case for Open edX with it being designed to implement multiple learning methods on a single platform. Users can learn with their mobile devices through the Open edX app, gain knowledge from their peers through discussion groups and learn via micro-learning from the diverse formats of content supported by Open edX, and embed formats like VR leveraging its flexible customization options.
When attempting to construct a well-rounded learning experience, the most important decision is not about selecting the right learning method, but to structure the right combination of these complementary learning methods.