Cyberlearning: Changing the Landscape of Learning

Cyberlearning opens up new avenues for people all over the world to take advantage of technology that disseminates knowledge and the principles of education.  It has the potential to grant people access to courses across geographical distance, time, and socioeconomic status, in both developed and developing nations.  The courses are facilitated by experts that span the globe.  Cyberlearning also applies to supportive technology used as educational resources in the classroom by teachers to aid in the learning process.

One of the most ambitious innovations in cyberlearning is the development of the massive open online course (MOOC).  The courses, spanning a wide range of learning opportunities, are open to all individuals who have access to the internet.  Sounds great, right?

Recent studies indicate that people registering for MOOCs consist of individuals who are highly educated and, in some nations, are among the wealthiest.  These numbers underscore that there is a strong need to address the underlying issues that pertain to closing the digital divide, to addressing needs in local education facilitation, creating access to education, and instilling the inspiration for lifelong learning.  These areas must be managed prior to an expectation that open online education will attract and retain the masses.

Out of those registered MOOCs, the numbers indicate there is approximately a 90% incompletion rate, which opponents of open online courses tout as a failure.  However, if one applies Everett Roger’s diffusion of innovation theory when reviewing the demographic of those registered and the incompletion rate, the findings are not that surprising.  The MOOCs concept is still in early days and, based on Roger’s theory, would only be attractive to innovators and early adopters.  I believe the move to the mainstream is still on the horizon and will require agility and understanding of the international educational, language, and cultural needs of a variety of populaces.

Websites like the newly launches Codecademy.com teach users how to code at no cost.  It is still early days, but it has received attention on how it plans to move forward.

Subscriptions sites are another cyberlearning venue.  One in particular is the online training and tutorial sites Lynda.com.  This subscription site allows users to view video tutorials on a number of subjects.  Currently I am learning to use the animation application Maya and have found it to be very convenient even with my demanding schedule.  A second subscription site I use regularly is Rosetta Stone, particularly when I plan to travel overseas.  They now have web based software that can be used on mobile devices, which makes it even easier than before to learn a language.

Codecademy.com, Lynda.com, and Rosetta Stone are websites that employers could provide as a benefit to their staff for professional development opportunities.  They teach practical skills that are easily translatable to workforce initiatives.  MOOCs, while they do have a number of practical applications, do not appear to be as focused on the correlation yet, although courses do offer certificates of completion.

Educational approaches utilizing cyberlearning techniques in a mixed-method approach can be seen in web based applications like Lexia Learning Core 5.  The Core 5 software is used as a classroom supplement, not a replacement, and was developed with teachers’ needs in mind.  The software is engaging for children learning to read in the kindergarten to fifth grade range and correlates to the common core standards students are tested to.  Its backend reporting system allows teachers and administrators to understand where a student is, provides suggested usage based on how a student in performing in the software, offers offline tutoring materials, and makes outcome projects that are regularly calculated based on performance.  Personally I like the idea of technology being used as supplemental material in a classroom.

The focus of cyberlearning should not be on replacement of universities educators, but as a supplemental learning.  More like filling a skills gap or educational need.  There is still a ways to go before mainstream acceptance, but I think we are definitely on our way.

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