Several key trends in technology-enabled learning have emerged recently. A significant report from The Open University UK is the Innovating Pedagogy 2017 which highlights 10 key trends, including open textbooks, immersive learning, learning analytics and big data. eLearning trends from industry predicts the increased use of augmented reality/virtual reality, gamification, microlearning, content curation, and interactive video-based learning. Yet another report indicates an increase in user generated content, interactive video, gamification and blended learning. In this space, I present five key trends in technology-enabled learning that are integrated in some of the activities of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL).
- Open Educational Resources (OER): The rising cost of textbooks is a major problem for students, not only in developing countries but also in developed countries such as Canada and the USA. According to a recent study in Canada, due to the high cost of textbooks, 54 per cent of students in the Province of British Columbia (BC) study without, at least, one of their required textbooks, while 27 per cent take fewer courses and 17 per cent drop courses. Thanks to the OER movement, BC has a project sponsored by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training which has developed over 230 open textbooks and saved students about $5.5 million in the last five years. At COL, OER is mainstreamed in everything we do. Being the first intergovernmental organisation to adopt an OER policy in 2011, we engage with governments and educational institutions to develop their own OER policy, provide online skills training on OER and offer all courses developed with COL support as OER through our institutional repository. In 2017, COL organised six regional consultations on OER and prepared the OER Global Report 2017, which indicates that more countries are beginning to commit to and adopt OER.
- Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): What started in 2008 as an experiment at the University of Manitoba, Canada became popular by 2012. According to Class Central, by the end of 2017 there were about 9,400 MOOCs offered by over 800 universities. Twenty million new learners signed up for MOOCs in 2017, taking the number of students to 78 million. At COL, MOOC is part of the strategy to provide lifelong learning at scale for sustainable development. We have offered 20 MOOCs in the last 36 months reaching over 34,000 learners using affordable and scalable platform. One of the courses that was offered twice in 2017 in collaboration with the Centre for Distance Education of Athabasca University, Canada was a basic course on “Introduction to Technology-Enabled Learning.” The success of COL’s MOOCs encourages us to see this as an important vehicle to reach our goals of learning for sustainable development. The current trends on MOOC is geared towards, micro-credentials (such as nano-degree and Micro-Masters), use of artificial intelligence for learning analytics, and messaging app within courses.
- Blended Learning: While the blended learning approach has existed for some time, it remains a significant tool to improve the quality of teaching and learning by integrating technology in the classroom. As part of the TEL implementation activities in partner institutions, COL is working to build the capacity of teachers to design and develop blended learning courses, develop policies to support the use of blended learning and introduce new interactive tools such as the use of interactive video within the Moodle learning management system.
- Microlearning: A strong trend in the industry is the use of microlearning techniques to improve performance and productivity. Microlearning is a mode of teaching and delivering content to learners in short bite-sized modules. COL’s Teacher Futures project is working to use microlearning techniques to improve the quality of teacher education by adopting a school-based in-service training model. While the microlearning nuggets are available in various formats, these will be available as OER to be used in many different contexts for adaptation.
- Advanced ICT Skills: As technology advances in the age of the fourth industrial revolution, two things become obvious: (i) more and more people would require reskilling, and (ii) education would become increasingly digital. While digital literacy is a survival skill, digital education skills are necessary to become a lifelong learner. Recognising this, COL is developing a platform to train students, teachers and education practitioners on digital education leadership skills. The World Economic Forum 2018 saw the emergence of a new platform on SkillSET to prepare “workers for the digital jobs of the future.” At COL, we are working with partner institutions in the Commonwealth to develop advanced ICT skills courses that will help the youth and working population make the transition to the new world of work.
While more efforts are needed to augment COL’s work in order to have the scaling effect across the Commonwealth, we encourage everyone associated with the business of teaching and learning to adopt technologies that are appropriate (like the five trends above) and help learners achieve skills for life.