Technology Trends in eLearning: MOOCs and Mobile Learning

A few months ago, I would have predicted that MOOCs were a thing of the past, no longer of much interest to anyone. They had a good run, but from all the most recent research that had been published, there was not enough engagement in the courses to call them a success on just about any level, and there didn’t seem to be an accepted means for measuring student success.

But now the news is buzzing about MOOCs again. It seems that Arizona State made the earth-shattering announcement that they were offering MOOCs for credit (Butler, 2015). Students successfully completing certain courses as MOOCs can pay to convert the courses into regular transfer credit at Arizona State, up to enough credit to cover their entire freshman year. The cost of the transfer credits is only $200 per credit hour, which is less than half the cost of the same courses taken via traditional methods. The courses will be indistinguishable from regular courses on the students’ transcripts. Students not interested in credit can still take the MOOC for free, and of course, there is no risk to the student seeking credit until they have already passed the course.

Mobile learning, on the other hand, is not something I feel to be a fad. I do not think this one has any chance of going away but only of growing. On the tiny campus of 1700 students where I work, I gather statistics about the mobile usage of our learning management system. It is surprising to me to discover that over a third of our students, more than 600 unique logins, access Blackboard via a mobile device of one kind or another each semester. I should not find this so surprising, however. I myself prefer to do much of my browsing on my iPad. I usually check my email on my phone. If I need to look something up, Google’s voice search is typically my first choice. The computer is still my first choice for homework, but only because typing on the iPad is so clunky and the phone’s screen is too small. If I had a Surface Pro or another tablet with a detachable keyboard, I might find that my tablet computer became my only computer.

The 2015 New Media Consortium Horizon Report identifies Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as one of the top two trends to watch for in the next one to two years (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015). As more students and faculty bring their own devices to the classroom, we will see a greater increase in mobile learning. Courses will need to become more responsive to work on all devices. Flash will be replaced with HTML5, and Java dependent programs will fall out of favor. Media servers will become intelligent, and just like YouTube, be able to determine the users’ device and stream video in the right format and at the right speed to accommodate the needs of the learner.

I don’t know if these changes will cause a backlash or not, but I do believe them to be an essential part of the forward path of technology and education. Information is omnipresent. Pick any career, and professionals in that field are already using mobile devices to access information just in time. My husband is a Federal Express courier. His pad tracks his packages, plans his route, and can even alert him when he takes too long to get from one stop to another. My doctor consults a mobile device to determine medicines and dosages. The Home Depot delivery driver had me sign his pad to confirm receipt of my order. The Square register turns any smart phone into a point-of-sale device, enabling a person to accept credit cards anywhere. My neighbor’s bracelet-making business goes professional just like that. If education wants to prepare students for this decade much less the next one, it needs to keep up by providing classes where the students already are, and many are already on their devices. It certainly needs to provide students with a glimpse of how industry is done, and to a greater and greater extent, that is becoming mobile. Businesses have already been warned that more than half of all online traffic now comes from mobile devices (Hessinger, 2014), and that more than three quarters of all searches are mobile (Sterling, 2014). Education now needs to take up the charge and do what needs to be done to ensure students are prepared to function in this new mobile world.

References

Butler, S. M. (2015). New Arizona State-edX MOOC: Another blow to traditional college. Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/techtank/posts/2015/05/4-asu-moocs-butler

Hessinger, S. (2014). Online Traffic Report States 60 Percent Now From Mobile. Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/07/online-traffic-report-mobile.html

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-HE-EN.pdf

Sterling, G. (2014). Study: 78 Percent Of Local-Mobile Searches Result In Offline Purchases. Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-HE-EN.pdf

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3 responses to “Technology Trends in eLearning: MOOCs and Mobile Learning

  1. Hey Julia,
    you’re right – mobile devices are as extremely trendy as extremely handy. These days almost nobody from our generation parts with them and that’s why m-learning will soon become a common method of gaining knowledge. Maybe the only one group that doesn’t benefitting on mobile devices consists of older people not used to smartphones, tablets, etc. – but eventually one day this group will no longer exist.

  2. John,
    Many in the older generation are trying to adapt. I was sitting in the lab at my doctor’s office waiting to have my blood drawn for my annual physical, killing time on my iPad when I was approached by an older gentleman. He asked me if learning to use the iPad was difficult, as he and his wife were considering purchasing one. Bless his heart, he didn’t realize that he either needed to have internet with WiFi access at home or pay monthly for airtime on the device, and the news came as rather a shock to him, but I think many are trying to bridge that gap. My mother can almost keep up with me in the technology department and had a tablet before I did.

  3. Julia,
    The examples you gave are amazing. I truly admire those people from older generation who tries to keep up with new trends in technology but I think they’re exceptions from the general rule. Perhaps it’s about their attitude.

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