e-learning,  higher ed

Waiting for the great leap forward

Now that it’s 2015 (it is, check your phone!), it’s interesting to think about changes in ed tech over the past five years. People often use the 5 year timespan to make predictions, so it’s a convenient chunk of time. The major advance in technology in society, which has then impacted upon education, has been in mobile computing I’d suggest. We’ve also had MOOCs and Learning Analytics in that time as the main movements within education technology. I would suggest though that it’s been a fairly stagnant five years. More a case of stuff developing gradually rather than big revolutions. Consider the changes from 2000-2005: we had 14k modems, were coding in HTML, and the web was a niche topic (even dismissed by some). By the end of this period all businesses had websites, we had broadband and e-learning had become part of the mainstream for nearly all universities. This was a seismic shift in higher ed really that we’re still feeling the effects from today.

Then consider the change from 2005-2010: at the start of this hardly anyone blogged, no-one was on Facebook, and you could still find sensible comments on YouTube. By the end of it, social media had arrived, we went through the web 2.0 bubble and everyone was uploading, sharing, liking, etc. For education this changed the social dynamics around learning, and also the interaction with educators and concepts of digital scholarship. The effects of this change for education we are also just learning to accommodate.

But I don’t see such a big change 2010-2015 – which is not to say lots hasn’t happened. In specific areas I’m sure people will say “assessment has changed radically” or similar, but I don’t feel there has been this major social technological change that has then impacted upon education. It’s been a case of making the existing things better, bigger, more world-controlling. So does this mean we are due another major change soon? Or do we we enter a period now of settling down, of existing stuff expanding?

I’m deliberately not adding value judgements here, merely pointing out the impacts on education of recent years. But perhaps that moral, social, ethical aspect is the big change to come, and there are certainly signs of that. What does it mean when Facebook is the biggest country by population? Now that social networks are pervasive what does that do to our identity? We’ve struggled with this questions since the start, but they take on a different focus when the scale is now “everyone”.

Anyway, we’ve lived through such rapid changes in the past 15 years it’s interesting to reflect on those occasionally. And here is Billy Bragg singing the title song of this post:


  • Martyn Cooper

    What impact has Learning Analytics had on teaching an learning? I agree it has been much talk about over the last 5 years but when I went in search of an evidence base for it for the LACE project I found almost none beyond self referential small scale projects.

  • dougclow

    Wot no tablets? The first iPad came out in 2010. The first iPhone was a few years before that, and the first Android smartphone was about 2009, but 2010 was when they started to take off. Now they’re massive and can seem ubiquitous in some contexts. On the back of that, the app economy has taken off spectacularly to become huge.

    Domestic broadband sped up spectacularly too, so audio streaming became commonplace and video pretty widespread. This was the enabler for MOOCs (xMOOCs, at least).

    Cloud computing also became a mainstream thing, along with easy virtualisation, which made it much easier to spin up new servers when you need to.

    I’d totally agree that we’re a long way from routinely making the best use of this stuff for teaching and learning, but I don’t think I buy your underlying thesis that there hasn’t been as big an underlying socio-technological change from 2010-2015 as there was from 2005-2010. (And not just because it has to be an apples-to-oranges comparison.)

    • admin

      Yeah, I did say mobile computing has been the big change in the last 5 years. Maybe it is as significant as the others, I just don’t feel it to be as big a shift. I agree about broadband etc but that comes under things improving. If we were to use the now-defunct categories of disruption, you would say these are sustaining rather than disruptive changes. But perhaps those changes that make uptake easier for all have as big impact (which is why disruption theory is defunct)

  • CogDog

    FYI, this post has come up a few times in conversations (most of them over pints) I’ve had with Brian Lamb since in my four months stint here at TRU– wondering what the missing non-leap is/might be (no answers).

    I’ve been combing through archives lately and came across a 1994 paper “Whatever Happened to Instructional Technology?” by William Geoghegan (from IBM) He concluded:

    “Along the same lines, let me suggest that the technologically driven revolution in teaching and learning that we have sought for so long is probably nothing more than a chimera. Revolutions in teaching, or in anything else for that matter, are created by revolutionaries, not by their hardware; though good hardware properly employed can certainly help them succeed. But no revolution, no matter how well financed and equipped, and no matter how good the motivating ideas, will be successful if the revolutionaries and their supporters fail to convince a significant proportion of the general populace to follow them past the barricades. Absent that, we have nothing but a failed revolution: some interesting ideas, perhaps, and some quaint examples of what might have been, but no revolution.”

    More archeology http://cogdogblog.com/2014/10/20/whatever-happened-to-instructional-technology/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *