Innovation in online education – conference recap
In December I visited a conference about education, the edX Global Forum. Universities and organisations from all over the world were present to talk about and discuss innovation in online education. The focus was on the future of online learning and the innovations we have to make. In this blog you will read about my takeaways from this conference. Overall, I really liked to see the bigger picture of online education and to hear what other people are doing to innovate.
For a long time education is given in a linear way. People go to school, study for several years and then start working. In this traditional campus education a gap between learning and working arises. Although there is a continued need to learn new things. There is a continues circle of ‘I need’, ‘I know’ and ‘I grow’. In online education we want to go towards work and learn together and at the same time. This lifelong learning makes learning more relevant, with the idea: ‘pick it when you need it’. In this way the knowledge you gain is directly applicable. Learning comes at the right time and is contextual, which will make learners more motivated as well. Marketing has to focus less on the product and instead highlight the impact in the lives of learners and how people can differentiate in their job.
Mass customization and unbundling
A big and recurring theme during the conference was ‘mass customization’, which means personalized education at scale. The idea is that we need to scale up our education, and do this in a personalized way. Educational needs can differ per person, which still makes it important to tailor content to personal needs. In combination with lifelong learning, this means that we need unbundling of education. Short online segments (stackable credentials), which are flexible in timing and with content that is directly applicable by learners. In that way people can choose different objects and we can shape mass customization. We currently do this for example in the short online courses that also form the curriculum for the online master’s Food Technology.
Partnerships with companies
Working together with industry partners and companies is becoming more important to keep the content of education relevant and future-oriented. Companies know what kind of knowledge they need people to have. By working together, education can be shaped in a way that it focusses on the most relevant aspects. This will also improve the impact of education and it will stimulate lifelong learning within the company. On the other hand, also ‘partnerships’ with students can be used. For example for crowd sourcing, where learners can contribute to the content and what they will learn.
Learn from your learners
The last point that I want to mention here is that with all the data that is available from the online courses, we can learn a lot about how people learn. We can use this information to learn what works well and improve education. For example bite-sized chunks to prevent people from mind-wandering or the use of a project-approach, in which people build towards an end goal during their course. This will also keep them motivated. I think it is very important to keep using our creativity and dare trying new things. When you launch the smallest version and see what happens, you can adjust early in the process and learn a lot!
This blog was written by Celine; She works at the marketing& digital department of Wageningen University and Research