5 New Trends in Education

If you have arrived to this page, you’re probably here to gain an understanding about something or learn something. This is happening not just here, but every moment you’re awake. Be it listening to This American Life or looking at pictures of some really cute cats, your brain is constantly taking in new information and expanding its capabilities.

The way we take in new information has dramatically changed since the introduction of the Internet. The constant action of flipping through endless pages in the Encyclopedia Britannica has been simplified to a couple of taps on a keyboard to browse Wikipedia. Our access to knowledge has never been more effortless or free.

With a large percentage of what we learn belonging to the digital world, it has disrupted the traditional education landscape of in-person lectures and core curriculum. More and more digital learning trends have emerged, enabling more accessible, efficient and bespoke ways of learning.

1. Mobile Learning

The concept of mobile learning is pretty self explanatory–the act of learning through the use of mobile devices like phones or tablets. This happens in majority of the time we use our mobile phones, from browsing Buzzfeed or searching for information on Google. With this, it’s easy to say this form of learning is accessible virtually everywhere.

Buying a phone or a tablet costs significantly less than owning a laptop or enrolling in a formal higher education program. Over the years, the integration of mobile experiences with traditional education environments has improved. More and more classrooms have replaced textbooks with digital learning tools available on mobile phones and tablets to offer students a more accessible and interactive alternative for learning.

There are apps and platforms dedicated to a systematic means of learning via mobile, with organized lessons, learning paths and achievement systems. Apps like Duolingo, Udacity, and edX have done just this by offering mobile courses with specific learning goals. These help users learn whenever they want, wherever they are, just  with an internet connection and a battery.  

2. Personalized Learning

As another self-explanatory trend of digital learning, Personalized Learning is a solution that is specifically tailored to a student’s specific needs. The content, format, pacing, and path can all be designed to create a learning experience for that particular student. In this environment, learning is not about achieving certain goals, but more about the experience of learning. Unlike traditional curriculum-based learning environments where some students are likely to fall behind since not everyone has the same learning capacity, in Personalized Learning, every student is given a share of attention that creates a learning experience specific to them. It promotes significant interaction between teachers and students in both a physical and digital learning format.

Alt School, a San Francisco startup that aims to revolutionize the education system in primary to middle school environments via personalized learning has recently received $100M funding from Mark Zuckerberg. Also, the digital personalized learning platform Knewton has worked with numerous institutions to offer them personalized learning solutions for student and employee education.

It is also important to note while Personalized Learning aims to tailor the learning experience for every student, it is unfortunately not accessible to the masses. In addition to the substantial amount of research, content creation, and personal interaction between the teacher and the student needed to create a personalized learning experience, there’s also an enormous price tag attached to it with a minimum cost of $3,000 per month to attend Alt School in New York City.

3. Micro Learning

Micro learning offers users short and concise content in multimedia and interactive formats. It often includes text, video, games, and other interactive content to help the users learn in short periods of time. Due to its short duration and flexible formats, it can cover an immense range of topics from programming languages to human anatomy. It’s fast-paced nature matches the modern lifestyle perfectly, in which people’s attention spans have shortened to a mere few minutes.

This method can be found everywhere–to the point where experiencing it can go unnoticed. Took a lesson in Duolingo? Signed up for daily UX challenge? Subscribed to Crash Course on Youtube? Though these examples are in slightly different formats, they are all considered to be micro learning. Micro learning is able to cover diverse topics, but is not suitable for every topic. The fragmented style of learning is not suitable to convey new, abstract, and in-depth topics. For example, it is suitable to teach the learner new visual design tips and tricks daily, but it is not suitable to grasp the general theory of relativity.

4. Peer Learning

While the main source of learning has always been the teacher, learning from your peers is also an effective and underestimated way to learn. While both studying with your classmates and joining a discussion group can be considered peer learning, the digital rendition of this can easily create a positive and encouraging environment that promotes discussion. It also makes it easy to  put students with a similar level of understanding or learning style in the same group to ensure learning efficiency.

Peer learning has proven to be more effective than doing solo exercises. While teachers do provide the bulk of information during a class, there’s always new and undiscovered things you can learn from your classmates who usually provide a more approachable atmosphere. Unlike a lecture environment in which information is mass fed from instructors to students, interaction among students can promote a more active learning experience.

Furthermore, in a traditional peer learning environment such as a discussion group, it is difficult to ensure equal participation, a positive environment, and the same level of understand of certain topic among students even with an experienced moderator. Converting this to a software based environment allows the digital peer learning environment to be self-organized without the need for a moderator to initiate collaborative learning in real-time.

5. Virtual Reality Learning

While Virtual Reality’s claim to fame lies mainly in video games, there lies hidden potential for it in the education realm also. Taking education to VR has led to directing the way students learn to an entirely differently designed immersive experience. It’s certainly difficult to learn and empathize the experience of Syrian refugees through reading articles or watching videos, but viaa 360 video, users are able more accurately learn what the refugees have to go through in their daily lives to empathize their experience. VR experiences can help bring students to places thousands of miles away with a significantly lower price tag than having field trips. VR can even bring them to places that are impossible for anyone to visit but are in the curriculum such as Mars or the south in the Antebellum Era. Integrating VR with education can alter and increase student’s opinion on curriculum and can shatter education standards that have been the status quo since the 1700’s.

Google Expedition has  been developing 360 videos and experience to offer students an affordable way to experience VR learning. Through the device and application, students are able to be virtually underwater, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to understand the ecosystem, or be on the top floor of The Burj Khalifa in Dubai to appreciate its literal architectural grandeur.

Recap

Education through the use of modern technology is able to achieve goals that are impossible in the traditional classroom environment. VR has the untapped potential that can take students to virtually anywhere in the world and beyond. One of the main new trends, Personalized Learning, can create lesson plans and goals tailored to individual needs and wants. Digital Peer Learning has the ability to easily moderate a positive and collaborative learning environment.

While there are certainly a lot of benefits to these learning methods, no single one is considered to be ideal. Personalized Learning, while tailored, requires a huge amount of research, content creation, and interaction between teachers and students. Mobile Learning is limited by x    x    screen size and battery life while Micro Learning is only suitable for certain topics.

Creating a well-rounded learning experience is only achievable on a handful of platforms and applications, since most of them have specific emphasis on learning methodology, but this is not the case for Open edX with it being designed to implement multiple learning methods on a single platform. Users can learn with their mobile devices through the Open edX app, gain knowledge from their peers through discussion groups and learn via micro-learning from the diverse formats of content supported by Open edX, and embed formats like VR leveraging its flexible customization options.

When attempting to construct a well-rounded learning experience, the most important decision is not about selecting the right learning method, but to structure the right combination of these complementary learning methods.

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