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E-learning heavy hitters forecasted

Crowd learning, gaming and new forms of electronic certification will be the latest e-learning trends to join the burgeoning Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) culture that is gaining attention in the education industry.

The Open University's Innovating Pedagogy 2013

Online badges may also overshadow degree certificates

These predicted shifts in teaching and learning – picked out of some 80 to 100 innovations –are set to change education in the next two to five years, according to the latest innovation report from The Open University.

“There is huge potential for crowd learning to take off in India or Afghanistan”

The same publication last year predicted the rise of MOOCs in 2012, adding gravitas to its most recent forecasts.

“The purpose of the report is to indicate new ways of teaching learning and assessment,” Mike Sharples, Chair in Educational Technology at The Open University, told The PIE News. “The focus is on pedagogy rather than on the technology. MOOCs was predicted last year and is already hitting the headlines.” 

Educators are already experimenting with many of the trends, notably crowd learning which facilitates learning through the masses via platforms including mobile apps or websites. Individuals post information there in the same way Trip Advisor works, but the difference here is the knowledge being shared will further education.

“There is huge potential for crowd learning to take off in India or Afghanistan,” said Sharples, naming countries where this is high demand for access to education and even online advice about healthcare. “You just need people who are willing to help.”

“Online badges” may also overshadow degree certificates as forms of accreditation in the near future, the report predicts. Developed by the Mozilla Foundation, these badges are a more informal and flexible way of recognising achievement.

MOOCs such as the Open Learning Design Studio, are already integrating them as a way for users to display course progress and status in the community.

“We want to have learning recognised through badges and you can show it to an employer as a record of achievement,” Sharples said.

“We want to have learning recognised through badges and you can show it to an employer as a record of achievement”

Another heavy hitter is gaming. With 25% of Europeans playing games every week, the industry is looking to move into the lucrative educational market by using virtual worlds similar to fantasy survival game Minecraft to add another dimension to teaching methods.

The most established and well financed innovation of them all, are of course, MOOCs, which the report describes as having special status because of its potential to bring several of these innovations together. Completion however is still a challenge as low rates persist for courses that have high enrollment and auto grading.

Another challenge for these rising stars to be embraced by the industry could be funding. According to Sharples, educators could need at least £500,000 to get started. The Open University for example has poured millions into its crowd learning mobile app iSpot, which hosts science observations from its 40,000 users who comment on and learn from community posts.

The report is based on trends identified across the industry at conferences and studies from research groups like G1:1 which boasts over 26 researchers representing countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, UK and the US. According to Sharples, mobile-based trends including crowd or seamless learning are fostered through these international collaborations.

Others innovations that carry less punch but are still ones to watch include new ways to visualise how people are learning, digital scholarships and mobile apps that teach based on geographical location.

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