Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Education needs to adapt – this time it’s personal

I'm back

Well it's been a while since I posted to this blog. I'm planning to get back into the habit of capturing what I think are important stories, technologies and trends that will impact how we learn and how we improve the design of learning experiences, both online, offline and in between. And by "in between" I refer to what is going to be a powerful merging of virtual and real environments. As always, this will be felt first in how we entertain ourselves - in the world of film and games primarily - but it has huge implications for education and training too. But more on that another time.

A focus on efficacy

The major change for me this year has been to dive into the exciting world of adaptive learning, working with CogBooks, a pioneer in the field. The potential for using algorithmic machine learning to deliver a personalised learning experience for each individual is finally being realised. I've long been interested in how technology can impact efficacy and it has often fallen short. But with adaptive technology we can finally deliver what I clumsily call (for now) a Continuously Improving Learning System. Students can receive immediate, pertinent guidance tailored to their needs, together with targeted feedback from teachers and tutors based on the students' learning behaviour. Equally, educators can review course content based on learners actual patterns of use and uncover areas for improvement and extension that will better support overall outcomes for students going forward.

I've written a separate blog piece for Nesta on the topic which is reproduced below and on the CogBooks blog too, for good measure.

Most importantly, please do let me know what you think will be the impact of adaptive learning. There are many views on how best to harness this technology to best effect. So please do share them.


Education needs to adapt – this time it’s personal

As technology continues to influence the pace of change across nearly all sectors and avenues of life it brings with it the challenge of how to stay productive. How can you ensure your learning and training keeps up with this level of change? Fortunately, we now know much more about the learning process and how best to support people to acquire knowledge and skills.

In recent years it’s become clear that optimising learning to meet individual personal needs, and freeing educators from the constraints they face, is vital.

At CogBooks, we work with education partners in both the US and UK to deliver adaptive learning that allows students to work at their own pace and to the depth they need. By gathering valuable feedback and insights on how learners engage with activities and content, we can ensure they receive timely and targeted support. This keeps them confident and motivated, which in turn reduces dropout rates and maximises achievement. Analytics on how a student has behaved or reacted can also help pinpoint ways teachers can improve their courses for future students.

The move to an evidence-based model, designed to deliver a personalised learning experience at scale, will transform how we educate and train. Yet, unlocking this transformation will require a deeper embrace of technology to fundamentally re-shape our education practices.

This is not wishful thinking. We are already seeing this rapid and disruptive innovation cycle in other sectors (for example retailing, health, entertainment, technology to name a few) and it is now coming to education.

And this goes beyond the current generation of MOOC online course, most of which have garnered a lot of attention in reaching large audiences, but are just at the very beginning of identifying how to successfully sustain engagement and deliver a genuinely personalised learning experience. We need an inclusive approach that uses technology to catalyse the efforts of both faculty and learners together to bring about a real step change in outcomes.

We are already seeing movement towards this deeper goal. In the US, CogBooks is working in collaboration with Arizona State University and NBC Learn, funded by the Gates Foundation, as part of a $20 million initiative to develop Next Generation Courseware. Based on mastery learning principles and learning science the aim is to improve the postsecondary success of more than 1 million low-income students by 2018.
In the UK, the publication earlier this year of the Further Education Technology Action Group (FELTAG)report called for the inclusion of a 10% online component in every publicly-funded learning programme from 2015/16, with incentives to increase this to 50% by 2017/2018. This is an opportunity to apply technology that supports better learning outcomes first, moving beyond the simple replacement of existing offline learning activities.

Elsewhere we are already seeing the adoption of adaptive learning methods gathering pace. Educational publishers are revisiting their textbooks and associated learning products to move from a largely static, linear experience, to create stimulating adaptive versions that respond to students specific needs. For example, the awarding body and examination board, OCR, has taken the full curriculum of GCSE Computer Science and created an adaptive learning course. This enables students to work through course materials at their own pace and receive automated support when they need extra help. At the same time, teachers can track the exact progress and capabilities of each student and target the most appropriate support for their class.

Elsewhere, universities are redesigning their own course content to offer a more blended and flexible experience for students on their degree programmes. This is a real opportunity to offer new non-campus based learners access to alternative qualifications from a quality higher education institution. This can help bridge the gap in expectations between employers and education providers regarding graduate readiness for the workplace. Increasingly we are seeing a demand for education that focuses on skills that can be applied more readily and directly when moving into employment.

Looking forward, this is an exciting opportunity for educators at all levels to design new and innovative learning experiences that can meet the accelerating demands of the world around us.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Have chance, will learn

EdSurge reported this great story from Ethiopia that demonstrates further the power of the motivated learner:

HAVE CHANCE, WILL LEARN: Amazing preliminary results reported by One Laptop Per Child around a bold experiment happening in rural Ethiopia. Several months after dropping off solar-powered Motorola Xoom tablets, 20 first grade-age children have managed their way from finding the on/off switch to hacking the preventative software installed by OLPC. No instructions. No guidelines. No teachers. Just a single technician to retrieve data from the devices each week. "Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android," reported OLPC’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte at the recent EmTech Conference. Results are hardly conclusive, but the development raises interesting questions around how and why we plan learning objectives (teacher control group anyone?). The story reminds us, too, of Sugata Mitra's experiment of giving village children in India access to a computer via a hole in the wall. For now we'll simply smile about the new learning opportunities enabled by technology.

I'm sure Negroponte will be referring to this again when he keynotes at Learning Technologies Conference, London in January 2013.

Monday, 12 March 2012

#SLCONF 2012–Social Learning in action

Last Thursday I attended the #SLCONF Social Learning Conference in London. It largely practiced what it preached – in that it proved to be a highly social discussion and effective forum for sharing ideas and experiences with an experienced group of professionals and practitioners.


Good use was made of alternative formats and seeding conversation between groups. I think the fact that this was a relatively small group of people (80 odd?) helped ensure that everyone had a voice and an opportunity to contribute.

You can find Martin Couzins review of the event here which covers the key presentations made by Nick Shackleton-Jones (BBC and BP experiences), Tim Drewitt (Eversheds) and Priya Banati and Clare Norman (Accenture). Also Jon Ingham’s audio review of the event.

Ben Betts facilitated a session on Mobile Learning which managed to yield a list of 96 Mobile Learning App Ideas. Not all unique by any stretch, many already covered by existing apps out there, but it demonstrated that there is a real appetite for mobile learning support. There was a subsequent discussion around the difficulties of developing for mobile given the fragmented platforms and software environments, as well as the typical corporate security challenges currently raised by most IT departments. This led to the question of tools that can simplify this process, and Epic’s GoMo Learning platform struck a particular chord, given it’s ability to enable non-technical people to build learning apps – both web and native apps – to all major platforms (Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry) and form factors (smartphone, tablet, whatever next comes along).

Twitter adds value

I was an active user of Twitter to capture key points and contribute my own ideas as they arose from the discussions which I will summarise here. In conferences where this type of immediate social sharing and reflection is welcomed and integrated within the format, then it can add value for all participants and the wider virtual audience. By breaking down the traditional “lecture” format of most conferences, a much more interactive experience is provided for the those present, while offering virtual observers the opportunity to contribute further references and comment that can be fed back into the live event. Indeed, I benefitted immediately as a late train meant I physically missed the first 15 minutes but could contribute straight away with those tweeting and could enter the debate in sync with the room.

So what were my main contributions? Italics indicate some additional explanatory notes:

@shackletonjones talking about #sociallearning and his struggle with understanding what really underpins effective #learning

Emotion is key element #learning RT @bbetts: @shackletonjones I'm a fan of the affective context, check it out #slconf (Nick is right to focus on the emotional connection to lasting learning impact and memory formation)

70:20:10 model misused and misunderstood. Agree with this.

#informal #learning driven by culture. However technology beginning to influence culture. (Just see the effect of social media on the Arab Spring, marketing/advertising, entertainment and increasingly as the primary medium of social interaction especially amongst young demographics).

@shackletonjones another video you can't live without!… (How to peel Garlic in less than 10 seconds) Nick shared a video related to breakfast cereal.

50%+ millennials are contributors not just passive consumers - key difference to productivity generated by #some #sociallearning (what this  means is that we are on the cusp of a big surge in creative productivity that if harnessed appropriately will lead to a huge acceleration in innovation itself but more importantly its real world application and sharing of what works and what doesn’t).

Focus on content generation strategy - need to foster contributors. Go to where the activity already is. Integrate. Seed & excite. (a pithy shorthand for acknowledging the need for some quality content and contribution that will stimulate a wider audience to participate in an authentic and sustained manner).

BP theHub being demo'd - seeded with 800 video clips from across the organisation globally. Works on iPad as well. Good reach. (good example of the Seed & Excite principle).

Unisys found that 3 min leadership videos generated more behaviour change than a 5 day exec training programme. Properly evaluated. (Will now follow this up with Nick for the full case study).

Learning styles brought up and @shackletonjones rightly doesn't believe in it. (that old chestnut came up again…so I promptly clarified…)

Learning PREFERENCES exist but the way we learn most effectively is broadly the same for everyone. The rest is about individual habits, skills, motivation (emotional engagement). (asked the wider HR community for comment)

Thx for retweet see my blog for more RT @CaribThompson: #slconf Lars mantra @larshyland "Less learning more often" (A long standing truism which is only getting more and more relevant)

For those interested I mentioned Lynda Gratton book The Shift - how the world of work is changing. (This book demonstrates the forces in the world that are changing the way in which we work, collaborate, communicate – namely the shift to the East, the disintermediation and connectivity of technology which circumvents traditional hierarchical models.)

@mikecollins WARNING social netWORK AHEAD > quite apt this is published today given the great stuff coming out of #slconf (good contribution from Mike Collins at RBS Insurance injected into the discussion even though he wasn’t physically there.)

Discussed permission and context key to successful mobile learning support - Just in Time, context sensitive and valued content. #mlearning seen as supplementary to other learning support. (There is always a need for a variety of methods delivering interaction over an extended period of time – another of my mantras – Campaign not Course  comes to mind. People liked this at the event.)

Content, Connection, Collaboration, Community - Accenture model for building sharing culture #some #sociallearning (as Ben Betts pointed out “a lot of Cs”)

Accenture case study and book here #slconf


In Summary

A good conference which had the courage to allow a less structured conversation to emerge, collectively generating a lot of practical value amongst the participants.

If you also attended, I’d welcome your comments on this post.