The Future of Teaching is Online

Web Accessibility Summit III came across this article on the Mashable website which looked at the future of teaching. It is not often that you find an article about education on this site, so I was intrigued. The article is titled The Future of teaching, so I was doubly intrigued. The article claims that research has shown that online teaching appears to be more effective than face-to-face teaching. My own experience of learning online would tend to disagree with that but let’s hope that online tuition has improved, I’m sure it has, since my last experience of online learning. The key message appears to be that online learning needs to be used in combination with other methods to be most effective. Well, I guess that is not a new or an earth shattering message. However, I do feel that the article has a positive message for the future of education. It shows that online tuition can be effective and most certainly has a role to play in the future of education. For me., this is an important message as we move forward with Home Access. It not only tells us that online learning can be effective, it also emphasises that those learners without access are at a disadvantage. Many of you will know that I have been involved in Becta’s Home access programme. Articles like this only help reinforce my view that a successful implementation of home access is important for improving the learning outcomes for all learners. Related Article on Educate IT Related Article on Interactyx Update (May 2010) It is perhaps timely that this post is resurrected, for it is a day after the announcement of the closure of Becta. IT is tempting to issue the riposte that with the agency’s closure perhaps the future of learning, at least in England and Wales, is not online! There is also some question regarding Home Access. It seems that while the current funding is expected to run out in June this year, the funding for a subsequent round may or may not be made available. Home Access, as I’m sure you all know, is a government programme to provide internet access and devices for disadvantaged families with learners. The wider programme, however, covers more than just the physical kit and connectivity, it is also about raising awareness of the benefits of online access and training people in the use of computers. Much of this is aimed at those people who don’t quite meet the criteria for the free kit or who, for a range of reasons, choose not use the internet. It remains unclear at this time whether funding for this part of the programme will remain. I spoke in the original post of my own experience of online learning. I am reminded at this time of my visit earlier this year to the Learning Technologies Exhibition in London where, I’m sorry to say I saw evidence of a very poor state of affairs in online learning. Sure there seemed to be much talk at the associated conference, that I couldn’t attend, of new developments in online learning but what was on display at the exhibition was very different. It was quite evident that the wares on display showed the clear dominance of direct instruction in online learning, a preponderance of ‘training’ rather than ‘teaching’ or ‘learning’. I feel that this is something that will need to change if e-learning is to become accepted in schools. Update February 2011 It’s sometimes ironic the way things work out in life. I now find myself working more directly in online learning, more specifically developing online courses and training teachers in using technology to deliver online courses. I cannot deny that this work is very interesting and very exciting but not without its problems. The problem I find myself tackling most of all is one that I mentioned in the previous update. The online tools most commonly available to deliver online teaching tend to be rather limited and based upon an outdated, in my opinion, approach to education. From my position, I am able to see and use the tools from the perspective of a teacher and also as a learner. It is quite clear that the services offer a range of tools for the teacher but very few for the learner. Even as a teacher, though, it is often a struggle to get the tools to do what you would want to do. It is quite clear that most online services for elearning have been developed for industry and for corporate training. That is no surprise, after all, there is probably more money or profit to be made in this area. Attempts to use these tools for educational purposes have not really been hugely successful below HE level. I would suggest that this may be because schools tend to employ more sophisticated teaching models than the straightforward instructional approach. Consequently I am becoming more and more convinced that there is a need to develop or create online tools to match pedagogical practice in schools if elearning is to become accepted. I also believe that elearning tools need to be more geared around learning rather than teaching or training. I also believe that online teaching requires additional skills on behalf of the teacher if it is to be effective.