Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning In A Digital Age - Part III

In this third part of series "Learning In a Digital Age" (Read Part I here)(Read Part II here), I want to focus on three important aspects which our schools and universities should adopt.  Those aspects are Adaptive Learning, Life Long Learning & Tasks Based Learning.  


Adaptive Learning
One thing our traditional classroom models do not accommodate is adapting to individualized learning needs of students.  It cannot be customized.  All students are not build same and they demand different learning environments.  First of all, in a digital age every student should have access to learning materials available in different formats like audio, video, paper hardcover books, podcasts, webcasts, so that students can choose whichever format suits them best.   


Currently students have to advance to next level whether to really understood the concept or not.  In online models they can learn at their own pace and whenever they are comfortable.  In addition to that they can practice, watch or review their learning materials and take multiple times exams they would like to have(See this concept in action at Khan Academy).  In other words they only advanced to next level if they achieved mastery over that topic.  Different students need different kind of attention and with nice software tools teachers can provide individualized attention to students.  They can track and monitor progress of students.  Graduation rates will improve drastically just by incorporating Adaptive Learning approach. 


Life Long Learning
When we went to school we were brainstormed to go to school just one and get done with it.  In real world it doesn't work that way.  We need to keep learning on a daily basis.  We have to improve our skills regularly to stay current and become expert in our respective fields.  If our schools can incorporate such a philosophy and provide tools, platforms through which we can continue learning then we would solve problems of layoffs of people who cannot keep up.  Life Long Learning is more of a philosophy which has to be deeply rooted into our minds.  In any field you go even even though you achieved star status you would be required to learn new things.  Online Learning platforms are best suited to provide momentum to life long learning.  I graduated from school last year but now I want to learn new things so what do I do then?  I simply do a YouTube or Google Search and there are tons of videos and articles.  I keep a track record of what I have viewed and read them systematically.  There is no requirement and fees involved here that can stop me from learning.  I wonder how it could have benefited universities if they provided such resources.


Tasks Based Learning
Last fall semester I volunteered to teach jointly with a Professor on Business Intelligence.  That was a big learning experience for me on what professors at universities should be concentrating on in classrooms. I found that most of the time of a professor in many universities is spent on coming up with resources to provide in classroom.  Many professors love to create their own material.  This is such a time consuming stuff.   And little focus is given to building, creating and innovating stuff.  With the advent of Opencourseware model, where different universities are opening up their coursework to the world for free, there is no need to reinvent the wheel now.  Professors can point students to these resources and tell them to focus on creating and building something that is useful and perhaps change the world.   Students learn from practical examples and if students are given more such tasks they would learn even more.  Hence students should be given challenges, insights into future developments, innovation possibilities and tasks that would build careers.  In my opinion all the "How To Do Stuff" courses should be made available online and then in classroom students would have to do tasks or challenges.  Do these 5 challenges this semester and you get A grade.  


In a Digital Age if all these principles are implemented then learning can be made faster which would result into more productive work force.  Innovation would be more faster than imagined.  What are your experience with Learning In A Digital Age?  Give your comments below.