Connecting three ideas together as is often my want, I appear to have stumbled on more IT Education issues than is normal this week.
Firstly, I am looking at getting involved with a large OEM to help support their work in the education sector. This involves topics such as finding out that progressive schools are looking at virtualisation strategies to cope with changing student demands. In fact, it seems that many academic institutions are turning to IT to simultaneously enhance the teaching and learning experience and reduce overall costs.
It’s a far cry from the high-tech French headphone lab we had when I was a lad. Speakers that sit on your ears and are controlled by a teacher at one end of the classroom who can stop the tape at will and talk to you as well – surely you jest? Amazing, but it was true.
Interestingly, because today’s students are the so-called ‘connected generation’, getting them to disconnect and start learning when they enter the classroom is one of the hardest parts of this equation to figure out.
My second education themed bus to come along in as many days was an organisation called eLearnIT, who I got involved with when they needed some nice layout materials to explain their courseware approach. This is a real web 2.0 affair that uses a web based GUI to simulate a classroom training environment as closely as possible. Short of animating a teacher character this is education on demand.
Yeah so it’s not unique but it’s well presented and it makes me wonder how much more I would have learned had I not had to spend hours snuffling around the crusty bookshelves of Wolverhampton Polytechnic to earn my glittering “Desmond” IIii in Economics.
Finally, the third school bus in a line came from software configuration management (SCM) specialists Perforce a company who I know reasonable well. The company is now offering SCM classes online and once again the selling points here are no travel and learn at your own pace.
Is this the holy grail of education through IT then? High quality learning experiences created by blending live instructor lectures with student discussions and virtual lab environments.
This is how Perforce’s offering works: a live instructor teaches each course on a specific day and time and most content is identical to its classroom equivalent, including student materials and course duration. Modest connectivity requirements let students participate from practically anywhere, with lectures and discussions facilitated by GoToMeeting and a virtual lab environment provided by Skytap to complete hands-on activities. All training materials – student handbook, exercises and solutions – are provided electronically.
When I think back to what I liked most about my education years, it was probably the enthusiastic tutors and surely this is the one factor that is most lacking from these new techniques. I actually find academia and professional learning a hard subject to swallow, but that’s probably because as yet I’ve never yet needed to cite the specific dates for the repeal of the corn laws despite being made to learn all that kind of stuff. Perhaps I need to step into the new learning paradigms.