Do you remember the haunting words sung by Frank Sinatra - "When I was 35...it was a very good year..."? As eCollege turned 13, which incidently is 118 in Internet years, a LOT happened. But more happened to set up 2010 than many people may know. Let's look back for a moment as we look ahead.
Do you know the saying, "Measure twice, cut once?" That is exactly what Pearson is getting ready to do with LearningStudio OE (formerly eCollege). For the past year, we've spent tens of thousands of dollars, hired dozens of new employees, and worked overtime to move the current systems into tighter integration so as to be able to measure more than was ever possible before. Measurement of (and subsequently) performance on outcomes has already proven to make online education stronger in some situations than face to face (http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf). But moving forward, and as technology becomes increasingly seamless with life, the measurement that online education brings to the table will change teaching and learning.
For example, we've always had the ability to correlate time on task or clicks in the system to grades, completion rates, retention, etc. In 2009 we helped a number of schools identify hierarchies of outcomes that could be tagged and reported on at any level. Every day we give statistical measures of outcomes, activity, grades, portfolios, etc., to schools so they can better understand their students. Does time in threaded discussions lead to higher completion rates? We know the answer. Does the amount of time a student has to wait for an assignment to be graded lead to program retention? We know that too.
But in the next decade...heck, in the next couple of years, all of the measuring will become much more significant. A much more holistic view of students will be available based on more than formative & summative feedback. It will be based on more than activity or grade data. The LMS is almost to a place where we can both report on and predict behaviors as they lead to learning. This individual learning path that students will be able to take will come with complete measurement by the faculty and the institution.
I'm talking about measuring students on a lot more than tests and project feedback. We're talking about measuring the intensity by which a student acts - the number of clicks, the types of interactions with peers, the amount of time spent with a teacher, the number of hints needed to succeed, etc. We're talking about the measurement of far more than raw scores on tests. We're talking about understanding the p value for a question, the median scores for the class, the confidence by which students answered a question - all much more than the answer itself.
All of this measuring will give teachers and/or schools the ability to set students along a path that pushes them into higher levels of learning, regardless of how much time or how much interaction takes place between the student and the system. We'll measure when learning happens, how learning happens, and we'll give individuals the tools to reshape their learning priorities so as to make it more meaningful.
That is the future of the LMS. That is the decade before us.
Will Apple release a tablet in 2010 that will revolutionize that market? Maybe. Will the iPhone 4G come out in conjunction with Verizon, thereby making it even more prolific in all circles, including education? Probably. And a dozen other cool technologies will change the landscape of how we interact and communicate. But what matters to me as I advise Pearson about education and technology isn't each cool new toy. It's not the fun new widget that Sony or Microsoft or Google brings to the party. (Have you seen Google Wave yet?...)
No, what matters is the big picture. We are heading to a place where technology is simply an extension of ourselves. A place where homework isn't done at home and school work isn't done at school (at least as we know it). Christensen predicted 50% of all K-12 happening online by the end of our new decade. I agree. And if that's the case for K-12, imagine higher ed. We're coming to a place where technology, school, work, life, and everything else just merge together. It's the ultimate mash-up. It's teaching, learning, and living. It's...well...it will be what we just call "life". Not virtual life - just life.
So, if you are looking for what's coming in 2010, it's the set up for all the rest of the next decade. It's going to be amazing I think. I hope you think so too.
So here is to 2009. May all of the preparation and activity help us get to that educational dream as fast as possible. And here is to 2010 - where that dream is going to start to be realized. Here is to changing education and, ultimately, to changing lives for the better.