As we toil along in our trenches, it’s easy to keep our attention focused on the tasks before us and on what is being done by those immediately beside us. Sometimes, it is interesting to take a moment to look around and see what else is happening elsewhere, even overseas and on distant shores. I recently found a couple of articles regarding international eLearning efforts and they helped me to check my perspectives on what it means to work in eLearning and our roles in the revolution.
The first concerns an ambitious K-12 effort in the Netherlands. They’re talking about creating nearly a dozen “Steve Jobs” schools featuring iPad based, self-paced learning, and hope for interest driven inquiry. One of the most interesting aspects of their strategy is to open the school every day (including weekends) from early until late – with the instruction time only occurring during a subset of hours in the middle of the weekday. This has obvious child-care type advantages, but also allows for more convenient parent presence and interaction. It will be interesting to see how these efforts succeed. This article made me pause to think about how we often integrate technology into our existing structures without rethinking much of what it means to go to school. In Alaska, we talk about integrating iPads into schools, without talk (that I have heard) of what that changes (or might change) besides costly logistics such as textbooks and homework grading.
The revolution in higher education occurring in America is also shaking things up in Europe (and indeed globally). Der Spiegel ran this article about MOOCs and what they might mean for higher education. It wasn’t featured in the English version of their publication so I used Google translate. The translated grammar (and some of the meaning) is a bit dodgy, but I still found it valuable to get a sense of how the MOOC phenomenon is generating similar fears and discussions outside US borders.
From a bit further afield, I found this article regarding eLearning in rural Russia. I was attracted to this piece because they are tackling many of the same issues of access that we have – remote native villages with limited bandwidth spread across Siberia (literally). It makes sense that the same issues that drive the necessity for rural distance education here, are ubiquitous in Earth’s quiet empty spaces. Everyone is trying to tackle the bandwidth issue, extend learning opportunities, and enfranchise rural youth.
Along those same lines, and still farther afield, I recently happened upon a reference to the African Virtual University. I was impressed at their site. Their program offerings in IT and degree programs in education make a lot of sense, I think, for Africa. At first I had a feeling of excitement; what great things this could bring to the developing world and how cool that AVU is an African entity. But, then I wondered if AVU will be able to compete against Coursera, EdX, Udacity, University of Phoenix, and every other western school with an online course or program. I hope so, but I don’t think so. Maybe that is for the best, or maybe it just is. Along with industrial and mass-media colonization comes eLearning colonization – and with that opportunities and responsibilities we have yet to understand not to mention live up to.