We’re just into 2013 and the e-Learning world is buzzing with some new trends, developments, and ideas. With the rapidly moving speed of the industry, its easy to get left behind when it comes to what’s the latest and how it could potentially impact you
So lets take a quick, high level look at 3 of the hottest topics in e-Learning this year.
1. Tin Can API – What is It and What Does it Do?
We’re all about simplifying e-Learning here at Scholarix so we’re going to do our best to explain with as little tech jargon as possible what Tin Can API and a LRS are from a practical standpoint and how they could impact you and the industry.
We should preface this by saying, Tin Can API is still largely in its beginning stages and its potential and practical applications are still being explored. However, from the information that is available now and the current applications that exist, we can derive quite a bit regarding the future of the API.
Firstly, if you’re not familiar with what an API is, you can loosely look at an API (application programming interface) like a bridge between various software programs that allows them to communicate with each other. So if you for example currently link your Linked in or Facebook with your Twitter and can mirror your posts as Tweets or vice versa, then thats an example of an API at work right there!
So now that we’ve covered what an API is, what Tin Can API does is it allows various devices to “communicate” with each other through a centralized repository in tracking the learning activities of a specific learner on practically any platform.
While there are numerous reasons why this is noteworthy, one of the most practical reasons deals with the way people actually learn.
In the workplace for example, statistics show that over 70% of learning is informal – meaning over 70% of the things people learn at work weren’t part of some standard or planned curriculum. Things such as on the job learning, books they read, conversations they had with a colleague, an experience they had with a client, a video they saw on YouTube etc. all factor into the way a person learns about how to conduct their job.
And as you can imagine this goes beyond just workplace learning applies to pretty much anything else you learn in a formal setting as well.
So being that a large chunk of learning is informal, it may make sense for educators and organizational leaders to try and record these learning activities or efforts so that a more holistic picture of knowledge retention and behavioural change among their learners can be achieved.
So in this regard, Tin Can API allows any enabled device to record or publish these activities in a universal way that can be interpreted by any other system familiar with the format. The collected data is then sent to a LRS, which loosely speaking, is a cloud based storage area for the data generated by Tin Can API and can be accessed by various devices regardless of the original device it was created on.
So for in the example of an employee, if they had a conversation with a colleague and learned about a specific HR protocol, they could pull out their smart phone and using a Tin Can enabled app, record what they learned within the LRS.
Or if they watched a video online on workplace safety within their computer browser and clicked a Tin Can enabled “share” button, the system would record that the employee watched this video in the LRS database.
The process can also be automated and systems can be configured to automatically create statements for output. For example in a flight simulator for pilots, the system could record the pilots actions and output them using the universal Tin Can statement format to be read on any other device connected to the same LRS.
As an extension of this we can now see how powerful reports can be run from data aggregated from a variety of different learning sources on any capable device connected to the LRS.
There are literally thousands of possible applications and examples but the take home point is Tin Can will enable educators and leaders to get gather learning data from a range of different sources in compiling a more accurate learning profile.
Now of course if you’ve been reading carefully, you can probably already see some potential red flags in the areas of individual privacy and the possibility for clashing boundaries in what constitutes as work/school life and personal life. But as stated earlier, Tin Can API is still being explored so we’ll have to wait and see what consequences arise out of its application.
Finally, its worth noting that the Tin Can API is the next evolution of SCORM (an universal e-Learning course format) and does a lot more than just write and read data but such a discussion is beyond the scope of this article as for now we are just highlighting one of the major practical functions.
2. Universal Design – Making Content Accessible from Any Device
There’s a good chance that you spend as much time (if not more!) using the internet on your smartphone as you do on your personal computer. In 2012 the need for mobile learning compatibility started to really pick up speed and many e-Learning developers started experimenting with different approaches to meet this demand. Some of those approaches included making standalone course apps and creating a separate mobile variant of each course.
So while a separate course designed to run on a specific device or strictly for mobile will produce great results, in the real world where budgets matter, this isn’t always financially possible.
So our approach and what we feel is a overall better solution, is to design content in a way that maximizes mobile and desktop compatibility simultaneously thereby providing the most value per dollar spent.
Of course this is often easier said than done. The challenge in building a universally accessible course is to use proper development techniques and smart instructional design planning to maximize mobile and desktop computer compatibility.
As an example of the technological considerations, here at Scholarix, we don’t use Flash (while its MUCH easier to create with) as its not compatible with iPhones and iPads. Rather, we opt for HTML4 with Jquery or HTML 5 for our interactive pieces as these are more universal and light weight formats.
Also, borrowing from a hot trend right now in web design, we utilize responsive design in the courses we build. Responsive design means that the pages and elements within them dynamically shift or change in response to the size of the viewer’s screen which results in less horizontal scrolling and a more optimized content layout on devices with smaller screens.
So these are just some examples of how e-Learning can be designed to be more universally compatible.
3. MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses
Now anyone can get a Harvard, MIT, or Yale education for free! If you haven’t heard about MOOCs then you’re no doubt curious about what we just said. Don’t worry we’ll explain.
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses and these courses are essentially free to take for anyone with no registration required.
Harvard, Yale, MIT, and UCLA are just a few of the big players offering these courses and since they’ve been introduced, they’ve been causing quite a stir in the higher education industry.
Many organizations fear that MOOCs could hurt their profitability in the long run and hurt the availability of education in the long run.
However, perhaps these concerns aren’t quite as valid as they seem to be as there are two significant caveats here. Firstly, MOOCs do not generally offer any type of credit or count towards any type of professional designation or credential.
Also, while a good number of courses are available, not every standardly available course is offered as a MOOC and free of charge.
From our perspective, MOOCs leverage the full potential of e-Learning and represent a positive step towards making quality education accessible to more people – People who perhaps would never had access to such a opportunity before due to geographic or financial boundaries.
If you would like to take some free courses or check out what’s available, visit this link for a great overview on which top universities are offering MOOCs.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the trends we’ve discussed so either leave us a comment or drop us a line