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As eLearn Magazine nears its fifth anniversary, we have seen the world of online learning change in many significant ways. Who, in 2002, envisioned the popularity of podcasts, wikis, and blogs? Yet for all the emphasis on how content can be created and disseminated, there has been too little focus on the quality of the learning experience. That's why my prediction for 2006 is that people will realize that technology, no matter how innovative, is just an enabler. New technologies only succeed if they help people learn. Read on for more predictions from some of the most thoughtful and opinionated people in the e-learning field.
"I do not have any brilliant predictions but I do have some high hopes for
2006: First, that the new year will bring an increase in high-quality
research on e-learning; and second, that the design of e-learning
environments will be based increasingly on scientific evidence and
research-based theory of how people learn."
—Richard E. Mayer, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
"Next year will be a 'building year' for e-learning, with evolutionary,
rather than revolutionary, changes. To begin with, the Learning Activity
Management System (LAMS) will continue to build momentum and become the
darling of online learning, spurring more conversation on workflow in
online learning and integration of learning applications. The threat of
the Blackboard/WebCT merger will center both discussions around the need
for e-learning frameworks, while leading to a grassroots movement for
teaching with small tools outside of learning management systems. But the
United States Department of Justice likely will quash the merger in the
end on antitrust grounds. Finally, in the corporate e-learning world, not
much will happen next year. Again."
—Michael Feldstein, Assistant Director, SUNY Learning Network, USA
"The 'e' in e-learning will continue to expand with more electronic
gadgets and gizmos capable of delivering learning anywhere at anytime.
Audio podcasting will become an accepted and desired method of delivering
learning to the mobile workforce quickly and efficiently. Video podcasting
will remain in its experimental stages as regards learning, but will gain
a foothold toward the end of 2006. Corporations will begin to recognize
the power of handheld game platforms like the PlayStation Portable (PSP),
which has wireless Internet access, a USB port, and the power to easily
download and play audio and video content. Designers will struggle to
determine the best strategies and methods to deploy instruction on these
—Karl M. Kapp, Assistant Director, Institute for Interactive Technologies and Professor of Instructional Technology, Bloomsburg University, USA
"Over the coming year, m-learning begins to grow in earnest. Podcasting,
the 2005 New Oxford American Dictionary's 'Word of the Year,' will expand
and evolve dramatically. With the advent of enhanced podcasting, the
delivery mode will integrate chapters, bookmarks, images, and video clips.
The new features will be exploited for e-learning in an expanding array of
mobile devices. As a result, e-learners are no longer chained to their
computers and network connections; they are learning while hiking in the
mountains, strolling on the beach, or jogging along a city street."
—Ray Schroeder, editor, Online Learning Update blog, University of Illinois at Springfield, USA
"This will be the year that an American Disability Act lawsuit is launched
against both a public and a private university system for 'access'
discrimination caused by their e-learning offerings being not flexible
enough for those with visual and other impairments. We will also see at
least three e-learning courses in the sciences and engineering at a
prestigious university that use the Xbox and/or Playstation as their
—Michael Schrage, co-director of the MIT Media Lab's E-Markets Initiative, USA
"Slowly but surely, people are getting 'real' about reusable learning
objects (RLOs), and that realism will result in more practical approaches
to RLOs. Within organizations, RLOs provide a means of inventorying
content and ensuring consistency in key messages, such as product and
policy descriptions. Across organizations, groups use RLOs to re-use whole
courses as-is or with slight modifications. But the idea of automatically
creating courses 'on the fly' by assembling learning objects seems to have
been quietly dropped. Although some wild and impractical uses for mobile
learning will be proposed, podcasting is poised to be its first real
widespread practical application. Finally, as people look at the data on
their investments in LMSs and LCMSs, many will question whether they've
achieved real cost savings and productivity improvements."
—Saul Carliner, assistant professor of educational technology, Concordia University, Canada
"This is one of the easiest years to make predictions in some time: 2006
will be the year of video. From video-on-demand services such as sports,
to distributed video (Reuters allows Web sites to run video for free), to
vodcasting and other forms of consumer video, we will be awash in video
this year. Expect also to see a continuation of the copyright debate, the
continuing expansion of distributed Web services (the "Web 2.0"
phenomenon), and (as a result) an increasing emphasis on free and open
content, at the expense of commercial content. In e-learning proper, the
migration away from commercial LMSs to Moodle, Sakai, and Bodington will
continue, as will the less visible migration from LMSs altogether. In
other words, the universe is unfolding as it should."
—Stephen Downes, Researcher, National Research Council Canada
"This is what I'll be wondering and watching in 2006: What will happen to
the importance of standards efforts? What will be the impact of unifying
technologies such as AJAX and SOAS on the need for open standards? I have
a USB drive that can be used to install and run applications from any
computer it's plugged into. How might we use that capability in
e-learning? I wonder when we'll admit that we sell teaching and
instruction but that learning is something that happens inside people's
heads and can't be bought, sold, or packaged? Who will be the first
company to come to market with the complete package for which the
corporate world waits? (Hint: It won't include more and larger systems.) I
wonder when we, as a marketplace, will understand that the competition is
not between products but between the ways people want to learn."
—Mark Oehlert, Director of Learning Innovations, The MASIE Center, USA
"We've all been creating and accumulating large amounts of materials and
resources for e-learning. Some are platform-based, others are not. As a
result, we are faced with the problem of facilitating the retrieval of
information on the Internet. Search engines such as Google give users much
information, but not necessarily the systematic knowledge they require. We
must provide a portal site for finding courseware that really fits
learners' needs. This portal should be a convenient tool that contributes
to the optimal usage of information contained in e-learning systems."
—Masaaki Kurosu, Professor, National Institute of Multimedia Education, Japan
"Here in the USA and abroad, both in K-12 and at the tertiary levels, we
will see a growing acceptance of blended learning in the classroom.
Best-in-class teachers can create educational content for CD, DVD, or live
broadcast that is designed for classroom presentation guided by a live
tutor/teacher. The content will be designed to be stopped and restarted
several times during a classroom experience, blending the best of the
distant teacher with that of the live resident teacher. In that way, not
everyone on site must be expert in all content, such as physics, calculus,
or even Machiavelli. And, it is a teaching-labor multiplier, potentially
bringing higher quality education in more topics areas and at less cost."
—Richard C. Larson, Founder and Director, Learning International Networks Consortium (LINC), MIT, USA
"I predict 2006 will be the year of 'networked learning environments' where any student, instructor, or researcher can access any learning resource at any time from any place, with:
—Matthew Pittinsky, Chairman, Blackboard Inc.
"It seems to me that for three main pillars of e-learning—technology,
courseware, and service-the following aspects will have the most impact on
researchers, teachers, and learners in 2006. Technology: Web-based
simulations and business games, and streaming multimedia (video, audio,
animations). Courseware: free and open source authoring tools (open
sourseware), open courseware and reusable learning objects for knowledge
sharing. Services for: collaborative learning and virtual teaming, mobile
(ubiquitous) learning, and IP-based conferencing (including Internet2)."
—Dr. Vladimir Uskov, Professor of Computer Science and Co-Director of the InterLabs Research Institute at Bradley University, USA
"As instructors and trainers continue to become aware of the power and
ease of creation of things such as wikibooks, blogs, Webcasts, and
podcasts, 2006 will spur an explosion of media-rich and creative
instructional approaches. Audio and video will become more expected in
e-learning. For instance, instructors will increasingly add audio books to
student reading (i.e., listening) lists. At the same time, knowledge
repositories and mobile e-learning will lead to a rise in personally
selected learning experiences and even self-labeled degrees. Entire
certificate and degree programs will be available from content in handheld
devices such as an iPod or MP3 player. This will lead a boom in
professional development and training opportunities."
—Curtis J. Bonk, Professor, Indiana University, USA
"From a budget perspective, training will grow at least 15 percent over
last year, closing some of the losses of the past few years. Outsourcing
models will be scrutinized more closely, including both business processes
and e-learning content. Colleges and universities will capture more of the
full-time employee market, both serving individuals and enterprises.
Simulations, approaches, and techniques will be used increasingly in
traditionally non-simulation courses, and there will be the release of
between five and ten new educational experiences that closely resemble
real-time computer games."
—Clark Aldrich, Author of Simulations and the Future of Learning and Learning by Doing: A Comprehensive Guide to Simulations, Computer Games, and Pedagogy, USA
"2006 will be the year that companies understand that a new business model
is required to get both high quality and reasonable cost in online
learning. Until now the choice has been one or the other. The new model
will put the provider and the client on the same side of the table,
leveraging the cost of compelling quality by syndicating solutions among
several 'client partners.' That business model will spell even more
trouble for library vendors and will open a window of opportunity for
those high-end providers who can integrate quality and granularity with a
user-centric design schema."
—Jonathon Levy, Senior Learning Strategist, Monitor Group, USA
"The Power of Us: Mass collaboration online will change the way learning
is defined and delivered in 2006, moving away from start/stop courses to
continuous learning experiences (acquire and maintain). There will be less
connecting people to content, and more connecting people to one another
(collective knowledge). Peer-to-peer support will finally augment virtual
ILT and online mentoring. Web services will allow specific functionality
to be deeply integrated into the enterprise to create new blended
solutions and personal online learning spaces. Collaboration will drive
content creation and accelerate content development. Innovations from
outside the industry will create new business models-think Amazon.com,
eBay, and Salesforce.com."
—Ben Watson, CEO, Ensemble Collaboration, Canada
"Where last year introduced us to mobile learning innovations such as
podcasting and VOD (video-on-demand)-casting, 2006 will be the year that
mobile learning comes of age. Mobile learning is the practice of
supporting cognitive engagement using a variety of personal digital
resources that create connections between and among people, information
and processes. Whether one is talking about laptops or handhelds, iPods or
smartphones, or some combination thereof, mobile learning matters because
today's learning stakeholders are mobile, and want the convenience of
getting their information and learning resources when and where they want
them, on whatever devices they choose. As mobile device adoption continues
to bring new voices to the global learning conversation, learning
designers will need to ensure that learning imperatives in the future are
less oriented toward a command-and-control style of teaching and training
and instead embraces learning solutions that are built upon principles of
connectedness, communication, creative expression, collaboration, and
—Ellen Wagner, Sr. Director, Learning Solutions, Adobe Systems, USA
"2006 may be remembered as the year of more of the same. Two trends appear
strong: do it yourself (DIY), and information-as-instruction. DIY
e-learning appears to be gaining popularity with no sign of decline. There
are an increasing number of DIY e-learning tools for authoring. Some of
these educational authoring tools are a bit of a stretch, but then again,
spray paint in the right hands can become art! A second and related trend
is the continued blurring of the line between information and instruction.
Instead of "build it and they will come," the new mantra may be "publish
what you have and consider them trained." A counterbalance to these trends
will be a few well-developed programs from organizations that have enough
at stake to demand instruction instead of information."
—Margaret Driscoll, Learning and Development, Consultant, IBM Global Services, USA
"The collaboration market is changing radically; interactions with collaboration technologies are fluid and can be accessed from any device at anytime. Rapid changes like these require the confluence of a number of trends that converge like a 'perfect storm.' The result at the end of this decade will be a collaboration market not recognizable by today's standards. These ten trends include:
As these ten trends impact collaboration, emerging will be human-centric,
fluid, rich-media interactions occurring anywhere, anytime, and with
anyone that will significantly impact enterprise learning."
—David Coleman, Founder and Managing Director, Collaborative Strategies
E-learning ultimately changes almost everything for students, whether
we're talking about college kids or mid-level managers. Responsibility for
learning moves to the individual. Will that sophomore taking Intro to
Religion online keep up with her assignments? Will that sales rep complete
the e-Learning modules about the new product? Will that repairperson use
the performance support tools and participate in the online community?
Many prefer what they know—classroom experiences led by instructors—and
are, as Iowa's Ken Brown found, not particularly adept at learning more
independently and online. In 2006, we must go beyond touting the joys and
glories of technology to grappling with how to guide, rivet, and serve
dispersed and diverse independent e-learners.
—Allison Rossett, Professor, San Diego State University and co-author, Blended Learning Opportunities.
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