Can learning prosper in the Internet age? Technology is dismantling the traditional power structures of learning – such as the division between teacher and pupil, or between work and learning. But is this a truly democratic world of opportunity – or must we fear descent into anarchy?
Will a greater choice of learning opportunities really bear the fruits they seem to promise?
In a recent interview, Mark Surman, CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, pointed to the "diversification and democratization" of teaching on the Internet and, as the creator of the largest social enterprise on the Web, he can only greet it with enthusiasm.
But what happens to traditional academia and expert educators – for centuries the guiding light of education – in a world where everyone is a learner, all of the time, and knowledge flows in all directions?
For Surman, there will always be a place for the expert in this new world order. "We need traditional teachers," he affirms. "MOOCs have a role to play there," he says, but also states that, "the real opportunity is that there are other ways to learn."
Who holds the reins of power, whether it’s the teachers or learners, and what they do with it, is a subject that deeply concerns him. On the subject of ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN’s 20th anniversary conference and the years ahead for e-learning, he says, “the next couple of decades hold both great potential and great peril. Really what I’d love to see people dig into… is that we can either continue to build opportunity out of what the digital world has brought us, or actually entrench power and make things worse.”
Teachers and academics may well fear the disruption caused by new technology. As the technology that students are using in their day-to-day lives changes, so do their learning needs.
Craig Weiss, founder of Learning 24/7 and speaker at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2014, is not optimistic about the fortunes of these traditionalists: "Academia just doesn't get it when it comes to online learning… for whatever reason, academia has this mentality that online learning should be serious and cannot be fun and engaging … No interactivity in anything? Hello, good luck with that.”
However, where academics are showing reticence, the corporate sector is progressing quickly. As ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2014 keynote speaker Dr Nick van Dam, Global Chief Learning Officer at McKinsey, points out, "A growing number of organisations are starting to use MOOC technology platforms and the pedagogy behind it … MOOCs are a welcome addition to the whole suite of digital learning solutions that organisations can leverage to swiftly build new capabilities.”
In business and beyond, the leaders of tomorrow will be those who can seize the uncounted benefits of a changing world. John F. Kennedy, van Dam points out, once said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Technology may well shake up – or, for some, destroy – the fabric of learning as we know it. But it also offers immense opportunities.
ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2014, International Conference on Technology Supported Learning & Training will take place in the Hotel Inter Continental Berlin, December 3 – 5, 2014.
For more information about the ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN conference, including the list of speakers and how to register, please visit: www.online-educa.com
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