Version 3 in 2007

The December Big Question asks for three kinds of insights that generated lots of ideas for me. It makes the most sense to offer my forecast first, since that defines the challenges we will soon face, as well as making sense of my personal highlights from 2006.Software developers believe there is predictable growth pattern reflected in the original progression of Microsoft Windows 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. In their view, the first two versions were buggy, but necessary phases to work out those bugs. Widespread adoption did not occur until 3.0, the first of the phases that does not crash, contaminate or lose data. They think Web 2.0 tools and web sites have loads of problems that are easily debugged, just like Windows 2.0. My forecast for eLearning changes in 2007 uses this "three version" frame of reference. I forecast that Version 3.0 is "due for beta release" in 2007.

Use of software tools for instructional design and delivery

1.0 - The premises of early CBT tools (Macromind Authorware anyone?) appears to be still prevalent in most course development software and open portals for eLearning. The software is used to structure the sequence of content, optimize the learning and reliably test the retention. This version calls for an engineering temperament.

2.0 - Social networking tools (blogs, wiki, RSS, bookmarks, etc) have been gaining acceptance and use in instructional design and delivery, as we all know and write about often. Techies are using these tools to the max and driving themselves crazy, as Kathy Sierra illustrates. This version calls for the temperament of diplomats, community builders and team leaders.

3.0 - Software as a service puts the users workflow front and center. There will eventually be no more need to open software, login into web sites or upload to remote servers. Everything will be available instantly and used without distraction. 2007 will bring the first tools (or vaporware talk of tools) for eLearning that serves each learner's unique flow of: intrinsic curiosity, imposed need to know, personal obstacles to comprehension/application and situational opportunities to learn socially, actively and/or informally. This version calls for the temperament of gamers, ecologists and multi-taskers.

Changes in the concept of "educational value"

1.0 - The value of an educational offering is like a Google or Amazon ranking. It depends on the quantity of hits, purchases, or users in the installed base. This thinking supports blockbuster hits, best sellers, and playoff championships. It's playing "King of the Hill" on the bell curve of mass consumption, one size fits all and follow the herd.

2.0 - The value of an educational offering is like a Netflix, eBay seller or Technorati rating. It depends on the assessed quality, number of links between blogs or the accumulation of contributors. This thinking supports the quality of wikipedia articles and the automatic recommendations based on your wishlist, queue and past purchases/rentals. It's playing at the democratization of production and distribution; allowing for the long tail of innovators, niches and small suppliers.

3.0 The value of an educational offering is like search results ranked by relevance -- that uses sophisticated AI to drill down deep into XML resources to come up with the astoundingly perfect finds. This thinking supports on-demand, mass customized, and personally configured eLearning modules, links and coordinates to visit in virtual space. It's playing like a continually updated dashboard widget and PDA with broadband access. 2007 will bring AI wedded to Web 2.0 tools that will gain adoption faster than the Web 2.0 blog, wiki, and bookmark tools.

Changes in free online educational offerings

1.0 Content is offered: Books, articles, research papers are offered for free download. PDF is the preferred format, though Microsoft Word is widespread also.

2.0 Instruction is offered: Individual modules, lessons with embedded sims, animations or SCORM compliant testing are offered for free use in course development. XML is the preferred format and Adobe Flash is widespread also.

3.0 Performance support is offered: Job aids, troubleshooting guides, diagnostic assistance and intelligent tutors are offered for free use in improving conduct on the job. 2007 will bring a shift from "preparing to perform" to "dive right in and figure it out as you go". Support for "learning by doing" will seem more useful, applicable, valuable (than content or instruction) to adults pursuing "continuing education" to further their "careers" and promotion potential.

Challenges we will face and my highlights from 2006 will follow in a separate posting.

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