Connect Minnesota recently released a new report: The Digital Classroom: Colleges and Universities Expanding their Reach through Broadband. It looks at what’s happening in elearning in Minnesota and beyond. Here are some of the highlights, borrowed from their press release…
Key facts from the report include the following:
- Approximately 1.3 million Minnesotans access the Internet to take a class online or conduct research for schoolwork (e-Learning). [That’s 37% of Minnesota Internet users.]
- 414,000, or 14% of, Minnesota broadband subscribers said the main reason they subscribed to broadband was because someone in the home needed it for schoolwork.
- E-Learners who are employed and work from home represent 20%, or 252,000, of e-Learning users in the state.
- More than one out of ten (11%) adult Minnesotans use e-Learning applications on their cell phone. That translates to 143,000 that use their cell phone for taking classes online or conducting research for schoolwork.
- Adults age 18 to 34 have the highest usage rate of any age group among Internet users and cell phone Internet users for e-Learning.
I think the information is valuable – but it also opens a door to a lot more questions for me. To be fair, I don’t expect Connect Minnesota to research these questions but on the off chance that a graduate student in need of a research topic happens upon this post or other readers have some answers, I’m going to start asking. Also I plan to attend the EduTech 2012 Showcase and Forum on October 8. I might learn more then.
Are more folks learning now?
I love that 37 percent of online Minnesotans participate in elearning online. Bringing the classroom to the student obviously makes online learning easier in terms of logistics – for those who have access. But has this access at our fingertips encouraged more people to learn? What percentage of people were participating in any sort of learning 20 years ago?
How much traditional learning has shifted online?
In 2008, former Governor Pawlenty set a goal of having 25 percent of all credits earned at MnSCU campuses come from online courses by 2015. I haven’t heard a recent statistic. Two follow up questions – has the shift to online education saved money? If so, what is the impact? I guess what I’d really like to know is if any potential savings would ever trickle down to the students. I recently wrote about some of the terrific free higher ed learning being offered online. It spurred some discussion offline about the value of education – does the value rest in the diploma or the knowledge gained?
Is online learning more or less effective than traditional learning?
We may be too early in the innovation to fairly answer that question. I’ve seen contrary reports. Also I saw a great post on effective elearning that explains that elearning is just the delivery channel…
On balance, the evidence would suggest that the medium, the delivery channel, is much less important in determining effectiveness than the learning strategy you choose to address the task in hand (exposition, instruction, guided discovery, exploration, etc.), the social context in which the medium is used (self-study, one-to-one, group) and, indeed, the relevance and importance of the subject matter on which you are focusing. Thomas L Russell reviewed 355 research reports, summaries and papers that documented no significant differences in student outcomes between alternate modes of education delivery. It is the method that matters when it comes to effectiveness, not the medium.
I think educators are just developing the methods now, although the same article highlights two methods made available through the new media…
However, e-learning is a medium which opens up the possibility for methods that would otherwise be impractical or impossible to deliver using traditional means. Let’s take two examples:
- The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) makes it possible for many thousands of students to learn together at the same time. While the underlying pedagogy of a MOOC can, in some cases, resemble that of a traditional course, the sheer scale of the endeavour and the opportunities that this provides for peer interaction make the MOOC something very different from what we have ever been able to experience face-to-face.
- An immersive and highly-realistic training tool, such as a flight simulator, has no meaningful traditional equivalent other than practice in the real world.
Is eleanring through a smartphone effective? Does is make sense to improve “mlearning” or improve student access to laptops or other devices?
This is sort of a loaded question. The Connect Minnesota indicates that a lot of people are accessing eleaning online BUT those folks who are accessing eleaning via phone are Minnesota adults without a college degree and households where annual income less than $50,000. I think we can deduce that those people are using the technology they can afford, not necessarily the technology they think is best for the job. Folks with college degrees in households with higher annual incomes are not accessing elearning by phone at the same rate.
Recently I heard Jack Geller talk about huge swathes of activity moving to mobile devices because more people have mobile devices. In some ways, it’s industry (in this case education) that needs to catch up with the consumers. But will education make the effort to catch up with a critical mass? (I know research is being done in the area.)
Back to the Connect Minnesota report, I think the do make the point that elearning is here to stay and is growing…
Higher education is shifting from a physical campus presence to one allowing students to attend on-campus, online, or both. Nationally data shows that college students are embracing the change, too, with more than 6 million college students currently enrolled in at least one online course.