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It’s not Napster

It’s not Napster

Interesting Examples of Technology Enhanced Learning – ocTEL

Probably the most interesting example of TEL for me at the moment is the MOOC, but probably not in the way you would expect.

What interests me about MOOCs is the hype surrounding them and a belief that they will have a significant impact on the HE sector. Some have been saying that MOOCs are to HE, in the same way that Napster was to the music industry. I am less confident in that view, but I do wonder (as someone who works in formal education) if I am thinking as a record company rather than an innovator.

The thing is that over the last few years there have been a fair few ideas and technologies that people have talked about as revolutionising education.

Go back to the 1990s and lots of people back then were talking about how online learning and VLEs were going to revolutionise education. Fast forward to today and VLEs are embedded in a fair few educational organisations (and used intermittently in others) however the VLE is in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. You still have traditional classroom and lecture theatre delivery, but there is support, communication tools, extra resources and activities on the VLE that allow for a more personalised and individual learning experience. Rarely will you see a course delivered wholly on the VLE and where you do, it’s usually by an organisation that was doing that kind of remote learning before with paper.

In 2006 many people were talking about mobile learning (oh and still are) and how mobile devices were going to break apart traditional education delivery allowing learning to happen at a time and place to suit the learner. Fast forward again and what we find is that mobile devices are again in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. Learners use mobile devices to access additional information and resources, as well as communicate. Services such as Twitter which work well on mobile devices allows back channel communication and sharing of resources and links. You aren’t seeing in the mainstream whole courses designed to be delivered on a mobile device. Some subject areas have made good use of mobile learning, but as with the VLE, the real strength of mobile has been to add value to a traditional learning experience.

Go back just a few years and everyone was talking about the PLE (Personal Learning Environment), how every learner could create their own learning environment, how Web 2.0 tools could take learning outside not just the institutional VLE, but also allow learning in communities and add an element of social learning. At a simple level, in a PLE, a learner would use a range of web based tools and services to create their own learning environment, engaging with learning communities across a range of institutions. Though that is happening today, it certainly isn’t mainstream.

I don’t see mainstream education using the PLE concept, yes individuals are pushing it and encouraging their learners to engage with web tools and services, but the PLE revolution that was talked about, just hasn’t happened and the term is rarely referred to or mentioned today in discussions about learning technologies. Certainly I don’t think I have seen the term PLE in any of the discussions in this MOOC.

In many ways I do think that MOOC is similar to what we have seen before. A lot of people evangelise how this “concept” will revolutionise education and cause traditional institutions to change. Personally I don’t see that happening.

In many ways MOOCs for me are an evolution of the PLE. By adding content and structure to the PLE you get a MOOC.

So will MOOCs revolutionise education in the same way that Napster changed the music industry?

What needs to be remembered is that there were lots of other services at that time, as well as other technologies, it wasn’t just Napster that had an impact on the music industry. Well maybe we should look whether it was just Napster, in many ways I think mp3 and the iPod (and iTunes) had a bigger impact. Also where is Napster now, the original Napster concept that is? It’s gone.

MOOCs will change education, the fact we are talking and discussing them implies that this will feed into how we work and support learning. But is it Napster? I don’t think it is.