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Were it not for our human and institutional tendency to maintain the statu quo, more people in the education community and beyond would appreciate a simple fact: We are living in a golden age of learning.

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Never before there has been more knowledge, more learning resources, more educational tools and ways to interact between teacher and students as well as among peers. Furthermore, we have unexpectedly rich repositories of data about how students behave and perform. (Even if most of them are sitting idly.)

Not only that. Contrary to the top-down process of defining priorities at most educational organization, these resources and tools are able to fast evolve according to their survival imperatives. Evolution is not always a good thing, of course, and the imperatives aren’t always to the benefit of the human. But there is movement and progress. If anything, our cultural and institutional rigidities are to blame for not demanding better educational outcomes from creative disruption.

In any case, the level of tools teachers can use to create powerful and effective experiences is plentiful. This calls for a series of readjustments for the digital teacher, probably starting with a more decisive rupture from the old classroom. Which will be only the beginning of a whole new series of roles for the educator, pertaining their relationship with digital technologies, how they approach interaction with learners —and of learners among themselves—, and LMS Data and Learning Analytics to inform learning interventions.

Elearning’s plight

This is a romance story taking place in our gilded world. We begin with elearning, a beautiful and noble technology at heart, infused with the minty flavors of the World Wide Web as an unparalleled repository of knowledge, free to all. Reaching its teenage years, elearning is being forced into one old tradition after another. Not that she’s completely unwilling: The 2020 global education industry is a $6-7 trillion market according to pre-pandemic estimates.

Against the powers that be, elearning wants to reign supreme, which should prove a daunting challenge against the powers that be. But institutional inaction is but one of the several issues affecting elearning to blossom into her full, magnanimous self:

  • The digital gap continues to be a major deterrent for universal education. But compared to the reach of, say, higher education, mobile connectivity today reaches a much larger share of the world’s population than universities ever had.
  • The limited standards trying to make sense over the forest of elearning products, solutions, services and general ways in which she adds value. For now, an imperfect antidote some organizations have to let promotional copy determine their elearning needs is the RFP.
  • The powerlessness of students. This is a classic principal-agent problem, where the needs of the end user may not be properly incorporated into the process, opening potentials for unsatisfactory and ineffectual experiences.

It is straightforward to note that these challenges existed before elearning became compulsory across education systems. To be sure, the golden age of elearning need not mean the same for education systems, universities, national standards or curricula. The stress and hardship in which we’re all rushing into virtual classroom, without regard for the physical classroom’s systemic problems, will likely lead to an enormously costly effort with unsatisfactory reward.

Teachers: Own the ‘Experience’

The “experience” is an interesting one at this point. Barring a couple innovators in Silicon Valley or Scandinavia, thinking about the “learner’s experience” wasn’t really a think before educational technologies entered the mainstream. (Which can’t be too long ago, or even something yet to happen or just now happening in the eyes of many.) Had EdTech achieved a breakthrough thanks to, say, “design thinking”? By no means. But whatever siloed and corporate-oriented thinking about best elearning and EdTech practices is taking place, is still orders of magnitude more active and potentially scalable than whatever was happening at schools and colleges. Now with empty campuses, the difference is minimal.

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