Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's Personal

What does the future of education look like?
This is a question I explore on a regular basis. It's usually accompanied by a series of additional questions: Will students who progress through the 'educational system' of the future be more intelligent? Will they be more adept at problem solving and cognitive skills? More prepared for the workforce? More creative? More philanthropic? More socially engaged? Some, all, or none of the above? (Answer: We have no idea, but we should be proactive about striving for the affirmative!)

One thing is certain: We have reached a tipping point in education. Change is no longer on the horizon. Change is happening right now. Educational standards are being redrawn and accepted by a majority of the States. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is one example of this. Common Core, for those who don't know, is a State-led effort set to establish a single set of clear educational standards for Kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that States voluntarily adopt. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry level courses in two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce. These new standards are clear and concise to ensure that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and mathematics in school.1

In addition to a revision of standards, new learning solutions, models, and technologies are rapidly shaping the how, where, and when students learn and consume information. Access to high quality content from the world's leading subject matter experts is being provided through means we never dreamed possible. This includes games, mobile apps, and of course, online/distance learning. Some call this change and movement education disruption. Others deem it a revolution. I call it progress.

Why is it important?
Like most changing ecosystems, it is important to look at the various stakeholders impacted by change to understand the value of such progress.
  • For learners, there can be several motivations to embracing education with greater speed, quality, agility, and efficiency: Job placement, social advancement, professional competency, and, well... learning
  • For educators, learning outcomes and value that drive change progress. 
  • For parents, it is about consistently providing the very best alternatives for their children and preparing them for good choices that will impact their soon-to-be independent lives. 
  • For all of the movers and shakers out there who are creating and executing this education progress, the drive is opportunity -- opportunity to apply, improve, enhance. It's the legacy delta that inspires us all to move the needle. 
  • For me, someone who is all of the above, it's personal. How we teach and learn, today and in the future, will have a dramatic impact on all of our output, well being, and social happiness. For that, it's important. Pretty damn important.
Massive Learning MOOCs for everyone
Little Learners
Massive Learning MOOCs for everyone
NYU SCPS Learners
Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire ~ William Butler Yeats

Friday, March 1, 2013

Learning Just Got Bigger!

Welcome to MassiveU's first blog post. (Oh the pressure to make it compelling, engaging, informative, and entertaining...) I've decided to use this real estate, and graciously accept your time investment, to set the stage for mobile distance learning, and to explain my commitment to improving distance learning, as a whole, greatly with MassiveU.

Learning Just Got Bigger
Did it really? Online/distance learning has been around for awhile now, so how did it just get bigger? It is more than safe to say that learning didn't just get bigger, it's actually been getting exponentially HUGE! According to GSV Estimates (April 13, 2012), the global E-Learning market is expected to grow from $91B to $166B from 2012-2015. And it doesn't stop there, as this market is projected to reach $256B by 2017. That's nuts, in my opinion, as an already huge market will be nearly 3x what it is today. Due to new technologies, models, and learning solutions, the opportunities for growth of such an incredibly important market are endless. There has, therefore, never been a more exciting time for distance education. However, as a Subject Matter Expert and Continuing Education Adjunct Professor for over ten years at New York University, I know first-hand how this growth and these changes can come across as a bit daunting and perhaps even downright threatening to many educators.

The New EDU Imperative
There is no mistaking that MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, have had a tremendous impact on the distance education landscape in the past 12 months, and will continue to do so. While the notion of 'educating the world for free' sounds great on the surface (something I would be entirely behind!), the truth is that MOOCS are not entirely free -- to the universities and subject matter experts (SMEs), that is. Along with costs involved to produce, market, and deliver the courses come severe scrutiny and accountability... a sad, but true reality of any business, no matter how altruistic or philanthropic the mission.  In order to create, grow, and sustain quality educational systems and models that can accomplish this goal, content providers of all kinds -- not just educational institutions, but book/magazine publishers, CE Associations, etc. -- need a proactive approach now. We need to use technologies and develop solutions that accomplish all of the following, without any exception:
  1. Enhance the learning outcome of paying students, members, subscribers or customers
  2. Expand competitive global reach, revenues and brand/reputation
  3. Foster the value of content and associated Subject Matter Experts
I call this tenet the New EDU Imperative. It's quite simple and clear through my windshield to see that not far behind growth and change, risk looms. The consequences for content providers who do not subscribe to the New EDU Imperative are quite obvious when one takes a moment to reflect on similar happenings in the past. History has a strange way of repeating itself and, in turn, providing great wisdom to those willing to pay attention. For example, we need not look much further than the music industry to learn that a digital revolution can disrupt an entire ecosystem, with great significance and speed. We can learn from studying the answers to:
  • What happened to record companies? And, why?
  • How were artists/musicians (the SMEs) impacted? 
  • How did the disruption impact consumption of said content, and the trajectory of that business? [Side Note/Prediction: Digital music/subscriptions sales will eclipse hard good music sales within the next ten years.]
  • What new models emerged, stabilizing the ecosystem and ultimately changing it forever?
  • Who were the innovators? The leaders? The stabilizers? What did they do right? Where did they fail? What did they have in common? How were they different?
Focus on Execution: Taking On and Improving Upon Distance Learning's Exponential Growth
Accomplishing the objectives of the New EDU Imperative is entirely doable, and was, in fact, what inspired the foundation of MassiveU. Extreme Resourcefulness (Sounds like an event in a learning-inspired X Games!) and necessity were harnessed in order to surgically dissect the current model, making make it bigger and better for all stakeholders involved, including, but not limited to, the Educator/Content Provider, the Subject Matter Expert, the Student/Learner, and/or the savvy Sponsor/Marketer.

Are we building a better mousetrap? I suppose you could say so. New technologies, models, and learning solutions are great, as long as they can be sustained and improved upon. They work when everyone benefits to some degree and when change is embraced as an opportunity. Apple did as much in the music ecosystem. At the heart of it all is quality content. Thank you, Bill Gates, for your foresight in your 1994 essay on "Content is King." This emphasis on dire need for exceptional content has never been more evident or noteworthy than in the field of education. This will never change. 

A Tall Order?
Is changing education for the better a tall order? Considering what is at stake, It is an important order would be my answer. As a father of twin 5-year-olds, the future of how our children learn and the ways we can educate them is of the utmost importance to me. As a Subject Matter Expert and Educator for over a decade now, the delivery methods, efficiencies, and solutions for learning/teaching are as significant to me as they are personal. And as a marketing specialist and entrepreneur, I couldn't be more excited about growing and improving this ecosystem!

Meet Stella, MassiveU's official Learning Lab
Learning did just get bigger, with MassiveU. Hop aboard this rocket ship and join the evolution, my friends. We're just getting started!