I had hoped that by this time, I would have had a chance to look into the latest and greatest technology that might improve online learning – but alas, I have not had the time. It has been a crazy week, with the collaborative paper from MobiMOOC getting excepted and my resulting decision to attend the mLearn 2011 conference in Beijing (yay!).
Anyways, I thought I'd share with you my reflections on a couple of tools that have really changed my view of online education in the last five years.
I finished my Master's degree (an online program) in 2005. It was a great program with lots of asynchronous discussion and group work. For our groups, we used MSN Messager as the primary means of synchronous communication (anyone remember text chat? And text chat with 4 or 5 people!). The cohort only 1 year after us had an entirely different group work experience, as they did all their group chats with the "latest and greatest" at the time, Skype. Now that I'm taking another online course, I can tell you that Skype certainly makes group collaboration go quicker. Although it is a lot faster, what I do notice is that people are not on equal footing in skype – it is too easy for one person to dominate the conversation. This wasn't such a problem with text-based chat. That being said, for a lot of people Skype has increased the feeling of social presense – so it was definitely a game-changer for online education.
The second tool that has changed the way I see online education is YouTube. I'm teaching a short course on Advanced Microsoft Word (a skills course) and YouTube has been a saviour. For almost every task you can imagine in Microsoft Word there is a YouTube video or two – and they cover all the versions, such that I only needed to develop content with one version, and my students could find appropriate demonstration on YouTube. And if for some reason there is not one there, it isn't that difficult to take a quick screencast of my system with a voice over and post it myself.
So, now I'm wondering, what will be today's Skype and YouTube? When I look back 5-years from now, what will I see as the tools that changed the way we do online learning?
What do you think?