Education and training leads to economic and social development, which in turn enables greater freedom that empowers people to make decisions that affect their lives. However, education is a complex eco-system. For technology to be useful, key elements of the education and training eco-system needs to be functional e.g., policy framework, curriculum and learning/teaching materials, teachers, qualifications framework, quality of teaching and learning, infrastructure, teaching and administration.
Of course, parental involvement, social environment, peer support, career information and counselling are also important parts of any education system.
What are the trends in technology enabled learning that is adding value to the education system?
- Mobile phone is an important technology application to add value to the education system. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of cell phone coverage in developing countries offers good opportunities to enable education and training to use this device and support learning. We already see a shift taking place where mLearning in developing countries like China, India, Indonesia and Brazil is having the highest growth rate. While access to the Internet may be low in many developing countries (high costs, low or no access to bandwidth, lack of devices), the use of mobile devices is high, growing and offers a viable means to address the lack of Internet access.
- Increasing learner empowerment marks a shift in the way learners, empowered by the new massifying technologies are increasingly taking control of their own learning and are indeed producers of their own learning solutions, portfolios and materials. The term learners is used here to denote all ‘users’ and is inclusive of school students, young degree aspirants to workplace based adult learners. As technology advances and the learning needs and styles begin to change, institutions and education systems will need to understand and address the new realities.
- Rapid advances in information and communications technology (ICT) and other related developments are changing job profiles and skills demanded by labor markets, while also offering possibilities for accelerated learning and improved management of education systems. From Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) to Open Educational Resources (OER), eLearning and data analytics, mobile technologies and the proliferation of educational apps, these have resulted in changes in how we understand teaching and learning. The use of technology is often captured as eLearning, defined as the ‘use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning by facilitating access to resources and services, as well as remote exchange and collaboration. E-learning encompasses all computer and Internet-based activities that support teaching and learning – both on-campus and at a distance’.
- OER, described as learning materials that are free to be used by others and open for adaption for teaching, learning, further materials development and research. While OER is mainly shareable in digital formats (both online and via offline formats such as DVD or CD-ROM), it is not only synonymous with online resources, online learning or e-learning. However, we need to be reminded that content is not equal to education. The education process is more than having good content and requires other parts of the ecosystem to be functional.
Globally, as labor markets respond to rapidly changing economies and just as rapidly to changing needs and expectations of society, so too is the pressure mounting on education to keep up. At the same time, we can’t ignore the escalating costs of education. Such costs are passed on to students or are carried by government through taxes.
Technology is opening doors to extensive opportunities for people seeking knowledge and skills development required for the economy and driving significant changes in both the teaching and the learning processes.
We also see technology reshaping the form of education institutions. Developments such as MOOCs, OER and mobile phones offer cost-effective avenues for addressing the needs of citizens in every nation to obtain high-quality learning opportunities.
Perhaps, most important of all, though, it offers a means for a greater number of people wherever they are in the world to gain the skills and knowledge they need to live productive, satisfying and meaningful lives.