eLearning 4.0: Prospects And Challenges

Prospects And Challenges Of eLearning 4.0 

What is eLearning 4.0 and what will it entail? It's pretty obvious that education technology evolves hand in hand with the web. What would be the right definition for Web 4.0? Are we talking an Internet Of Things or something else bordering on artificial intelligence? The lines between web “iterations” are blurred. Indeed, the times when social media were a revelation are not exactly ancient history. Seems like it all started the day before yesterday.

Does education adapt easily to the changing technology landscape? Yes and no. New Learning Management Systems, authoring and grading tools have mushroomed in the last decade, yet the user mindset may still be falling behind. Learning Management System-friendly standards are a good example. While the new Tin Can (xAPI) format (relatively new, at that) has just started making inroads into the market, the good old SCORM unfailingly holds the lion's share. And SCORM was conceived some twenty years ago! In these circumstances, eLearning serves as a driver of change, a new worldview under the guise of technology.

Since we are trying to sync up learning and web technology, let's count from one to three to see if the tendencies match:

  • eLearning 1.0.
    The idea is to facilitate the learning and communication process given the lack of interactivity tools. This is a time of static web pages, reading, and owning content.
  • eLearning 2.0.
    The advent of social networks, active collaboration through a bundle of new technologies, and content sources, such as blogs, podcasts, video, wikis, etc. Here begins the era of writing content and sharing ideas.
  • eLearning 3.0.
    Semantic web and active user engagement. The focus is on the individual learners, their behavior and response to educational content.

In this perspective, the development of edu tech is a logical extrapolation of global web trends. Putting these models into a timeline proves rather challenging since nobody can officially state where we find ourselves at this point. My rough guess would be:

  • 1993-2000 for 1.0 (this one is definitely over).
  • 2000-2010 for 2.0 (yet the present is still pretty much about social media).
  • 2010 onwards for 3.0.

Needless to say, the accuracy of this estimation is disputable, but it gives you a general idea. Now, what will eLearning 4.0 entail? When is the official inauguration taking place? Provided that we witness certain paradigm shifts every decade, we could slate it for 2020, give or take, which is only three and a half years from now.

The direction I see here is elaborate interactivity, intuitive learner experience and individual approach. In simple words, we can picture Learning 4.0 as a higher form of blended eLearning 3.0. As before, the cornerstone is a web-based course equipped with text, video and audio content, but taken to the next level.

eLearning 4.0 As A Software Solution: Features

If eLearning 4.0 were a software solution, I'd put these features on the MVP list:

  1. Performance tracking and analysis.
    Same as in Web 3.0, it's critically important to monitor students' progress and behavior, fixing weaknesses along the way. The challenge is not only to pinpoint a bottleneck in course-flow but take appropriate action and implement change across the entire framework.
  2. Going mobile.
    I can hear somebody say we are already there, but it's not strictly true. The younger generation is integrated into the mobile ecosystem, yet many teachers are still thinking 'desktop' or 'brick-and-mortar'. eLearning 4.0 is poised to proclaim mobility a must-have asset or faculty, like computer literacy, or just mere literacy. Modern education breaks out of traditional school or college walls. Since the adoption of mobile, a 'peripatetic' lecturer is no longer a throwback; the class is no longer tied to the classroom. It's high time course authors and teachers perused some best practices of mobile learning.
  3. Personalized approach.
    Relevant knowledge needs to be channeled and delivered right to the recipient rather than dispersed with no specific targeting or further retention. Someone may argue personalization is a double-edged sword in terms of technology. The intention to factor in every possible scenario and reaction may lead to feature-creepy bloatware beyond usability standards. The problem eLearning 4.0 has to face is the right balance between automation, personalization and consistent methodology. Oddly enough, this is a field where education could do some productive benchmarking against commerce. Have you noticed how the quality and relevance of ads we are shown improves over the years? The content becomes less obtrusive and more pertinent to consumer needs. Advertisers know more about our preferences, habits and incomes, so they can target and retarget the public with increased efficiency. I mean ads are still a nightmare but there's definitely a silver lining. In my opinion, we could apply the same principles in training, with the learner in mind. By reviewing behavior patterns, questions and feedback within a learning system, we can deliver the right message to both underachievers and A-Plus students. Instructors may choose to provide tailored tips and best practices, and offer additional courses or more engaging tasks. There is also the issue of grading. The new technology needs to eliminate the sickening routine and automate what can be automated without prejudice to personal feedback. Despite popular misconceptions, the two aren't mutually exclusive. The instructor can communicate directly with the learner, focusing on the big picture rather than trivial errors.
  4. Gamification as a strategy.
    Another buzzword we hear in every corner, gamification is a technique that has been duly recognized by business trainers, but treated with a pinch of salt in the education community. Is it because business involves grownups, and grownups are mature enough to take games seriously, whereas education spans learners of younger ages? Sounds like an oversimplification, but there is a certain point to it. Sooner or later, we'll have to embrace the fact that games are not necessarily entertainment or distraction. A game is essentially a project with prerequisites, challenges and solutions – like business projects we, grownups, contribute to on a daily basis! eLearning 4.0 software will grant gamification its rightful place in the feature hierarchy.

The future begins today. We are instrumental to building a next-generation training framework. The learning environment to come will blend old and new for better knowledge retention and collaboration. Behavior prediction, or patterns gleaned from our daily online activity, may be a friend or a foe depending on the viewpoint. From the teacher's perspective, it's always great to know where we can do more, what content works better for particular learners and how we can share our views without forcing them on the audience.