The Google Plus logo

Explore 10 learning innovations

Here at Epic we are keenly interested in exploring the ways in which new and technology innovations can aid learning. So we read the latest innovating pedagogy report from the Open University with interest.

The report identifies 10 areas of focus and classifies each by time scale and potential impact: MOOCs, Badges, learning analytics, seamless learning, crowd learning, digital scholarship, geo-learning, learning from gaming, maker culture and citizen enquiry.

Learning innovations - young professionals use elearning

1. MOOCs

MOOCs are obviously a hot topic right now and we’ve been watching their development and the subsequent debate with interest. Quite a few of us here are serial MOOC drop-outs, so it was good to have it confirmed that we aren’t alone in this and interesting to look at the thinking on why this is.

2 & 3. Open Badges and learning analytics

These are areas we’ve been exploring and working on with clients for some time now. We fully endorse the conclusions of the report – that the impact of both is likely to be high. Recent discussions about the potential to integrate the Mozilla Open badges standard with Tin Can (which we believe offers huge potential in the area of learning analytics) mean that we may see increasing overlap between these two areas.

4. Seamless learning

Seamless learning is something we’ve been working on for some years, and we believe at Epic that mobile learning has huge potential in this area. Multi-device design allows learning resources and courses to be accessed from several devices, giving learners the option of smoothly transitioning from one device to another within the course of their study. Like the authors of the report, we see potential in the new generation of mobile devices – and Google glasses and watches will take this even further forward.

5. Crowd learning

What the report refers to as ‘crowd learning’ is another term for what we often describe as self-directed learning or social learning. This trend would mean that we provide easy to access resources rather than courses and in the future, we would even let people track their own learning via a personal learning locker, or Learning Record Store (LRS).

6. Digital scholarship

Digital scholarship touches on open access to courses (an area that has considerable crossover with MOOCs) as well as open access to scholarship with open publishing of research and reports. At Epic, we firmly believe in offering open access to our research, and you can download any of our considerable resources of white papers, insights, how-to guides and at a glance’s for free from our Knowledge Base.

7. Geo-learning

Geo-learning is an interesting area – again mobile devices offer huge potential to enable context and environment-aware mobile learning. In terms of workplace learning, this might be using QR codes to access just-in-time instructions on how to operate machinery, or an induction programme which involves a QR-enabled tour of a building, or any learning directly related to tasks conducted outside – be that on a building site or in a national park.

8. Learning from gaming

Learning from gaming is a topic close to our hearts. Epic has produced a number of learning games, mostly casual mobile games, to help people use ‘found’ time to master new concepts. Our mobile games have helped people master unfamiliar technical vocabulary as an accompaniment to a larger online course, army apprentices master maths and vehicle mechanics and workplace learners understand new concepts and approaches. These were all true games, with scoring systems, levels, the opportunity for repeat play and varied outcomes. We fully agree with the authors of the report that these types of educational games are different from gamification, where game elements are added to non-game learning interventions. Gamification may have a valuable role to play in education, particularly in encouraging completion of non-mandatory courses, but it is a very different undertaking from designing and developing a full educational game.

9. Maker culture

Maker culture doesn’t concern us directly at Epic as it is currently highly involved with physical artefacts, and more closely aligned with out of work activities. However, as 3D printers start to take off and gestural interaction becomes ever more powerful, we might well see this align more closely with workplace learning in the future.

10. Citizen enquiry

Again, citizen enquiry again is less closely aligned with the immediate concerns of workplace learning and development but the field offers food for thought for departments setting up and running learning portals and for those researching into learning effectiveness.

So what’s next?

The report is insightful and offers food for thought, but as with all predictions, it is hard to be sure which (if any) of these innovations will really impact on learning. To quote from the introduction of the report (page 7):

“One hundred years ago, in July 1913, Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, ‘Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools… It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed inside of ten years.’ A century later, children continue to read books in school. Substitute the word ‘tablet computer’, ‘netbook’ or ‘smartphone’ for ‘motion picture’ and it would be hard to predict whether these technologies will completely change schools in five, ten, twenty years, or ever.”

Of course, society didn’t always use books as teaching tools – there was a movement to adopt these. It could be that we really are moving towards a tipping point in terms of the wider and more effective use of technology-assisted learning. Watch this space.

You can read more about MOOCs, the future of Open Badges and tracking your learning with Tin Can in our blog.

This post was written by Imogen Casebourne and first appeared on the Epic blog on 13th September 2013.