Epic Show Report: Online Learning, LA September 2003
Report by Donald Clark, CEO, Epic Group plc

US goes blended, UK stays away
Next year this well-established online learning conference is being combined with the Training conference. You could say it's becoming a 'blended learning' event. Of the 2,600 delegates heaving up at the Los Angeles Convention centre this year, only five were from the UK. Epic was one (me), two from the MOD - couldn't spot the other two!

Curtis Bonk: The Perfect Storm
    Curtis Bonk
Curtis Bonk was my favourite conference presenter. Slightly mad, wildly enthusiastic and full of insights. In this presentation he saw better technology coming together with changing learner demands to create new pedagogic models. This is a subject close to my heart as I've heard little sense but much overuse of the word pedagogy.

His proposition is that technology is really driving pedagogy and that the sheer breadth of innovation in technology has brewed up a storm that in turn has changed learners views on learning. Portals, p2p software, simulations, games, google, messaging, weblogs and e-learning have all changed learner expectations. It won't be long before computers understand and talk to you through wearable, wireless technology. Technology drives pedagogic change.

Turning to students and learners he cites the National Survey of Student Engagement to show that what really matters is student engagement. This is what makes the difference between those that succeed and those that fail. Challenging intellectual and creative work is central to student learning.

So who's more engaged according to the research?
  • Women
  • Full-time students
  • Students living on campus
  • Native students (start and finish at same institution)
  • Learning community students
  • International students
  • Students with diverse experiences

He showed example after example of Universities where students participating in online e-learning were going through the roof and completion rates of >93%. These included Indiana University, University of Illinois, Ohio State, Hawaii and the University of Pretoria.

What did students want?
  • Relevant information
  • Organisation and structure
  • Clear expectations
  • Modeling and guidance
  • Prompt and informative feedback
  • Personal touch and caring
  • More visual learning
  • Application to their job setting
  • Choice and challenge

Then comes motivation. In particular intrinsic motivation, the key to successful learning. So what motivates learners?
  • Tone, climate, comfort, belonging
  • Feedback: responsive, supporting, encouraging
  • Engagement: effective, involved, exciting
  • Meaningfulness: interesting, relevant, authentic
  • Choice: flexible, opportunities, autonomy
  • Variety: novelty, intrigue, unknowns
  • Curiosity: fun, fantasy, control
  • Tension: challenge, dissonance, controversy
  • Interactive: collaborative, team-based, community
  • Goal-driven: success, ownership

The Perfect Storm is, in Curt's view, a combination of innovative technology, demanding learners and creative pedagogy. Go see this guy at Berlin's Educa conference - he's good.

-Donald Clark, CEO, Epic Group plc
Link to full text of Epic Show Report.

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