Cyberspace Classrooms: A New Reality

Book readers, podcasts, webcams, cell phone texting platforms, chat rooms, webinars, videos, and open source software will be old school techniques when my grandson is in college in 2030.

Land based classrooms will not be an option. They will be as obsolete as the rotary telephone I grew up with that tethered me to a wall. The cyberspace classroom is being created now. Each new innovation erases an existing fixture in the educational realm.

Cell phones are allowing students the ability to attend webinars, seminars and to download podcasts allowing students to learn in ways that don’t involve paper, books or people.

Courses can be created and students can be grouped according to their interests. Students will have more freedom to pick and choose from a wide range of universities since location will no longer be an issue.

Success will come to students as they set goals that suit their personalities and fill their class load with courses that speak to them.

In an online learning environment, there will be no need for dormitories, buildings, librarians, janitors, parking attendants, football players, cafeterias or bookstores. Some colleges may decide to keep their science and medical departments but the others can go online.

The cyber-classroom will have everything a student needs to be successful. In addition to advisor and counseling forums, a student will be able to have chats with faculty, work groups with students and even create new environments as a way to share information.

Diversity will become a way of life as students from across the world attend class in cyberspace bringing their world view, culture, religion, history and attitude to the table.

The educational model we have today doesn’t work. It costs too much and doesn’t deliver the necessary tools for the graduate.

The Global Web of 195 countries may not even need tools. By the time my grandson is in college, the whiteboard may be replaced by a virtual circuit board giving him access to all existing information.  Put a ring on his finger …and he’s in the Louve looking at original art or he’s back in time watching the pyramids being created or he’s sitting next to John Steinbeck as he writes a novel.

He will tell his children, “There was a time when students had to go to a classroom to learn…”

Online Innovation: Endless Possibilities

endlessImagine you have a blank canvas in front of you and you can create the ideal online class. You can add any Global Web application you choose, include links to existing material, social networks, videos, podcasts, lectures, art, design, color … endless choices.

The canvas would be a work of art, innovation at it’s best, something to long for – right? Well, maybe not. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the online courses are pretty much the same across the country. The learning management systems are hum drum and offer learning via text, email, asynchronous discussion boards or mandatory chat sessions. Marc Parry author of Online Programs: Profits Are There, Innovation is Not, notes the discrepancy between the exciting technology offered at workshops and conferences is missing in the actual platform where classes are offered.

It only takes one university to step outside the box, incorporate global web technology to online classrooms to draw students who are eager to try something new, to feel appreciated and to learn.  Once that happens and students get a taste of what is possible, they will never return to the tired old platform.

A course with color, music, links to social networks, links to experts in the field, links to authors, games that tell stories, stories that teach, existing technology … it’s already there.



OpenCourseWare: OpenYourMindware

OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a

“free and open digital publication of high-quality university level educational materials, including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams”  

according to the University of California at Irving website.  

In other words, OCW is educational material available to learners, students and teachers across the globe… for free. 

At MIT, http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm
on the MITOpenCoureseware site, free lecture notes, videos and exams are offered for free with no registration required. They currently have 1900 courses available on the web. 

Check out the Utah State University list of courses and you’ll find a wide range of academic courses as well as extension courses such as landscaping, turf management, irrigation and vegetable gardening.  

What’s the catch? 

You can learn for free. You can educate yourself on your time schedule. You can enjoy the process of learning. You can enrich your mind.  You will not receive a degree; however, you will receive an amazing education. 

To find a course from any OCW institution, go to www.ocwconsortium.org/use/use-dynamic.html and enter your selection.

It’s like eating from a buffet table; you get to pick and choose, taste a bit of this and a taste of that.  And once you find the item (or course) that you totally consume and seek out again and again, you’ll be years ahead of the other paying students who are struggling to find out what they want to do once they graduate (besides pay back a huge loan)!

Getting an education before you head off to college may be the best thing you can do. Check out a few courses from several institutions.  Are you engaged? Do you want to learn more?  You decide. At your own pace …

What fun!

Baby Face… what will the baby face when’s he’s ready for college?

The student will be the teacher!What will college look like to my grandson? Will he be required to find his building, show up for an 8 am class, try not to yawn, pay $200+ for a dirty, used textbook? Or will he be able to set his alarm for the web conference that he organized and set up as part of a group project? Will his education include hosting classes, taking tours, talking about art found in world famous museums, inviting artists and lectures and reading text that others have written?

Will college degrees still be necessary in the year 2030? What significance will they hold?  What do they hold now? A degree doesn’t equal a job. A degree means (hopefully) that some learning took place and lots of jumping through the hoops. The jobs are going to those who can immediately apply what they learned .. and offer a service we need.  I’ve needed the service of an auto mechanic lately but rarely have I checked the yellow pages for someone with a literature or history degree. This is the beauty of community colleges. They have smaller sized classes where students can learn and apply their learning right away.

At the community college I attended Onondaga Community College (OCC) the first semester was classroom learning and the second semester, I was in the field! My classmate, Peggy, finished at OCC then went to Syracuse University to earn her BA in Human Services. As a junior, those students were just beginning their field work — 5 semesters into their degree. At OCC, we were active in our 2 semester. The beauty behind that was if it wasn’t a good fit, we were able to jump to a different field and continue towards our degree.

My generation will still need the same services that we need now — but will we need to have a degree after it? What if the Gwebbers refuse to buy into the degree ploy? What if they educate themselves on the web and forgo the degree? What if they look at their parents and realize the hole mom and dad dug by getting an education yet, they remained unemployed with a HUGE college loan to repay? In this article, A Virtual Revolution is Brewing for Colleges, the author asks how it will look, what will change?

I think it has already changed. High School students are entering college and EXPECTING their professors to be using technology. Many teachers are struggling to get their classes loaded using the same text and syllabi they use in the classroom — which we all know is a BIG mistake.  Online need to be interactive, concise and up to date. Students already access multiple forms of media simultaneously– cell phones, IM, email, I-pods, and twitter all while they are in a classroom. What magic act can get and hold their attention enough to teach them a new lesson?  Whatever act is used, each time it must be new, fresh and full of sparkle.

When I was a child I played with paper dolls, balls, hide and seek, Chutes and Ladders.  All of the toys my grandson has includes lights and sounds.   The plastic laptop says the alphabet, the cell phone says “Hello Friend”, Winnie the Pooh walks and talks, the farmer and his slow moving wagon sings and each of the 4 animals in the wagon say their sound… “Moo, Arrf, Baaa, Meeow”. To keep him still while I try to change his diaper, I hand him my cell phone. I only need 90 seconds to change him but in that time, his tiny fingers are glued to one number … and my speed dial is in action.

The educational system needs to change and keep pace with the technological revolution. Our kids and grandkids are fine-tuned to learn but in a different context from the classroom and a lecture hall. What are the colleges doing to prepare for the new wave of kids?