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  • E-Interview with Mr. Steve Hatch

    Steve Hatch is the CEO and major shareholder in National Skills Academy a group of Australian Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) (Private Vocational Education and Training Providers); a Director and largest shareholder of Rubicor Group Limited an Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) Listed Recruitment and Training (RTOs) Company; and a vendor of Avana Group part of recently ASX listed Vocational and Higher Education provider Vocation Limited. Steve has over 20 years’ experience in the Training and Education market across TAFE (Government owned and funded Vocational Education and Training Providers), Private RTOs and Universities.

    Steve holds a Master of Education (Adult Education), and a Master of Online Education.

    1. What are the unmet needs of students in schools and colleges today?

    In Australia our unmet needs are in the Vocational Trades areas (Builders, Plumbers, Electricians, Mechanics…) in city areas as the vast majority of school leavers are moved into universities, we are seeing large shortages of trade based students.
    For country students we still have network infrastructure issues with broadband suitable to interactive learning, but this should be rectified over the next 5 years through the rollout of the National Broadband Network a A$34b government initiative.
    A broader issue across the pacific islands is availability of means of completing university studies without needing to leave home and moving to Australia or New Zealand. Little technology exists in these markets. We need to equip the students to free them from the classroom.

    2. How important are corporate training and lifelong learning going to be in the future?

    In Australia we are expecting the retirement age to be raised from 65 to 70 as the government grapples with funding a growing aging population. This will only increase the need for lifelong learning, vocational and corporate training as people stay in the workforce longer and move into new jobs.

    3. What is the role of vocational education in the 21st century?

    The role of vocational education will play a greater role in supplementing university education as skills needs evolve over time. It is also playing a greater role in the lives of professional people as industry and governments demand that these people undertake regular professional development. Also with many industries undergoing structural change the need for vocational training will only increase as more people need to be reskilled. 20 years ago it was accounts people and other office workers that needed reskilling to handle computers, today it is warehousing staff and other low skilled occupations that are being transformed by technology.

    4. What are the questions about the future of education and education technology that need to be answered by further research?

    One of the most important questions that needs to be addressed is how technology delivered education is driven in both design and levels of interactivity. The research should be based on the student’s experience and then this should influence how we design the learning and learning experience. If we can improve the experience then we should improve the completion rates of people undertaking technology based education.

  • E-Interview with Deborah Lemon

    Deborah Lemon develops tiered online and hybrid courses in Spanish, Social Media and Digital Citizenship. She is a faculty member at Ohlone College, California, US. She is a speaker, writer and trainer. She is the author of several distance learning courses as well as the Spanish Grammar website, drlemon.com.
    Deborah is also a facilitator and course developer at @ONE. The @ONE Project makes it easy for California Community College faculty and staff to learn about technology that will enhance student learning and success. @ONE’s programs provide affordable training and online resources.

    1. Are the humanities being sidelined in today's STEM-centered world? If so, how can this be rectified?

    Yes, I believe that many individuals driving the STEM-centered agenda are dismissing “humanities” as less important, and I believe equally that those in the humanities have assumed a defensive posture to affirm and justify their relevance.
    That said, it is difficult for me to address this topic within the parameters of the question. The question reflects the current paradigm of the long-established division of information and skills into specific colleges and departments. By isolating specific topics of information, we have removed relevance from the learning process, and seemingly marginalized certain traditional “fields” of study. There is art in presentations, history in decision-making processes, psychology in all human dynamics, sociology in business, linguistics in chemistry labs. Humanities must be integrated with science, science must be integrated with humanities: we cannot think of them as separate entities. The foundation of everything is effective and expressive communication. The humanities elements will enrich all learning experiences. I don’t see sociology, literature, history, math, etc. as isolated subjects: I see them as facets and elements necessary to purpose-driven learning. Each element can be integrated into comprehensive projects worked on by teams of individuals whose approach is based on unique interests and skills.

    2. How effective is the use of social media in language learning?

    The future of language education is deeply rooted in social media, the nature of which is inherently communicative and cultural. The social network is a rich, communication-based environment, featuring users’ storytelling, and extemporaneous interaction with others. It is permeating all aspects of daily life, giving it a relevance that cannot be over-estimated. More than 1 in 7 human beings on earth are on Facebook: an incredibly diverse group of students from all over the world arrives at school already familiar with Facebook and its features. The USA actually trails Asia and Europe in daily Facebook usage statistics (http://www.internetworldstats.com/facebook.htm) and ranks 10th in the Top ten most engaged countries for social networking behind countries such as Israel, Argentina, Russia, and Turkey (http://www.statisticbrain.com/social-networking-statistics/ ). The 2013 Students’ Online Usage: Global Market Trends Report (http://www.topuniversities.com/blog/social-media-usage-global-statistics) reveals the enormous percentage of students world-wide highly engaged in social media activities.
    Most social media applications and environments have unmatched accessibility; they run on any device, and have no special hardware or software requirements. Social media offers highly individualized, relevant communication and engaged collaborative language learning. Social media applications are easy to share into social media environments which fosters robust project-based learning.
    I have used a social media platform for my online, hybrid and face-to-face classes for 4 years and have reported a marked increase in online success rates, retention rates, and an increase of students continuing on with their language learning. Additionally, I have tiered class sections, and arranged comprehensive cross-disciplinary projects with departments such as Multimedia and ESL.

    3. How would MOOCs and other online courses need to evolve to become more effective learning methods in future?

    There are no massive open online classes. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and was not surprised to see Sebastian Thrun himself change his opinion about MOOCs (http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/12/11/are-moocs-really-a-fai...) .
    A class is a community of people who interact and collaborate in relative real-time to develop, build, strategize and solve. The majority of online courses are simply independent studies or correspondence courses online. New medium, same format. The MOOCS I have taken and observed require a large number of TAs and tutors which really water-down the ratios, not to mention highlight the flaw: people need to be motivated if you expect them to interact and contribute over an extended period of time on a set path.
    Attempting to recreate the traditional “classroom” dynamic online does not take advantage of the innate strengths of the new media environments. At one time, computers were thought to be the panacea of all education woes, and now the internet has taken on that ersatz role. The internet is a communication environment but we cannot simply place material there and expect students to participate actively on.
    Education has to be restructured into new elements.
    What we call MOOCS need to be gamified self-study (or “multi-player” learning arenas) addressing only concrete specific skills. The activities must be task-based, but open enough to varied approaches. As learning and discoveries develop, the “games” need to learn from “players” as well. CodeAcademy / CodeSchool are good examples. But other information can be adapted to this format as well.
    A virtual class (a real online class) has students following a chronological path with scheduled meetings, along with additional asynchronous elements for preparation and production. These classes address only project-based communicative elements, and, again, arranged in short time frames with a clearly delineated progression of completion and success.

    4. If you were asked to design a world-class system of higher education available to people everywhere, what key elements would you include and how might it differ from MOOCs?

    Again, the question contains the inherent paradigm of a contained system. It needs to become diffuse. I would create a network of learning media:

    • online gamified learning for specific skills (coding, data acquisition, data validation, data application, pattern recognition).
    • Gaming arenas for collaborative brain-storming and communication/lexicon skills.
    • Local meet-ups with facilitators for discussion, trouble-shooting, communication skill-building.
    • Local laboratories for physical practice within communities
    • Large research facilities only for complex and challenging skills that require close mentoring and singular equipment (medical, chemical, nuclear, engineering, etc. hands-on research)
    • Assessment should be the bailiwick of the employers. Objective assessment can be done by independent centers who in turn are assessed by employers and employees. There is a basic conflict of interest between learning (instruction) and education (accreditation) that keeps students in a “strange attractor” mode (as it were)

    Privately-owned schools are already testing these waters (e.g. https://www.altschool.com/ ) and finding there is a demand for fluid learning. Their success underlines the urgency that changes need to be made now.

    5. What are the questions about online and future education that need to be answered by further research?

    Current trends in singularity studies and neuro-interfaces emphasize that there is less and less value in memorizing data. Computer storage far outstrips human ability and will shortly be taking on more decision-making (the internet of things is already here.) Learning has to be focused on what we can do with the data and patterns, and recognizing a fundamental shift in expressive communication methods.
    Human thought changed dramatically with the written word –and again, with mass-produced writing. And again, with film. And it is changing now with transmedia technologies.
    So the big questions we need to address:

    • Since access to information is the key to learning, how do we get connectivity for everyone?
    • What is our value as human beings in the face of AI and the singularity, and, therefore, what will be the focus of education? How do we change the focus?
    • How quickly are we willing to move to prevent further education stagnation?
    • How do we redefine educator roles in “education”?
    • How can we redefine knowledge and step out of obsolete classifications?