Escaping The Classroom

January 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Digital Space

As the new year breaks you may not be too surprised to learn that 2009 will be a year where technology continues to be a platform for change. In fact it will be provide the opportunity to escape the confines of some traditional forms of information transfer.

Devices on the Move

Over the course of the year you will see the impact that mobile computing has on the distribution and consumption of information. The move towards handheld devices, such as the iPhone, will be supplemented with easily transportable netbooks, such as the Asus EEE range and Dell Minis. Improvements in the pricing and availability of quality mobile broadband access will enable better internet access for these devices. These devices will allow you to consume your digital information whever you use.

Impressive Content Low Cost

Not only will the quality of mobile devices and mobile broadband improved but so will access to high quality content, including Apple’s introduction of iTunes university.

Apple has partnered with some of the best universities, museums and public media organisations in the world to provide a platform for them to deliver, at no cost, a range of lectures. There are current over 100,000 audio and video files in a variety of fields, including business, engineering, fine arts, science, humanities, mathematics, language and education. Not only does iTunes provide the platform to deliver the lectures, it also provides the consumers of the lectures with an opportunity to rate the lectures.

Some of the institutions that that have already loaded content include –

Southern Hemisphere – Swinburne University of Technology, Griffith University, Melbourne University, University of Otago

Northern Hemisphere – Standford, Yale, Georgia State, Cornell, Cambridge, Oxford, Trinity College, MIT

Just like Mark Pesce stated in a recent blog post, I am in awe of iTunes University. Mark clearly stated why iTunes U is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to quality university-level learning being provided to an open forum.

It’s outstanding when even one school provides a wealth of material, but as other schools provide their own material, then we get to see some of the virtues of crowdsourcing. First, you have a virtuous cycle: as more material is shared, more material will be made available to share. After the virtuous cycle gets going, it’s all about a flight to quality.

But as you might imagine, for many people, a lecture does not an education make.  Instead, the opening up of the content may just allow individuals and groups to choose the context in which they learn – maybe collaboration instead of classroom? As Mark Pesce put it in his post –

When broken down to its atomic components, the classroom is an agreement between an instructor and a set of students. The instructor agrees to offer expertise and mentorship, while the students offer their attention and dedication. The question now becomes what role, if any, the educational institution plays in coordinating any of these components. Students can share their ratings online – why wouldn’t they also share their educational goals? Once they’ve pooled their goals, what keeps them from recruiting their own instructor, booking their own classroom, indeed, just doing it all themselves?

You might be asking yourself, if the content is free then why did the heading above talk about low cost?  As the digital content still needs to be accessed over the internet then there is still the cost of downloading it to your device/computer.  As the lectures are provided as video and audio files you can find very quickly that your monthly download limit can get used up.  So if you an avarice consumer of information (like I can be at times) then you might need to reconsider your ISP plan.

What’s the Impact

In a world where information is not just accessible but also of the highest quality, what impact will the escape from traditional learning have on you, your learning choices or maybe even your business?

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