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December 2013

5 Tech Transformations That Are Changing Education

By Barbara Palmer, Senior Editor

We live in a world that's changing faster than ever before, says author and consultant Jeff Cobb, and nowhere more than in the realm of technology. In his 2013 book, Leading the Learning Revolution, Cobb lists five technology transformations affecting adult learning and education.

1. ACCESS The web, Cobb writes, has all but eliminated time and distance as barriers to education. It creates a more vibrant learning landscape — and a much more competitive one. Organizations like trade and professional associations that traditionally have dominated continuing education in their niches are finding that “the subject-matter experts on which these groups have relied for conference and seminar content can, and already do, compete with them directly more easily than has ever been the case before.”

2. INVOLVEMENT New online tools, ranging from chat to wikis to video platforms such as Google+ Hangouts, have increased the ability of learners to interact with subject-matter experts and other learners, as well as to actively contribute content. The participatory approaches will create new learner expectations over time, Cobb says. “To simply sit passively and attempt to absorb information will no longer be acceptable.”

3. CHAOS There is no way to accurately count the number of online courses, webinars, and webcasts that appear on the web each year, but they no doubt measure in the millions, Cobb says. In that cluttered environment, the need for learners to filter and focus information is growing. The people and organizations who use the web most successfully are those that “consistently and persistently help people make sense of the flow of information in a particular field, industry, or topical niche.”

4. DIVERSITY The global reach of the Internet now gives us the opportunity to connect with a more diverse range of people and perspectives than ever before, Cobb writes. For education providers, “there is a great opportunity to create value by leveraging the diversity that technology enables and helping people connect with new perspectives.”

5. INTELLIGENCE Technology has made it much easier to track the path of learning and change, Cobb writes. New tools allow individuals and small organizations to monitor and participate in the online learning marketplace in ways that were never possible before.

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