I made my comments last week about R/WW’s All you need to know about e-learning 2.0, and the discussion has been picked up by several people in our community, most notably Tony Karrer. A recent comment on R/WW , #24, by Hank Horkoff of ChinesePod, is perhaps the most insightful on the real effects of “2.0”:
First, I want to second Tony’s assertion that the changes in learning are paralleling the impact of Web 2.0 on mass media. This fundamental shift, re-constructing the value chain around the needs of the end user/student, rather than the needs of producers of content or educational institutions, will reverberate through the learning industry for decades to come. I just wonder why the label isn’t a little more ‘digital native-esque’ as simply Learning 2.0.
Second, with ChinesePod we have been able to build a business model around a three-point strategy that provides a more integrated learning experience for students. One, provide an attraction (free daily podcast lessons, in our case) to compensate students for their attention. Two, facilitate community involvement through use of a variety of software tools and active human participation to build out a community of practice. Three, continually experiment with a number of paid services to generate the revenue necessary to sustain the service many years into the future. Even though Chinese-training for English-speaking markets is only a ‘small niche business’ in Richard’s words, ChinesePod will do more than a million dollars in revenue this year.
ChinesePod gets it right by understanding the user/learner. This three step model is one that any Web learning business should critically examine, so let me reiterate:
- Reward attention, because it’s everything on the Web
- Community (not content) is king
- Keep tweaking the business model
Learning 2.0, Education 2.0 (whatever it might called), to me at its core and for it to be a real advancement must begin with the recognition that in this new connected, collaborative, “2.0” world, the focal point for learning (or media, for that matter) begins with the consumer and spreads outward (as opposed to beginning with the institution, or LMS, for example). This is a major change from traditional modes of production and consumption. The 3 points mentioned above (attention, community THEN business model) are a good recipe for new successes and innovation.
There’s a dimension to ChinesePod that Hank doesn’t mention but that I think is relevant.
I tried a couple of the podcasts, without knowing a word of Chinese. I was impressed with the instructional strategies that I recognized: a quick advanced organizer (e.g., this podcast tells how to take the train from A to B), immersion into the Chinese-language dialogue, a discussion (in English, but with Chinese) elaborating on and extending the topic.
There were also two voices speaking Chinese, helping to refine a learner’s ear. One was a native speaker, the other a Westerner with (so far as I could tell) a high level of fluency.
All this in the free portion of the site, encouraging me as a potential customer to think that the for-fee material would be worth the investment.
Education researchers and theorists have been espousing a student-centric approach for decades — what has changed is that technology is finally reaching the point where it offers a viable alternative to the top-down, teacher-centric technology of classrooms.
Learner-centered education is quite different than learner-directed education, and not all subjects and contexts are applicable to the latter. Teachers will still be critical to successful education, but will need new skills to decentralize their “learning management” process.
I think that teachers will still be important, but the network opens the process up to many others who have been excluded from formal education. This will change the role of teachers, while enabling students in other countries or professionals or even amateurs with expertise to get involved with education. It takes a global village to educate a child and that’s now possible.