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Pearson Platforms / Blog / 2012

Education 3.0: Change

by Jeff Borden
06 August 2012

Is higher education failing?  Could technology transform education into something better?  Do we need to find a better way? 

Having spoken to educators in more than 30 countries, 49 out of 50 of the United States, and after watching hundreds of conference speakers and webinars around higher education, I have come to a conclusion.  It depends who you ask.

See, it seems to me that the answer depends very much on the perspective of the speaker.  For instance, last week a dozen of my colleagues from the U.S. forwarded me an editorial piece from the New York Times.  The writer was a professor of English and he asked (and answered) the question, "Can online education ever be education of the very best sort?"

He then filled the piece with fallacy after fallacy in reasoning, an extremely uninformed opinion on the potential efficacy of online teaching, with no research at all on the matter, and in a round-about way, he also suggested that there is nothing in education that needs fixing.  (Or at least if there are things that need to be fixed, online education certainly cannot be a solution.)

What made his particular pontification and bias even harder to read for me was that I had recently reviewed, "Academically Adrift" by Arum and Roksa.  This serious look at what is wrong with higher education starts with a simple question, "Are undergraduates really learning anything in college / university?"

From survey responses, transcript data, and the Collegiate Learning Assessment (a standardized test administered to students in their first semester and then again at the end of their second year to look for critical thinking, analytic growth, etc.) they would argue soundly that students are NOT learning much of anything.

45 percent of students in the sample had made effectively no progress in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing in their first two years. Students reported studying went down from twenty-five hours per week in 1961 and twenty in 1981 to twelve today. Half the students in the sample had not taken a course that required more than twenty pages of writing in the previous semester, while a third had not even taken a course that required as much as forty pages a week of reading.

And as troubling as their student findings are, Arum and Roksa argue that for many faculty and administrators all of this is an expected result of a student body distracted by socializing or working and an institutional culture that does not prioritize learning.   Think about what is not only praised, but rewarded in higher education.  Great research which brings in money to the school rewards the researcher / professor with what?  Typically with teaching exemption.  When was the last time you heard of a professor being terminated, suspended, or even reprimanded for the results of their teaching evaluations?  (When was the last time you heard of ANYTHING being done with those documents?)

And these critiques are becoming more and more pervasive in every country I visit.  Simon Head writes in, "The Grim Threat to British Universities" that teachers in university departments are subject to mechanical standards of productivity that are much resented.  Asian bloggers and reporters write about problems from corruption to decentralization issues to too few graduates and much more.  Australian critics are suggesting that classrooms as so low-tech, students are well behind in their ability to compete for global jobs.  Higher education is in need of some help.

So with all of this in mind, I think about the promise of Education 3.0.  I have experienced both of the mentioned perspectives in every country, and at almost every institution I have attended.  I have listened to fellow teachers in Europe, Australia, and Asia say that THEIR education systems are not in question.  THEIR universities are always relevant.  Nobody doubts the value of THEIR higher education institutions.  Then, often within minutes, I will hear a completely contrary viewpoint from another instructor at the same institution.  I hear from a professor who will acknowledge that the system is failing students; or an administrator who will testify to attacks from the public, politicians, parents, etc. 

So I am left with what I do and what I believe.  Unfortunately, I no longer believe that we have time to waste on educators who accept all is well with the status quo.  I watched my 30's fly by with very little movement trying to convince the established to give up what is comfortable and known to them for what is better to students.  So instead, I am simply waiting them out while I demonstrate to anyone who will listen how to fix, transform, and change education for the better.  I'm helping the neo-educator grow, use data, create richer content, and fix problems.  Education 3.0 is all about the infusion of technology into the system.  This infusion can bring about efficiency, it can help with age-old problems like retention and attrition, and it can allow us to teach people in ways that are truly meaningful (aka personalized) to the learner. 

Education 3.0 is here and the foundations are being set as you read this.  As the father of a 5 year old, I do have a sense of urgency with regard to fixing some of the problems in education.  As a college professor I have a sense of pride in knowing that I am part of a solution for people's lives.  And as an education consultant who happens to have a sense of how technology can benefit our industry, I have a sense of duty to share it.   How about you?

Good luck and good teaching.


Social Media and Social Learning

by Jon Reed - social media lecturer and author of Get up to Speed with Online Marketing (FT Prentice Hall, 2010)
21 May 2012


Social media, in most business discussions, tends to mean social media marketing. However, one of the greatest long-term legacies of the social media revolution is likely to be in education. Online learning has been around for a while now. Particularly when applied to distance learning programs, this used to mean logging on and learning in isolation. But learning happens with and through other people - by participating in a community rather than simply by consuming information. In the last few years the availability of social media tools and technologies - plus their wide take-up and mainstream use - has enabled the essential social elements of learning to occur online. Social learning has come of age.


The great advantage is that today's students are already familiar with social media. Facebook and Twitter are second nature to them. This makes it easier to engage with students on these platforms where they already spend their time. Ways in which social media tools can be used in education include:


  • Twitter- useful as a back-channel for discussion at lectures, talks and conferences. When used with an official conference hashtag, the discussion can easily be followed in real time - whether or not students are physically present at the event.


  • Video- remember when learning technology meant switching on the TV and leaving the classroom? Now video can enhance the learning experience in a much more efficient way. Include YouTube clips in your presentations, or refer students to relevant videos to watch later. Better yet, set up a YouTube channel for your course, and 'favourite' videos you think your students will find useful as a way of curating content. TED Talks is a great starting point.


  • Podcasting- whenever I lecture at City University, London, my lecture is audio recorded and uploaded to the course Learning Management System (LMS). Putting audio or video of lectures on a LMS enables students who were there to review material, those who weren't to catch up, and distance learning students to join in. If your university has an iTunes U account, you can also upload your lectures there to reach a wider audience. Search the iTunes store for podcasts in your subject area too - there is a lot of academic material on iTunes, including journals who produce regular podcast episodes tied to their publication schedule. A great example of this is the Nature Podcast.


  • Facebook- Facebook groups can be effective for facilitating peer-to-peer communication and collaboration on project work, or to enable alumni to keep in touch after a course. Closed groups especially can help past and present students network and share tips in a competitive job market, for example about internship opportunities.


  • Pinterest- a new social media tool, but one that is already being used in the classroom, particularly where there is a visual or design element to the course, such as to create mood boards without the need for scissors, paper and glue.


However, student familiarity with these tools also makes it possible to integrate social learning tools into a LMS, with many of the features students find on Facebook or Twitter - such as social profiles, avatars, chat, groups and activity feeds. For example, Pearson LearningStudio partnered with Columbia University to create a social learning interface that students felt comfortable using - and it kept all conversations in one place instead of six possible locations. These tools facilitate collaborative learning through real-time discussion - and also result in a high level of engagement and discussion among students. They become more informed, gain a wider perspective, and are able to make better decisions by engaging with each other. Student participation via social learning tools also provides valuable feedback to help shape the course.


Like social media marketing, social learning relies on engaging people with quality, relevant content aimed at a specific niche audience. In the case of a student audience focused on a specific academic niche, that content is disseminated, discussed and shared online - but this may be on a LMS rather than a public social network; and marketing 'calls to action' are replaced by educational 'learning outcomes'.


If you previously thought of social media simply as a medium for individuals to keep in touch with friends or for businesses to market themselves - or even as an unwelcome classroom distraction - think again, and think about how you can use it in your classroom. The challenge for lecturers is to make the content ever-more compelling - but also to make the learning process more relevant to their students' learning needs.


Education 3.0: Data Hurdling

by Jeff Borden
11 April 2012

I just returned from Australia where I had the opportunity to speak with educators and administrators from all over the country.  I really do enjoy my town "down under" as the people are amazingly friendly and the discussions are often quite productive.  It's a wonderful place to visit as well as work!

But despite the kindness I am always shown, it doesn't change the fact that education problems are still education problems regardless of where in the world you go.  And so, for a week I discussed the same issues, concerns, and problems with these educators that I discuss regularly with American educators.  They are the same issues I discussed with educators in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia last year.  There really are several "universal" problems with education.

And as I think towards the future and "Education 3.0" concepts, some of these problems are very frustrating to me.  They are not frustrating because there are no answers, but they are frustrating because of the politics of implementation and the tenacity with which we (educators) seem to distain change.  Believe me, I get the frustration that many of my fellow professors and administrators feel at the notion of "trying something new" every other year.  Some hot shot in the organization comes up with the plan that will fix everything, they try to make it work for a while (meanwhile…back at the ranch…the people who are supposed to implement the new program are doing everything possible to ignore it, knowing it will fail and go away), and eventually the originator loses their muster or the university takes on another "new" program that will be better than the first.  I've worked both inside and outside of education long enough to have seen that scenario play out over and over again.

So, when I talk about solutions, I am not talking about a fly-by-night, theoretical notion.  I'm talking about something that has changed our planet and almost every industry on our planet in a profound way.  I'm talking about the realistic and effective use of data.

"But we use data!" you might be saying.  I know, a lot of schools "use" data.  Grades are data.  Demographics are data.  Financial aid is data.  But I've also seen and heard from HUNDREDS of educators that even these relatively simple data elements rarely work together.  Why?  There are several reasons actually.

First, some technologies simply can't merge with others.  While in Australia, I listened to an administrator explain how their Student Information System categorized students in such a specific way, there were several work arounds that every other system had to accommodate just to function, let alone report on.  When I asked if the SIS could simply be changed, the answer was a resounding, "NO!"  So, in order to get meaningful data across systems, there would now need to be dozens of work arounds, hundreds of hours spent finding ways to aggregate information outside of appropriate systems, and ultimately too much headache and hassle to do it anyway.

Second, I was speaking recently with what I thought was a very well "connected" school.  I assumed this was a school on the cutting edge in terms of data driven decision making.  Then, as I asked a simple question, I got a shocking answer.

ME: "So what you should do is pull in your financial aid data to see how students who make it into their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th semesters rank by both grade and outcome, in relationship to their financial aid status.  This way your marketing group has insights into the academic…"

ADMIN: "Let me stop you there.  We can't do that.  The man who controls the financial aid data set would never share that with anyone else at the college."

HUH?  So, the politics at the school prevented the sharing of data across departments because of a power play?  I have heard this from K-12 organizations as well as higher education consistently throughout my career.  One school, many departments, even more silos.

So, as I think about Education 3.0 and its reliance on data, I wonder how/when this will change.  We have access to the right data today, assuming you are using the right system(s).  But because of the challenges I listed above, and a few others, the ability to compare / contrast / correlate data sets is extremely difficult.  But think about the kinds of decisions one could make by using the following:

Grades - Outcomes - Activity - Clicks - Time on task - Learning path - Demographics - Financial Aid - Helpdesk support - Behaviors - Cognitive Patterns - Retention - Progress - Matriculation - Hints Received - Pre tests - Post tests - Learning style preferences - Learning community involvement - Etc.

ALL of that (and more!) is available data if a school is using the right system(s) and pulling the information together in a meaningful way.  And all of that is what is driving Education 3.0.  Meaningful, useful, effective data is out there…we just have to harness it productively.

Good luck and good teaching.


Education 3.0: Do as I Do

by Jeff Borden
05 March 2012

An interesting conversation sprung up recently on a list-serv that I participate in.  A question was asked as to how Tablet devices might be used by instructors for scholarly research.  The person who posed the question was hoping to create a workshop for some professional development around the subject.  What a great question!

Unfortunately, the conversation soon got derailed.  Some participants began posting links to websites that showed how Tablet grants were being won on their campus, some respondents were frustrated by use of the term "iPad" instead of the generic term "Tablet" in the responses, but the most bothersome response from my perspective was a simple question: "Why would we use a digital device at all?  What's wrong with pen and paper?"

Sure, I too remember the "good old days" when I would head to the Michener Library (University of Northern Colorado) armed with a thick yellow pad, several sharpened number 2 pencils, and a role of dimes.  The nostalgia of that moment in time is a fond memory for me.  The smell of the stacks, the ink of the copier, and constantly looking over the top of my book to see if any girls were looking at me…those were the days.

But the more I think about those days, the more I remember how much I hated them at the time.  ERIC searches that went nowhere because I couldn't find the right keywords, inter-library loans that would take days if not weeks, running out of dimes for the copies I needed, having to physically copy (with those pencils) paragraph after paragraph of potentially important work, paper cuts, looking for (and not finding) a sharpener, getting high off of highlighter fumes, mixing up my research for multiple classes, accidentally throwing away the right copies while holding onto the wrong copies, needing to work out the flow of my ideas with my voice (but being shushed when I did), and on and on…those are the memories that are hidden just below my nostalgia.

Do you want to show your students a better way?  Do you want to provide a good model for how to effectively research using technology?  I don't care if you use a Tablet, your phone, a laptop, your desktop, or all of the above - technology represents FAR better ways to research than a pad and paper.  For instance:

Start by tweeting to your colleagues that you are going to be researching X topic.  Over the next several hours or days, watch suggestions flow in around how to find and research it effectively.  Open an Evernote or ReadItLater account (or both!).  This allows you to create folders of digital notes that can be accessed from ANY smart device.  Those notes can be PDF files, web pages, documents, etc - all from research or just your own thoughts.  Open a Dropbox account.  This allows you to upload large quantities of files to a safe location which can also be accessed from anywhere, shared with others, and can be any file type.  Grab your smart phone and open the Wikipedia app.  Check out the list of references for your topic - what a fantastic starting place.  Now snap a picture of an important paragraph in the document you found that cannot be printed.  Upload it to Dropbox or Evernote.  Tag it for easy reference (finding) later.  Launch your microphone app on your Tablet.  Remind yourself of the great opening paragraph idea you have.  (You can even whisper - it will pick up your voice.)  Start to assemble the main points in a mind-map using the SimpleMind app on your Tablet.  Now, remembering that you don't need to whisper as you open your laptop from your dining room table, search through an online database (or even Google Scholar) for research.   Open up your Pearson eText and highlight, copy, and paste a footer into your notes.  Now navigate to WolframAlpha and type in your research topic - see the interesting off-chutes from a math / science perspective.  Open a Delicious account and invite your colleagues to join you.  As you happen across helpful web pages with great content (like this blog perhaps?), send them to your Delicious account with a simple tag.  Now, go check out the tags your colleagues have posted.  No need to have everyone do all of the same research after all!  At your doctor's office, open up your ZITE app as you wait for the doctor to see you.  Luckily, this is where you listed your research as a potential area of interest.  Now read through the blogs, website posts, and articles that have been aggregated and sent to you.  (Send the ones you like to ReadItlater, email them to yourself, or even Tweet them so you have them on hand later.)  Finally, go back to your desktop / laptop and open up your Word Processor.  Then, open the appropriate folders or websites that contain your content.  You have everything you need no more than 3 clicks away…

Education 3.0 is no longer about doing as I say, not as I do…it's about doing it smarter, doing it simpler, and doing it together.  It's about using some of the new tricks available to us to make our teaching lives easier, our research lives more connected….it's about making education better.  So grab your tablet and do some research.  After all, if we can do it for ourselves, it will be SO much easier to show our students how to do the same. 

Good luck and good teaching.
Dr. Jeff D Borden



Education 3.0

by Jeff Borden
03 February 2012

"I can't possibly keep up with all of this technology…I'm glad I get to retire in two years."  This was the comment from a faculty member at a school in Florida, after a recent keynote address showcasing the amazing capabilities of technology as it can influence education today.  It saddened me to hear the statement, but I understood.  It certainly does seem like there are a lot of technologies…too manytechnologies out there to have to figure out, if we want to adopt them in our classrooms. 

Sometimes these innovations are mandated by our schools and instructors feel like they are on a life raft without a paddle when little to no training or strategic thinking is given.  Sometimes, I hear the question,"Why add in technology?  We've been doing it without technology for hundreds of years!"  (Of course, if we all really sit back and think about the answer to that question, we know why.  What we have been doing for hundreds of years isn't working anymore.)  Education is on the precipice of a major shift and I believe the only way to meet new demands is through technology.  It's Education 3.0 - a label I used for a conference workshop a while ago that seems to have really resonated with people.

In the upcoming months, I will be providing a few blogs here around this subject.  Guest blogging has become a favorite hobby of mine these days.  But while I will share ideas, suggestions, technologies, pedagogical convictions, etc., please know this: I'm coming at the problem from an extreme point of view so as to move most of education just a nudge.  In other words, when I deliver my keynote addresses, like the one I gave at Online-Educa Berlin in 2011, I provided dozens of websites, technologies, and apps that are all feasible, usable, and effective.  However, I would never expect an individual instructor to adopt all of them!  Certainly not in the short term!  Instead, my job is to push boundaries for multiple people, trying to convince them that there is ONE technology out there that will make their lives easier, their teaching more efficient, their assessments more authentic, etc. 

But I thought it appropriate to explain what exactly I mean by Education 3.0 in this first installment.  Essentially I contend that without technology, teaching and learning cannot be scalable enough, differentiated enough, personalized enough, measurable enough, or creative enough to meet the demands of today's learners. Why not, you might ask? 

Because we know too much.  We know more about the brain than ever before in history.  We know about visual indexing, we know about cognitive science, we know about the power of variance in learning, and all of that knowledge cannot be ignored any longer.

So, as you read this or possibly hear me give a talk about the new Zite app (a personal magazine / professional development journal), Head Magnet (a website that measures your ability to remember and sends you flashcards of content at appropriate times), or the Nursing Neighborhood (an immersive learning experience for Community Nursing students), know that tools like these can help us with what we now know.  They can help us teach better.  Look for my Education 3.0 blog entries coming soon!

Good luck and good teaching.