Viewing posts tagged research

Online enrollments tapering

Today’s Inside Higher Ed reports on a Sloan Foundation report, “Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning,” that found that although more U.S. students are learning online, the growth trend is tapering off. Nearly 20% of post-secondary students have taken at least one course online.

Four-year growth in students taking at least one online course:

  Enrollment, Fall 2002 Enrollment, Fall 2006 Compound Annual Growth Rate
Doctoral/Research 258,489 566,725 21.7%
Master’s 335,703 686,337 19.6%
Baccalaureate 130,677 170,754 6.9%
Community colleges 806,391 1,904,296 24.0%
Specialized 71,710 160,268 22.3%

Not surprisingly, the largest area of growth was among for-profit institutions, who are more pressured to innovate in education. The question is, is online learning really all that innovative? I think not.

Too often, we use new technologies without adopting new pedagogical models and new, contextually-relevant content. The result is that the new technologies are used to teach the same old garbage. And fail. Perhaps this explains why the penetration of online learning is beginning to taper off at 20%.

New models for learning are needed that properly utilize these technologies. Next week, I’ll present one such option, the “co-seminar” model, that begins to address the problem. Stay tuned!

Virtual worlds colliding

Two interesting pieces of news emerged on virtual worlds:

  1. At the Virtual Worlds Conference, IBM and Linden Labs announced plans to develop a set of open standards that would allow avatars to traverse from one virtual environment to another.
  2. Multiverse Network is building tools that will allow virtual world developers to access and incorporate elements from Google‘s rapidly expanding warehouse of 3D models, based on real objects.

This appears to be trending toward an open standards-based grid, which allows for the rapid development of virtual worlds based on the real world. As society increasingly prefers virtual reality over “real” reality, what can impacts in education, the workplace, and other knowledge-producing environments can we expect from this de-realizing?

2007 State of the Future report released

sof2007.jpgJerome Glenn, director of the United Nations-affiliated Millennium Project, announced the release of the 2007 State of the Future report. According to the project’s press release, “the 2007 version adds a futurist look at the possibilities for education and improving collective intelligence by 2030.”


This year’s addition, a study requested and supported by the Republic of Korea, explores possibilities for learning and education by 2030. Compiled by more than 200 participants, suggestions include greater use of individualized education, just-in-time knowledge and learning, use of simulations, improved individual nutrition, finding ways to keep adult brains healthier, E-Teaching, and integrated life-long learning systems.

Although the report, itself, is short, the accompanying CD contains a detailed compendium of all previous years’ research into global futures, with some projections stretching into thousands of years into the future.

A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production

My doctoral dissertation, A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production in Minnesota Higher Education: A Delphi Study, is available for purchase online or for online preview:


Download now and save! For the month of September, the PDF edition is available for download at the discounted price of $30.00 $15.00 (50% off)!

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Games in the Classroom (part three)

Twenty years ago, playing games over a distance might have meant that you played turn-taking games like chess over email, and you were cutting edge. I remember people playing chess through snail mail! You would make your move and wait for a reply.

What is happening now is taking place in real-time in virtual environments that are interactive and look better than many films. Decisions, actions, and communications happen like they would in a face-to-face conversation, but they are done through a proxy, that is first and second-person perspectives with an avatar: a graphical representation of yourself in the game space.


Here is my avatar in Second Life.

He is a mix of Yoda, Pei Mei, Zatoichi, Master Po, and Real Ultimate Power. I would have liked to have made him old, but this is only possible if you learn to use some tools outside of the game to create more specialized characters. There are many who do this custom avatar creation, and the cool thing is that you could make your avatar something other than a person. Maybe a virus or a mailbox.

In fact, many people are already creating a comfortable living creating products for in game use. If you have not seen it yet, there are already success stories of people capitalizing on the new economies that virtual worlds have created.


In this Business Week article, one school teacher in Germany has made substantial gains flipping virtual property!

Imagine that you have the tools and access to build in these environments. In Second Life you do. You can visit models of the Sistine Chapel, Yankee Stadium, or even visit government agencies like the Center for Disease Control. You can build what you like on your virtual land.

What make this kind of play appealing is the ability to play and communicate when you want, and the possibility of meeting people from all over the planet. The prospect of building models and interacting in this environments should be very appealing to educators. This is an extension of the diorama. (Tomorrow I will talk about a project using these ideas in the classroom).

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Video Games in the Classroom (part two)

To do is to be

To be is to do

So Do We?

It is just good teaching

Games taught me that modeling environments and taking on the roles are powerful ways to teach and learn.

Piaget talked about roles as assimilation. You try on the role and see what part of the character is you.

Gibson talked about environment and context, with affordances and constraints. What the world gives you for advice, warning, limitation, and opportunity.

These ideas are present in embodiment and how we might contextualize our curriculum as an activity system.

One of the big lessons from games is design. Good learning is by design. A teacher, like a game designer creates the environment where we learn.

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New AERA SIG: Applied Research for Virtual Environments for Learning

Brock Dubbels is looking for more people that belong to (or that can soon join) the American Educational Research Association (AERA) – for a Special Interest Group (SIG) especially for 3D Virtual Worlds, such as Second Life.

The Applied Research for Virtual Environments for Learning (ARVEL) special interest group at AERA, “is a community of educators, scholars, and practitioners dedicated toward research in and on virtual environments. Using a variety of research methods, we support a diverse approach to understanding the optimal use of virtual worlds and environments for educational purposes. We’re interested in developing a comprehensive research agenda, intended to encompass the breadth and scope of learning potentialities, affordances, challenges, and shortcomings of immersive virtual learning environments.”

Creating better futures: scenario planning as a tool for a better tomorrow

Ogilvy, J. A. (2002). Creating better futures: scenario planning as a tool for a better tomorrow. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.

Ogilvy writes that the future is neither predictable nor constructed of endless possibilities. We can create better futures by thinking ahead and planning with scenarios. In a chapter on using scenarios for educational reform, he offers two scenarios: a “technology fix” and a “corporate fix” (privatization) (pp. 191-201). In educational reform, he argues, scenario planning is an ideal tool as it allows for the input and participation of education’s vast array of stakeholders and has the potential to take into the account the dynamics and needs of each individual system.

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Scenarios: the art of strategic conversation

Van der Heijden, K. (1996). Scenarios: the art of strategic conversation. Chichester, England New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Van der Heijden argues organizations need to face up to uncertain possible futures. In this book, he argues leaders need to develop organizational processes that foster success. Organizations are characterized as feedback-looped, complex adaptive systems, driven by the “conversations” and interactions of individuals that comprise them. Though organizational systems may be complex and chaotic, processes that acknowledge this characteristic of organizations may allow the organization to be perceived as more-deterministic in the long-run.

Scenario planning, he proposes, is a tool that allows leaders to redefine the contexts and processes that drive decision making in their organizations though adaptive organizational learning. Scenario planning allows individuals to see how events and forces in an organization may fit in patterns and how they might ultimately be resolved.

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