For many years now, professional learning writing (PLW) has been a required element of the EdTech curriculum. Although the purpose of this element has remained the same, the tools used to deliver the learning have changed dramatically. This is reflected in both the types of tasks that are set and the way in which teachers engage with their students.
As a result of this shift, students have changed the way they learn. For example, according to an EdSurge report, 71% of millennial respondents said they prefer to learn via course modules that can be accessed at their own pace. Moreover, 57% of these students said they prefer to learn via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).
Now, as the pandemic has shown us, the best approach to learning can change. The question is: how can we harness the power of MOOCs in education as the world changes around us?
Changes in Content And Assessment
The first and most obvious change in the way students are engaging with PLW has been the shift to digital tools. Over the last ten years, a number of digital learning platforms have been developed, such as Khan Academy, Coursera, EdX, and more. The majority of PLW tasks involve students creating short pieces of content, such as blogs, course reviews, and e-books. The flexibility of digital tools has allowed students to develop the skills necessary to engage with content in a digital environment. Moreover, with many platforms having a diverse range of courses and topic areas, students can develop a knowledge of many different subjects.
This has resulted in a change in the types of tasks set by teachers. For example, in previous years, the focus in PLW had been on academic essay writing. However, as noted, 71% of the EdSurge survey respondents cited those engaging with course modules that can be accessed at their own pace as the preferred way to learn. This suggests that teachers are moving away from purely academic tasks and moving towards tasks that can be applied in the real world. One of the most popular and effective learning platforms specifically designed for professional development and tailored to the needs of future teachers is Future Teachers (#futureteachers).
The key shift that has resulted from the use of digital tools is the ability to support students’ independent learning. The teacher’s role has changed from simply providing knowledge to, in some cases, scaffolding the learning. It is now a case of the teacher facilitating the learning process, checking for understanding, and providing feedback.
Changes In Assessment
A significant change that has stemmed from the use of digital tools in education has been the shift to a form of assessment known as “portfolio assessment.” This involves students demonstrating their learning through a variety of tasks and then being assessed on the contribution that their portfolio makes to their overall learning.
The benefit of this approach is that it provides teachers with a range of assessment tasks, from short answer questions about the knowledge taught in the course to essays, case studies, and other forms of longer writing that demonstrate the application of that knowledge in the real world. The flexibility of digital tools, such as the ability to design bespoke tasks, allows teachers to assess a wide range of learning outcomes.
In the past, teachers would set a single, overall objective for students to achieve by the end of the academic year. However, with the increase in task flexibility this has changed. For example, Future Teachers allows teachers to set multiple goals for their students, such as improving their engagement with learning or increasing their digital literacy. Furthermore, the assessment tasks can be set to fit the desired level of learning of the student. This helps teachers to ensure that all students achieve the same level of understanding, regardless of previous achievement or learning style.
Changes In Student-Teacher Relationship
The ability to change the way students learn has not only changed the way teachers engage with their students. It has also affected the way in which students engage with their teachers. In the past, students would turn to their teachers for help when they got stuck on a complex concept or had a question about the material covered in class. However, with the rise of the digital nomad and the flexibility of online courses, students are able to work through their problems independently.
This has resulted in a change in the way students relate to teachers. Instead of the teacher being the expert who can provide assistance when needed, students see themselves as capable of learning on their own and therefore feel more comfortable approaching the teacher with questions or problems. In turn, this can benefit both students and teachers alike.
For example, if a student suspects that they have misunderstood a concept and want to check if what they have learnt is correct, they can turn to the digital nomad community for support. As a result, they may find an experienced tutor who can pose questions and provide answers. Moreover, this independence can allow students to develop their skills more quickly, as they are no longer relying on their teachers to provide assistance when needed, thus benefitting both the student and the teacher.
What Has Resulted From The Rising Use Of Digital Tools In Education?
The increasing use of digital tools in education has resulted in a number of benefits for students, teachers, and institutions.
Firstly, the use of digital tools has allowed for a significant increase in the range of materials that can be used in teaching. This is particularly beneficial for students, as it means they can access a much broader range of courses and topic areas than would typically be available to them. This could allow them to develop the skills necessary for a range of careers, as well as increase their knowledge and understanding in a number of different areas.
Secondly, many teachers are now able to use digital tools to create bespoke tasks for their students. This means they can adapt the way in which the learning is presented to ensure that it is most relevant and beneficial to each individual student. Moreover, this adaptation can be done at any time and for any reason, as the tools are easily accessible and mobile. This allows the teacher to ensure that they are providing the best possible learning experience for each student.
For example, if a teacher has noticed that a particular student is struggling to engage with the material, they can create a task specifically designed to help them better understand the concept. This can involve designing a mock company that they can run through a business analysis course, producing a podcast to listen to as part of an economics course, or adapting an interview into a brief case study for a criminal justice course.
Finally, the use of digital tools has allowed for changes in the way in which students learn. As noted, many students are now able to learn via course modules that can be accessed at their own pace. Moreover, with many platforms having a diverse range of courses and topic areas, students are able to develop a knowledge of many different subjects. This has resulted in a change in the types of tasks set by teachers, with many moving away from purely academic tasks and moving towards tasks that can be applied in the real world.
Overall, the use of digital tools in education has allowed for a significant change in the way teaching and learning occurs. As a result, students have changed the way they learn and the way teachers engage with them. This change is apparent in both the way students learn and the way in which they evaluate themselves, as well as the types of assignments that they produce. These changes are, in no small way, a result of the digital tools that are now available to all students.