WCET's Top Six 2011 Elearning Predictions

Published by: WCET | 1/4/2012

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In the first week of 2011, WCET’s Frontiers blog posted predictions solicited from leaders of our organization and leaders in community of technology-mediated education.  We asked them to predict something that will happen in 2011 about teaching, learning, technology, business of elearning policy, regulations, student behavior, or other related items.

Now, it’s a year later.  The crystal balls for some of our prognosticators must have been highly polished as they did quite well.  In this post we’ll review some of the predictions and ask you to make your own predictions for 2012.

In descending order, her are the top six predictions that were made:

#6 Budget Pressures Will Change What We Do

Linda Thor, Chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District, and former WCET Executive Committee Member predicted that: “the intersection of two pressures–budget reductions and the completion agenda–will finally lead higher education faculty and staff to collaborate across institutions to scale best practices and reduce unnecessary duplication in elearning.”

Photo of a Crystal Ball
Shine your crystal ball and make your prediction about elearning for 2012

Rhonda Epper, Assistant Provost, Colorado Community College System, Chair of the WCET Executive Committee predicted that:  “As institutional budgets remain constrained in 2011, policy leaders will increasingly look to online learning as a solution to providing access to greater numbers of students.  At the same time, we will see more backlash and questioning of the quality of online learning as a result of the fallout from improprieties in the for-profit sector, as well as from traditional faculty who are: a) concerned about job security, or b) genuinely concerned with the unchecked growth and quality of online learning.”

David Cillay, Executive Director, Center for Distance and Professional Education, Washington State University predicted that “as budgets get tighter, colleges and universities will look to online and continuing education as a solution for this shortfall. This will result in closer alignment of online and continuing education units with the general university.”

It probably was not difficult to foresee that the recession and related budget woes would have a significant impact on elearning, but each of these experts envisioned different results. Whether it was Congressional hearings, the Department of Education, faculty, or the press, we heard plenty of questions about distance education.  David Cillay’s prediction about the alignment of online and continuing education units fits in with the Managing Online Education survey results that most institutions are undergoing restructuring of these activities.

#5 State Authorization Regulation’s Impact is Different than What We Originally Thought

Bruce Chaloux, Director, Student Access Programs and Services and Director, SREB’s Electronic Campus, Southern Regional Education Board predicted that “the recent hullabaloo over the federal regulations concerning out-of-state approval/licensure will not have the kind of impact that many are fearing. Creative strategies for out-of-state licensure/approval that focus on reciprocity across state and regional boundaries will win out. A workable framework will be established upon which to build such a process.”

Remember that this was written late in 2010 and we were still trying to figure out the meaning of ‘state authorization’  Despite what some may say (or hope), this issue has not gone away. Authorization did have an impact in 2011, but maybe not what we expected. Certainly, both Bruce and I were consumed by this issue at times last year and we jointly attended numerous meetings about it. We are both greatly involved in the current efforts to create reciprocity agreements.  Unfortunately, such agreements are not easy and will take some time.  In any case…even if the federal regulation is on hold or repealed, the states still expect you to follow their laws. State authorization isn’t going away.  More to come on it…and other regulations…in 2012.

#4 Mobile Technologies will Have a Growing Educational Impact

Ellen Wagner, WCET’s Executive Director, also predicted that: “Mobile learning in all of its rich and nuanced forms will finally become an obvious, self-evident solution for learning because we are finally focusing on meeting the needs of learners who are mobile.”

Rhonda Epper predicted that: “eBooks will continue to gain traction as students become increasingly comfortable with the digital format.”

In 2011, mobile versions of course management systems were released, ipads and tablet computers exploded have captured the market, and even grandmas and grandpas are getting  ebook readers or smartphones.   While most institutions are still trying to figure out how to implement mobile learning, the foundation has been laid for even more use of mobile devices in education.

#3 “Openness” was Everywhere in 2011

David Porter, Executive Director, BCcampus predicted that “all the good work that has happened on the “open frontier” supported initially by individual leaders and special projects will begin to coalesce around a federation of practitioners who *will* agree on a core set of principles and practices to make “open” a sustainable mainstream model of practice.”

Cable Green, Director of Global Learning, Creative Commons (formerly Director of eLearning & Open Education, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges) hoped that K-20 educational institutions make “open licensing on all publicly funded content” the default… rather than the exception.

Scott Leslie, Client Services Manager, BCcampus and “Raving Educational Technologist” predicted that 2011 will be the year of the OpenTextbook. Textbook costs are out of sight, the economy is not going to get significantly better, and institutions and students are going to need to look to any place they can cut costs. This is prime, and unlike other OER projects in the past, there is a real and pressing internal economic need and motivator to make this happen…2011 will represent the year when this approach “crosses the chasm” – not only will we see many more new OpenTextbook projects, but we will see new authoring platforms and strategies that include campus bookstores and libraries.

Paul Stacey, yet another BCcampus colleague, wrote a spectacular review of last year as “The Year of Open.”  In that blog piece, he chronicles the many advances in open content, OER, MOOC, open licensing, open textbooks, and many more.  To continue the forward momentum of the open movement, Creative Commons hired Cable Green as their full-time educational evangelist. The U.S. Department of Labor announced the first recipients of its massive TAACCCT grants creating open courses and opponents moved to kill it.  On the open textbook front, the idea of cutting students costs by replacing materials from publishers gained steam.  In the last couple weeks, legislators in California and Washington announced their intention to introduce legislation supporting online texts in selected subjects.

#2 Analytics Will be the Buzz Phrase of the Year

Ellen Wagner, WCET’s Executive Director, predicted thatAnalytics will be the buzz phrase of the year. Much in the way that term ‘Web 2.0’ became a cliché of the past five years, the word ‘analytics’ will become a cliché for this next five.”

Phil Ice, Director of Course Design, Research and Development, American Public University System predicted that “Over the last eighteen months there has been a great deal of talk about predictive analytics for elearning. While there are some decent products in the market, the fact is that there are none that are truly predictive. Rather current, commercially available applications rely on basic descriptive or inferential techniques. By the end of this year I think that will change. The first few, truly predictive products will come to market. They will likely be far from perfect, but they will give practitioners and administrators a taste of what is possible.”

It helps that Ellen and Phil had a major project for WCET in mind.  The first phase of that project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the results will be released in the coming months.  With the release of the film ‘Moneyball’ in 2011, the Chronicle, the Horizon Report, and others helped to make this a buzz phrase known to more than just the data geeks.  It wasn’t just Brad Pitt that made statistics sexy. As to Phil’s prediction on products, several sessions at the WCET Annual Conference featured the work of institutions demonstrating their analytic tools and how they convert the results into actionable information.

#1 Khan Academy will Adopt Alternative Credentialing (and Others Follow)

Myk Garn, Director, Educational Technology, Southern Regional Education Board and Co-leader of WCET’s Forging the Future Workshop predicted that: “The Khan Academy will begin awarding certificates of completion for its lessons and will enable learners to assemble lessons into course and programs of their own design. Plans will be announced for “micro-credentials” awarded for course sets.  Because lessons remain free, no federal support will be needed, so Kahn announces it will not seek accreditation but will rely on “market validation” of learner-designed credentials.  The Gates Foundation doubles its support.”

Indeed, the Khan Academy, joined the 2011-craze of offering “badges” to those who successfully master content.  Not part of the prediction was the move by Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation to create Open Badges.  While the Gates Foundation, which previously contributed $2M, did not double its support, the O’Sullivan Foundation gave $5M in November “to grow the faculty of the Khan Academy; extend the content to include crowd-sourced contributions; and to develop curricula for a blended physical and virtual academic experience.”

Congratulations to Myk Garn for the #1 prediction for 2011.  The choice was made by WCET staff using the time-honored “we know it when we see it” criteria.  As a result, Dr. Garn will receive the first “WCET Seeing the Future” badge and all the rights, privileges, and honors appertaining thereto.  Good thing we have him co-leading our Forging the Future workshop again in 2012.

Make Your Prediction for 2012

You are invited to join in the fun for 2012.  Predict something that will happen this year regarding teaching, learning, technology, business of e-learning policy, regulations, student behavior, or other related items. You can submit your entry as a comment to this blog post or by sending an email to me at rpoulin@wiche.edu with the subject “2012 Prediction” by January 18  January 20.

Polish your crystal ball and join the fun.

Happy New Year from all of us at WCET.

Russ Poulin
Deputy Director, Research & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

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Photo Credit:  Morgue File – http://morguefile.com/archive/display/745798

5 replies on “WCET’s Top Six 2011 Elearning Predictions”

In 2012 there will be three or more new entrants into the low-cost degree segment (sim. WGU), with either competency based degrees or other efficiency-oriented methods of development and delivery (sim. StraighterLine).

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