Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Plan

Any future learning environment ought to be designed around the learner. And it must be sustainable.

Imagine someone (your intended learner) staring at her mobile phone. You have something to teach her. You want her to pay attention, store information, recall it and apply it when she needs to.

It could be that learning is taking place while she is staring at her mobile phone. Or she is getting ready to learn on her computer screen (or for that matter on the television or the radio, etc). Whatever the channel might be, it has to be engaging enough that she looks forward to it.

The following are 4 items I would put on my scorecard for learning environments:

1. The environment should engage all learners, everyone from the aloof bookworm to the class jock.

2. The learner should see the content as relevant to problems the learner has to (or may have to or may want to) solve in real life.

3. The access to this learning environment ought to be scalable (think millions) and cost-effective (think almost-free).

4. The development of content, maintenance of the environment and the interaction with the learners all have to be sustainable and improvable.

The Problem

There are 180 million people in Pakistan and half of them cannot read or write. There are far more illiterate people in the rest of the world. Educating people in such large numbers is not possible through the traditional approaches to education. Technology has to be a critical piece of any scalable solution.

However, this is not something new. We have known this for 40 years. Over the past 40 years, the use of technology in education has increased substantially. There have even been some successes. However, the pervasiveness of education we had been hoping for is still elusive. Most folks shy away from educational opportunities, even if they are free and easily accessible.

Here are some possible reasons:

Content Issues:

Mind-numbingly BORweNG!

No relation with real-world problems

Unrealistic assumption that all learners can figure out how to apply the content themselves

Ugly design (dark, drab colors or dated clip-art images)

Learning Management Applications Issues:

Complex (read: Busy) interfaces

Unfriendly navigation

Expensive (price and maintenance)

Sustainability Issues:

Dependence on bandwidth that is not available in major parts of the world

Wrong KPI’s (e.g. measuring enrollment rather than effectiveness)

Zero motivation for learners to spend time and effort

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. However it does help put the challenge in perspective.