Digital Learning at Scale Increases Human Potential

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Learning at scale has been a trending topic in education recently. It refers to any forms of learning that supports and enhances learning; and at the same time reaches large numbers of learners by the use of the specific characteristics of digital technologies (Laurillard, Kennedy and Wang, 2017). Large-scale learning environment could be incredibly diverse, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), intelligent tutoring systems, opening learning courseware and learning games. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 has heightened the discussion of scale of learning as it suggested that the scale of education needed was estimated to be 263 million of children, and the number of teachers needed would expect to be 69 million by 2030. In view of this, educators and policy makers have started exploring the potential of digital methods for learning and teaching to widen global access to education, including higher education.   

The Potential for Greater Equity through Learning at Scale  

The global higher education sector is now providing more courses with online learning technology to reach a greater equity of access to the field. The need for it is reflected in UNESCO's Sustainable Development Goal 4, in which one of the targets is to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university. However, Laurillard et al (2017) regarded it as a challenge, “The challenge of equity in education is to help all learners achieve their learning potential”. Equity in the context of digital learning at scale refers to “digital access, language and culture, gender, geographic location, and the quality of learning experience itself”.

How could greater equity be achieved by learning at scale? Let's take a look at the example of MOOCs. Online learning is originated in countries of Global North, such as United States and Western Europe. These countries were the first to experiment MOOCs, one of the models of the digital learning at scale. Though there is an increase in the number of access to Western University MOOCs by learners from China, India and South Africa, those MOOCs developed in English create a language barrier to the Global South learners (Laurillard, Kennedy and Wang, 2017). While language is one of the problems, cultural difference is more crucial when considering the localisation of online courses for learning at scale. Open educational resources (OER) and online courses could ease the problems of language and cultural differences by using more audio-visual aids and adopting a better balance in the use of local and global cases. The social learning can be achieved by a MOOC platform such as FutureLearn with contextualisation to create peer learning.    

Blending Formal and Informal Learning with Digital Learning  

The main difference between formal and informal learning is that the former leads to certification or a qualification. Formal learning, whether conventional or digital, which leads to a recognised reward, must specify a curriculum, content of studies and an assessment method for the certification. Whereas, informal learning does not cover any of these. Informal learning refers to “self-directed, family-directed, socially directed learning: workplace, family, local community, daily life incidental learning: reading newspaper, listening to radio, visiting museums” (UNESCO, 2016). The above could be digital equivalents. There is an altercation that there should be less distinguishment between formal and informal learning, because “a blended of formal and informal methods of learning can create an environment that fosters experimentation, curiosity, and above all, creativity (Johnson et al., 2016). The trend of blending formal and informal learning is believed to upsurge with the growing trend of digital learning at scale. With well-planned learning strategies, by digitising some learning contents, more learners can access the resources, so that the barrier of location, age and gender can be lessened.

Teachers' Role in Digital Learning at Scale  

Creating digital learning at scale or transforming a conventional university course into a blended one is not an easy process. Teachers and the faculty have to see the learning and teaching, and the instructional design from a different perspective. There are concerns including teachers' readiness for the challenge of adopting new format of teaching, extra work for the course design and administration at the early stage of the development, and the assessment methods. Thus, while the technology is ready, faculty and teachers have to actively plan and equip themselves for the new era of digital learning at scale.


References:

Laurillard, D., Kennedy, E., & Wang, T. (2017). How could digital learning at scale address the issue of equality in education? Retrieved June 19, 2018, from          http://dl4d.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Learning-at-Scale-for-the-Global-South-Main-Paper.pdf

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. Retrieved June 19, 2018, from    https://npsct.enschool.org/pdf/2013%20Horizon%20Report_pdf.pdf

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2016). Global Education Monitoring Report Summary 2016: Education for people and      planet: creating sustainable futures for all.  Retrieved June 19, 2018, from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf



大規模學習提升學習潛力

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大規模學習近年成為教育界熱門話題。大規模學習指任何能支援及提升學習,而又以數碼技術的特性容納大量學習者的學習模式(教學中心翻譯)(Laurillard,Kennedy 和 Wang,2017)。大規模學習的環境非常多樣化,例如大規模開放式在線課程、智能輔導系統、開放式學習軟件和學習遊戲。2015年聯合國通過的「2030年可持續發展議程」加強了大規模學習的討論,它指出預計到2030年需要普及教育的兒童有2.63億,所需教師人數將達到6,900萬。有鑑於此,教育工作者和政策制定者已經開始探討如何利用數碼化教學的潛力以擴展全球普及教育的渠道,包括高等教育。


通過大規模學習達致更公平的可能性 

全球的高等教育界現正不斷推出在線學習課程,以提升接受高等教育的平等機會。 聯合國教科文組織的可持續發展目標4亦有提及這一項需求,其中一個目標是確保所有男女能平等獲得負擔得起的高質素技術、職業和高等教育,包括大學。 然而,Laurillard等(2017)認為這是一項挑戰,「公平教育的挑戰是幫助所有學習者發揮其學習潛能」(教學中心翻譯)。在數碼化大規模學習的範疇裡,公平是指「使用數碼化設備、語言和文化、性別、地理位置以及學習體驗有同等機會。」

如何通過大規模學習實現公平和平等?讓我們來看看大規模開放式在線課程的例子。在線學習起源於一些北半球比較富庶發達的國家,如美國和西歐就是首批試行大規模學習模式的地區。儘管來自中國、印度和南非的學生參與西安大略大學大規模開放式在線課程的人數有所增加,但該以英語開發的課程畢竟為南半球國家的學習者造成語言障礙(教學中心翻譯)(Laurillard,Kennedy和Wang,2017)。語言是其中一個問題,但在考慮本土化大規模學習的在線課程時,文化差異更為重要。要改善這些情況,開放教育資源和在線課程可以加入更多視聽輔助工具,減低因語言所產生的學習障礙;而均等地使用本地和全球案例可以減低文化差異問題。要促進社交學習的話,可以通過FutureLearn之類的大規模開放式在線課程平台,融入當地的情景,創建同儕學習。 


以數碼化學習混合正式和非正式學習

正式和非正式學習的主要區別在於前者給予認證或資格。頒贈證書的正式學習課程,不論是傳統還是數碼化的,都必須清楚列出課程大綱、學習內容和評估方法;而非正式學習並不包含這些內容。非正式學習是指「自我導向、家庭導向、社會導向的學習:工作場所、家庭、社區、日常生活偶發性的學習:閱讀報紙、收聽廣播、參觀博物館」(教學中心翻譯)(聯合國教科文組織,2016)。以上活動均可以在線進行。有人提出,正式和非正式學習之間的區別應該縮窄,因為「混合正式和非正式學習的方法可以創造促進試驗、好奇心和創造力的環境」(教學中心翻譯)(Johnson et al,2016)。相信隨著大規模學習的增長趨勢,正式和非正式學習相結合的情況將會激增。通過良好規劃的學習策略和數碼化部分學習內容,更多的學習者可以獲取資源,從而減少因地理、年齡和性別所產生的障礙。 

   

教師在大規模學習的角色 

創建大規模學習或將傳統的大學課程轉變為混合課程絕非一件容易的事。教師和學院必須從不同的角度看待學與教及教學設計。教師是否願意採用新的教學模式、開發初期額外的課程設計和管理工作以及評估方法等都是值得關注的問題。因此,在技術準備就緒的同時,教師和學院必須為大規模學習這新時代積極規劃和裝備自己。 


參考文獻:

Laurillard, D., Kennedy, E., & Wang, T. (2017). How could digital learning at scale address the issue of equality in education? Retrieved June 19, 2018, from http://dl4d.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Learning-at-Scale-for-the-Global-South-Main-Paper.pdf

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. Retrieved June 19, 2018, from https://npsct.enschool.org/pdf/2013%20Horizon%20Report_pdf.pdf 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2016). Global Education Monitoring Report Summary 2016: Education for people and planet: creating sustainable futures for all.   Retrieved June 19, 2018, from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf