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Online Learning Innovation: From the Shadows into the Spotlight

Online learning innovation is becoming increasingly mainstream, and higher education administrators must roll with the change or be left behind.

Online learning innovation. What was once happening around the back roads and experimental corners of the Internet is now coming out of the shadows full force into the spotlight. Open learning, flipped classrooms, mobile devices, gaming, and many other concepts are all over the news. What is the biggest benefit to these ideas?

As online educators, we can finally begin to realize the promise that online learning has flirted with but never quite fully achieved.

So called “anytime, anywhere” learning used to be confined to laptops and desktops. What’s more, you had to sign into a specific website to do any “learning”—and that was if you were one of the few in the world that could afford it.

But now learning is breaking out of these walled gardens. Courses and materials are becoming more accessible, both in terms of cost and location. Rather than just being pocket-sized portals to the same old content, mobile devices are being used by students to interact with the world in new ways. Flipped classrooms are giving students more time to work on actual skills with other students and instructors, instead of just listening to another lecture. Non-traditional students can now participate in courses that were once out of their reach due to time or schedule constraints.

Certainly, there are disadvantages to joining in with these changes. Some of these new ideas, such as mobile technology, cost money to develop. All of them are experimental and will likely take unexpected directions in the future. But the benefits of diversifying educational experiences, of adding valuable pedagogy and andragogy to your courses, and of pulling in more students that would otherwise not be interested in your organization will far outweigh the disadvantages.

Here’s the great thing—none of these ideas work for every situation. You can’t force every course and topic into the same emerging paradigm. You have to experiment, breathe, get a little crazy and messy, and see what works. Sure, there are forces that are trying to clamp down on these ideas and make them controllable (and sterile). They will try, but Pandora’s Box has been opened and online learning will never look the same.

So, will you release the future or try to keep it at bay?

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