At #SXSWedu, I’m excited to discuss the next generation of student supports with another entrepreneur and esteemed Program Officers at the Gates Foundation. In order to discuss how technology is evolving the way that students are supported in school, it’s important to paint a picture of what Inigral thinks the future of student support could look like. This vision is not necessarily shared by my co-panelists 🙂
In the future, student data will be portable and will transfer from service to service (and by service I mean a site or app that meets a need), personalizing that service and reorienting the experience of education around the student. There will be a form of open identity similar to Facebook Connect. This will occur because standards that have been under development behind the scenes (PESC, IMS, Schema) will emerge and data interoperability will likely be more flexible.
Students will easily move data to and from state funded institutions, as well as across institutions that serve them (Parchment). Tracking and supporting graduates through vertically aligned systems (i.e. Secondary to Postseconday) (Beyond12) will be possible, and will force conversations about more seamless curriculum alignment – through entry into the job market.
The primary user interface of a student’s education will move online and on devices. The core way to communicate within and to a school and its support sytems will be simplified to near Twitter/Siri simplicity, reducing the probability that a student gets “lost in the system.” Communicating with departments, offices, and individuals will be done instantly through mobile devices (SchoolsApp), and messages will be routed to those who can best help or provide customer service. All of this will be monitored in a student response system that will mirror elite customer service systems. Some or all of the response service will be outsourced, all driven by technology and data.
Students will have more personalized and fruitful relationships with mentors and peers, while the instructor’s role will diverge and be redefined. Some will become system architects, able to scale instruction to thousands of concurrent students (Udemy, Udacity) as grading multiple choice and simple answer tests will all be done by computation. Simple essay structures will be scaffolded by computers and checked by humans and complex grading will be outsourced or systematized to peers and teaching assistants. Other instructors will delegate content learning to these systems and focus their efforts on feedback that leads to mastery of complex skills and the nurturing, human relationships necessary to provide guidance and growth to students.
Courses may no longer be the unit of progress, and the end goal of competency (Western Governors University, Codecademy), excellence, and opportunities will be more clear to students who are interacting with learning objects. Students will progress through pathways of content that are tailored to their needs and goals (MentorMob, LearningJar), and this content will be adaptive to automatically provide remediation to those who struggle and acceleration to those who show aptitude (SaplingLearning, Knewton). This shift will move most content learning outside of the classroom, allowing for a redefinition of classwork and how this time is spent—hopefully moving towards more active forms of communication, collaboration and doing. All of this, even traditional “courses” will be recommended and experienced based on technology and data, serving as a “pandora” of course content.
Students will be able to search for and access all sorts of supplementary materials on the web (Khan Academy) in their favorite learning modalities and with their friends. Metadata will improve discovery (Ace Learning, Schema.org). There will be other services in place that will provide ways to assess, measure, and possibly credential this learning in ways that can be shared with instructors and the institution. Nearly all of this will take the form of interactive media with some social experience, and some will be games.
Instant tutoring and other forms of help on the web (TutorCloud, InstaEdu) will become standard. Whenever a student is stuck, there will be help. Advisors, advocates, and other supportive individuals will scale their communications and tracking. Parents and community members will stay informed of student progress and help intervene when students get off track, academically or behaviorally. Information will follow students and instantaneously appear across services, allowing them to work together in sync.
Various tidbits of the student experience will fragment into transactional online services that are sticky and clean. Buying content (Chegg, Inkling, Kno), finding housing (RoomSync), identifying career goals (Sokanu), procuring software, finding activities (OrgSync), building a community of peers (SchoolsApp), and gearing up for the job market (Enternships, Campus2Career) will mostly occur through various sites and apps, fragmenting the student experience within schools but uniting the student experience across institutions.
Support Staff will be able to communicate with and monitor enormous caseloads of students (Logrado). Data will come in all sorts of new ways in formats, in ways we never imageind. For example, students will be able to “check in” to student services, meetings with staff members, and positive behaviors, like studying, on their mobile device, including taking class attendance (Metaneer). This will have game-like aspects and schools will be able to reward students who access services and have good habits (uBoost, Bunchball).
More complex skills and competencies will be communicated by representing oneself online (Tumblr, Linkedin, Behance). This data will also be transferred to and from services, and will be discoverable by engines that look for and hire talent. These talent search engines will work in tighter vertical alignment with schools and services to assure a better fit between the student experience and the job market.
While this may eat into what we currently think of as the functions of an institution and its professors, this will allow educators to reinvent what a college or university is (Udacity), and what it means to have a collegiate experience. This aspect of creative destruction is not a threat but is an opportunity to better meet student needs by focusing instruction and services around students rather than around institutions.