“The biggest problem facing online learning is boring content,” Craig Weiss said during a lecture at this year’s ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN. One of the most influential voices in the e-learning industry, Weiss believes instructors continue to see technology as a class aid, rather than a revolutionary tool that can drastically change the way students learn.
The type of technology Weiss both champions and criticizes is known in the industry as the Learning Management System (LMS). Introduced in the late 1990’s by Blackboard, LMS was originally designed to help educators customize their course management. Today, they allow teachers to stream videos, analyse student test scores and use games to create an engaging and interactive classroom environment.
A directory of the more than 552 LMS vendors around the world can be found at Weiss’s site, as well as tips on how to pick the best vendor. As far as popularity is concerned, Blackboard is the leading provider with 51% market share, followed by the companies Moodle and Desire2Learn.
But Weiss will be the first to admit that an LMS isn’t always so easy for teachers to use. Only “a few” of the systems out there have an interface that he likes. And while the LMS market has exploded in recent years, the difference between one LMS vendor and another isn’t always so clear. Video conferencing tools may be offered on one while another may also include a built-in authoring tool, but many of the basics remain the same.
He told the audience at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN that LMSs will soon unite many of the innovations happening elsewhere in the e-learning sphere:
“In the future, we’re going to see MOOC capabilities, video editing, mobile capture, LRS (learning record shop), true video course capabilities, instructional design and gaming built into LMS,” he said.
Games, or gamifications, are already a hot sector in the e-learning industry, and many current Learning Management Systems have features like leader-boards, showing the top scorers in the class. Weiss believes they are the future. “If you do not have a gamification in your LMS, get going,” Weiss told the crowd.
But if you take his word for it, the futuristic features won’t stop there.
Weiss believes that video will shrink, or be “chunked,” into easy-to-digest, bite-sized pieces. “Mini-bytes of learning are the future,” he said. “[Professors will offer] video chunks of five minutes, Word docs of one page or less, or other kinds of chunked data.”
Personalisation is another big trend Weiss believes will impact the e-learning industry in 2014 and beyond. Avatars, personalized Youtube channels, customizable widgets and a greater diversity of languages (like Arabic) will be coming to more platforms, he believes.
Weiss has a habit of taking ideas, even recently-established ones, and turning them on their heads. Instead of SPOCs, or small online private classes, he thinks Universities should ban together in consortiums and offer tracks to complete degrees that allow students to bounce from school to school, all online.
Industry fortune teller and techno-futurist, Weiss’s ideas about what works and what doesn’t in the realm of e-learning might rifle some feathers, but that’s not a concern of his. Despite ties to LMS vendors, his loyalty is to potential customers: educators. On his site, he offers them unbiased advice, fresh opinions and industry expertise.
And with the e-learning industry as sprawling and multi-faceted as it is now, that’s exactly what education needs.