Learning in the Internet of Everything Era
The Internet of Everything environment is changing how humans interact with the digital world in all kinds of different ways, from climate control systems to lighting. To assume higher education will be immune from this shift would be short-sighted.
It is quite possible that the only way higher education will once again meet the learning needs of a changing society is to have a drastic reduction in institutions and faculty that fail to change their dated ideas, continue to show their inability to understand how people learn, and refuse to adapt. We are seeing some change in the academy already and seeing projections of fewer institutions of higher learning. We have lost sight of what society and students need, and how to build to meet those learning needs.
According to Joshua Cooper Ramo, complexity creates interaction. If we assume learning is complex, should we not move to more interaction? Does a learning model meeting on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday plus office hours still meet the needs of a generation that needs constant interaction with learning? The more frustrating issues concern the lengths we go to force the old models on the new students. We spend so much of that time debating models and modes of learning that are insignificant.
We go to a group of students studying in a building and ask if they like online learning. They say they do not and we assume the desire for online learning is declining and we need more building-based classes. Of course, if we go to students that take only online classes they would say online is the best, and at times only, way to attend college, and we need more online classes. It is not a matter of getting a right answer. Information is everywhere.
Often it’s the researcher who never took an online class and has limited understanding of instructional design that conducts study after study finding online is a low-quality method for distributing learning. In many ways, they found what they hoped to find. We look at other faculty that see themselves as experts in their field and collaborate with instructional designers and they believe they build high-quality content for online classes.
Possibly what we have—rather than a complicated model for how students learn—is a complex model, a model that is constantly changing rather than static. Learning in the Internet of Everything era is open, not confined by strictures, structures and dated pedagogies.
Potentially, at any point there could be a dynamic of students, a critical mass that would want a certain learning method or mode of delivery and there could be points were the student populations seen as a whole wants ALL methods and modes of learning and wants it to meet their needs at the time that need has arisen. This suggests learning is no longer complication but complex.
We have ignored the best learning models. We know the pace of learning for the first 5 years of life is greater than any other point in our life. However, we continue to think learning occurs only when you sit down, keep quiet, do what I do, learn to say what I say, and pass this test the government says is good. We call that learning and pat ourselves on the back.
We ignore the giants of technology and the facts of how they learned. It was complex, and only the complication was they did not fit the current model of learning. It is time.
It is time to throw out the old models; in an age of digitization, didactic models do not deliver the outcomes needed for the Internet of Everything. We need leaders for this new age of learning. What we currently have for this task are followers. When there is an innovation in one college, others rush to copy, and then wonder why one model will not work everywhere, and they all fail to understand learning is complex. Complex systems require leaders that do not look for someone or some system to mimic; they understand the complex nature of learning and make visionary decisions to meet the learning needs of those who will live in the age of the Internet of Everything.