Last week I introduced three megatrends affecting e-learning. My research revealed a couple more exciting trends and emergent ideas in e-learning, so I promised another four for this week. Let’s call them micro-trends as they are smaller in scale, but nonetheless likely to have an impact on how and what we learn.

Top 4 microtrends in e-learning

While these trends may not apply to every educational setting, this doesn’t mean they couldn’t. They do have the potential to become megatrends with time. Let’s get started:

Top 4 microtrends in e-learning
  1. Entrepreneurial learning

    While being an entrepreneur may not be everyone’s destiny, the skills required to succeed as an entrepreneur are useful for almost any student, regardless of what career or course of study they choose.

    Entrepreneurs typically:

    • Adapt and learn in changing environments
    • Recognize, create and act on opportunities
    • Make imaginative use of technology
    • Understand how to start and run an organization
    • Value innovation

    Entrepreneurial education was quite the buzzword in 2008/09, as educators grappled with how to prepare young people for economic meltdowns. However, entrepreneurial education has undergone a change in the last few years: no longer is it seen exclusively as a means for individuals to create financial value; today educators are defining enterprise as a collective intention towards creating multiple forms of value, that uses resources carefully, and improves communities as well as individuals.

    As career opportunities in traditional professions and large public and private organizations, decline — think automation, AI and robots — young people need to assimilate skills that enable them to make the most of the opportunities and challenges in their own economic environments. Enterprise education is changing, and could be a real force for enabling better development (both individual and global) in future.

    Try some of these resources to boost your entrepreneurial education modules, try also exploring the Maker Movement.

  2. Microlearning

    It will come as no surprise to most teachers that studies have shown that students work better, and retain more, when information is compartmentalized, and spaced into “bite-sized” pieces. The trend of microlearning is closely associated with micro-knowledge, an understanding that in contemporary culture we learn as we need to know — googling, quickly watching a short YouTube video, or scanning and searching online books by keywords.

    This defines a mode of learning that is not only time sensitive, but also location flexible. Call it “just in time” education, it finds its most prominent use in larger organisations where critical information like safety and hazard information must be carefully and clearly communicated.

    Micro-learning is finding its way into K-12 education and looks set to become a micro-trend at the very least. It is however overwhelming to contemplate breaking down and restructuring your entire course so that it fits with the microlearning trend. Here are some basic tips to get you started:

    • Avoid “nice to know” information. Focus your modules on your learning objectives, resist the temptation to add loads of “background” resources.
    • Use multi-media. If you have a complex course to teach, think about using different media to communicate different layers and portions of the module.
    • Limit videos to 7 minutes, as studies have again shown that optimal lengths for videos, in particular YouTube videos, to be around 7 minutes.
  3. Peer-to-Peer learning

    This trend can sometimes be found in concepts such as social learning, or collaborative learning, but in a K-12 context the phrase “peer-to-peer” makes it simpler to grasp. As social beings, we find it easier to learn something when explaining it to someone else. And when asked to take responsibility to teach a group of their peers, students tend to take the task quite seriously.

    Naturally peer-to-peer assessments remain controversial, but there are undoubtedly benefits to not only having work assessed by peers, but by also communicating to students that learning is a collaborative, not competitive, activity. The peer-to-peer learning trend feeds into a burgeoning trend of peer-managed learning communities. Wikipedia is probably an early example of this, although many participants would argue that it has become a bit more cut-throat than originally intended.

    Peer-led learning communities assume other trending concepts like life-long learning and a trend towards decentralized systems (including the flipped classroom). For slightly greater depth on this topic start here.

  4. Privacy and safety

    We’ve written about student privacy and security on the NEO Blog before, however as an emerging concern both in the public realm of school governance and the private world of individual families, it is a trend that can withstand some repetition, as schools begin to take enforcement and development of data security into their own hands.

    Last year the Consortium for School Networking began handing out Trusted Learning Environment seals to schools that have enhanced their student data security protocols beyond those defined by Federal laws that require schools to simply secure student records. So far CoSn has only awarded the seal to 13 school districts in the whole US.

    Being awarded a seal requires schools to implement 25 practices across five main areas: leadership, business, data security, classroom and professional development. Examples of these practices include appointing specific administrators to develop and implement data and privacy security policies, having a documented process for vetting 3rd party technology providers and integrating privacy and security training into their professional development programs.

To follow or not to follow?

Fashionistas will tell you that trends aren’t everything — and I would agree. Slavishly following the latest fad is an easy way to develop a confused outward appearance, not to mention dilute one’s own personal style and identity. And so it is with ed-tech trends.

As teachers we have worked hard to develop and hone our craft, it makes little sense to chop and change as rapidly as trends emerge. Nonetheless, it must also be acknowledged that the communities we serve, and the students we teach are also changing with the times, and being aware of these movements in experience, expectation and technology is always important if our teaching methods are to remain relevant and effective.

Some of the trends we have explored have been covered quite a bit in this and other ed-tech resources, yet some have come (to me) as a pleasant surprise: I am particularly excited and intrigued by the idea of peer-to-peer inspired collaborative learning and look forward to exploring that topic in future posts. As usual, I hope to hear from you in our comments section below.

Author: Susannah Holz

Susannah has years of writing experience. She would have liked to be forever a student, but life had other things in mind. So NEO is the perfect place for her to address topics about e-learning and ed-tech for schools.