The widely accepted rite of passage that a student attends one institution to gain skills that serve him or her for the rest of life is quickly becoming irrelevant. Due to the increase in mobile technology adoption, the growth of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and skyrocketing costs, education is shifting to a consumer-driven market where students have far greater choices in where, how, and what they learn. The demand for more choices like this are seen by forward-thinking institutions as more of an opportunity than a challenge.
“It’s an absolutely historic moment in education, where we’re seeing a perfect storm of mobility adoption, technology acceleration, and student demand forcing education institutions to mobilize or else,” says Renee Patton, U.S. Public Sector director of Education at Cisco. “Yet, there is a palpable optimism and energy amidst all of this change and pressure. Education leaders and education IT are coming together in unprecedented ways to translate new learning models into actual student experiences.”
And it all hinges on mobility.
The Vision of Mobile Education
Global competition and dwindling public funds are making institutions rethink the purpose of education, the process of making it efficient, and the best methods to prepare students for the certainty of an uncertain future.
Michelle Selinger, director of Education Practice for Cisco Consulting Services, elaborates: “Globally, we are still very parochial in how we approach education. Schools are silos, and expertise is contained. Mobile education, as I see it, is about getting the right experts to students at the right time. Teachers will no longer be the sole purveyors of knowledge and information. They will become curators of the learning environment. Schools will become part of a system, where students leverage mobility, video, and collaboration to access broader expertise. It will make the scaling of education best practices much more attainable.”
- Selinger points to the rapid rise of MOOCs, a major disruptor of traditional learning models in higher education, as one example of the new mobile education vision.
- Commercialized by companies including Udacity, Coursera, and edX, MOOCs enable students to take the world’s best courses, from the best education institutions, online, for free.
- Coursera alone partners with more than 86 schools, including Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, and Duke, to offer 437 courses globally.
“MOOCs are extremely disruptive because they change the function of education,” says Pete Cevenini, director of Education and Workforce Transformation for Cisco Consulting Services. “Before MOOCs, students went to school to gain knowledge. Now, school becomes a place that offers certification for knowledge that they gained on their own, online, on the device of their choice, in a convenient location, when it makes sense for them.”
To compete in a world where MOOCs are already serving more than 6 million students globally, education institutions that are embracing mobility proactively are positioning themselves for greater growth and revenue opportunities.
Mobility = Possibility
If education is available online, schools are systems, and teachers curators, how can education institutions differentiate and compete? First, they need to understand what is possible and create a strategy and plan for achieving it..
- Selinger recently facilitated a possibilities session orchestrated by Israel’s ministry of education and attended by ministry officials, principals, district leaders, teachers, and students.
- A variety of ideas were discussed, from cross-disciplinary and age-agnostic classrooms to learning portals and virtual classes.
- There was a common thread throughout the session: Give students the power to choose rather than controlling the education environment.
“Every idea that we discussed in that workshop can only be realized in the presence of a mobile education system,” says Selinger. “The value of mobility for education is its ability to create a system where students know that wherever they are, they can access someone to help them, whether it’s another student, a teacher, or an outside expert. They are never learning alone. Mobility’s move beyond content access to collaboration is the real transformative shift for education because learning models like the Flipped Classroom and MOOCs can thrive, giving more students in more locations access to quality education.”