Seminar: Future of eLearning

UOC organised a face-to-face and online research seminar on The future of e-learning on 16 September 2016, presented by Dr Terry Anderson. These are my notes from the seminar:

Part A: Future of eLearning


  • There are many predictions of the future of elearning, but we wanted to look at the implications for future learning.
  • Definition: E-learning is a combination of methods, structures and networked electronic tools orchestrated into systems that bring about, or are intended to bring about, learning.
  • E-learning will be in ascendancy in the next decade.
  • For traditional universities moving into e-learning, most of the takers are current students, not distance students.
  • There is growth in investments in elearning.
  • Number of MOOCs have kept increasing, and more are being offered as self-paced.
  • eLearning is not only institutional, almost everything online is an opportunity for learning, either deliberately (Wikipedia, Youtube) or as a side-effect (email, Facebook).
  • Online, almost everyone can be a teacher and a learner.

Reviewing the Edinburgh Scenarios

The Edinburgh Scenarios (Bell & Stewart, 2004)

  • Virtually vanilla – move online, but institutions and pedagogies do not change. Examples: blended learning, LMS, recorded lectures, MOOCs.
  • Back to the future – rejection of elearning, and return to face-to-face. Examples: ban of mobile devices.
  • Web of confidence – expand and enhance opportunities for formal and informal learning. Examples: Wikipedia, Learning analytics
  • U Choose – move beyond schools and universities, focus on own learning. Examples: DIY learning, makerspaces, Youtube, open badges.

Part B: Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy

Three Generations of Distance Education

  • Cognitive-behaviourial (instructivist)
  • Social constructivist
  • Connectivist

The Fourth Generation of Distance Education

  • Learning analytics – traces of learning activity to help teachers and students
  • Collective technologies – the crowd e.g. social media
  • Artificial intelligence – mimic aspects of human learning
  • Disaggregated tools – move away from LMS to multiple tools
  • Mobility and device diversity
  • Internet of Things
  • Virtual and augmented reality – mobile apps
  • 3D printing

Elements and characteristics of the next generation

  • Focussed heavily on the individual learning
  • Distributed: technically, socially and organisationally
  • Crowd-driven and emergent
  • Integrated, just-in-time and authentic
  • Courses will play a less significant role
  • Learning will be divorced from accreditation

Threats from the Future

  • Open vs closed – open access, OERs
  • Loss of mind, the loss of soul – affected by technologies
  • Lack of adoption by formal education


  • Challenging times for open universities – focus on research on teaching and learning within disciplines, not disciplinary research
  • The future will be something like the past – low adoption rates by instructional education
  • Adjacent possibilities of new ideas and technologies always bring unanticipated and emergent opportunities and challenges
  • However, institutions may provide the stability necessary for human scale adaptation to technology induced hyper-change

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