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2013 EdTech Predictions: An Interview With Michael Feldstein
January 7, 2013 - 9:00pm

Michael Feldstein is "an educational technology consultant and a lifelong educator," with previous gigs as "senior program manager of MindTap at Cengage Learning and principal product strategy manager for Academic Enterprise Solutions (formerly Academic Enterprise Initiative, or AEI) at Oracle."

He is also a terrific speaker (recommend Michael for any keynote you need keynoted), an excellent and prolific writer, and someone who seems to know everybody else in edtech.

What follows are Michael's predictions for edtech in 2013, courtesy of the folks at Zer0 to 5ive, (with whom I worked with to secure and edit the interview). (Note that Phil Hill also answered these same questions for us last week).

Question 1. What will be the big surprises of 2013 in Higher Ed tech?

The biggest surprise is that, decades after the Sloan Consortium funded the first large-scale online learning programs in the U.S., and more than ten years after the National Center for Academic Transformation began doing studies showing how technology can improve better learning outcomes and reduced cost, we will finally have the serious, broad-based policy discussion about transforming our schools that many of us have been waiting for.

Question 2. What do you foresee in the online learning space?

I think 2013 will be a year of broad-based experimentation with second-generation MOOCs and various mixed and innovative approaches. I am more excited about the coming year of educational technology than I have been in a long time.

Question 3. Is social learning really driving higher achievement, or is it the equivalent of the modern day study group?

I don't think it's an either/or answer. Of course social technologies are replicating some of the same dynamics that we see in F2F study groups. When we have new technologies, we always start by copying what we already know. So we're in the "horseless carriage" stage right now. But the most interesting social platforms tend to surprise us (or, at least, surprise me) when they enable new behaviors, generally by making some kind of sharing just easy enough that we cross a threshold in which people start doing it a lot more. There's a long chain of "what-ifs" to get from social technologies to higher achievement. I don't think we can predict how it will work. But I won't be at all surprised to see a connection in some context at some point.

Question 4. Will proprietary learning management systems be replaced by other options?  If so, what will these options be/if not, why not?

I don't see why they would. LMSs are kind of the stone soup of educational technology. Somebody always comes along and builds something beautifully simple. And it's great. Except that we need a grade book. So we'll add that. Oh yeah, and a test engine. Let's build one of those too. And so it goes, until before you know it, you have an LMS. Except it's a bad one, because it wasn't really designed to be one.

I do still believe in a modular architecture with a lot of plugins around a kind of a core Learning Management Operating System, but at this point it looks like we'll get there through evolution of the existing product category rather than some big disruption.

Question 5. How will “Big Data” impact Higher Ed in 2013 and beyond?

I'm something of a big data skeptic when it comes to educational technology. We seem to have this idea that if we just collect enough information and run a magic algorithm, insight will emerge. I don't think it works that way. We don't have a very good understanding of how people learn, and I don't think we have any reason to believe that computers will be better than humans at figuring it out. That doesn't mean that big data will be useless. I think there will be applications within bounded areas to pick up insights. We will learn things from all the data that we get from MOOCs for example. But I think it will be bounded and specific--on how to teach a particular concept in a particular course a little better, for example.

Now, more traditional data and analytics ("Little Data"?) will be very important, both on the level of reflecting to students and teachers what is going on in the classroom so that they can respond to it and on the level of diagnosing what's gone wrong with our institutional cost and funding models.

Question 6. Will MOOCs replace accredited curriculum?  Why or why not?

I don't know how to answer this question, because I'm not convinced that we know what a MOOC is yet. Will there be massive elements that are integral to many curricula? Almost certainly, although I don't know how much of it we will see in 2013. Will the curricula be all massive? Probably not in most cases. Will we consider the mix of massive and non-massive elements to be "MOOCs"? I don't know.

Question 7. Is online education a trend driven by the economy and worker training, or is it a critical next step in getting student achievement back to where it once was?

I'm not a big fan of focusing on "getting student achievement back to where it once was," back in the good old days of the Great Depression. It's very hard to make meaningful comparisons over time because so much context changes. But if the question is whether online education will be driven by a goal of increasing the quality of education as much as it is driven by a goal of increasing access to education, then I think the answer will be "yes." Right now, we're focused on access, where cost is one measure of accessibility, but I think we will find that if we focus on cost without also focusing on quality, what we will be providing at low cost is not what most of us would consider to be an education.

What other questions for Michael would you have about edtech in 2013?

 

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