The future of eLearning looks bright, according to S4 NetQuest President and co-founder Jim Guilkey. His company creates customized education solutions for major corporate clients, blending eLearning methods with on-site training.
Given developing countries’ increasing use of massive open online courses (MOOCs), Guilkey recognizes the potential of eLearning to bring information resources to places that lack the infrastructure to publicly educate. He stopped short of predicting that MOOCs will be the future of K-12 education in general, since he believes the courses currently lack the structure needed to sustain a full classroom experience.
And although even Ivy League universities are releasing MOOCs, Guilkey noted that they often use non-interactive methods of teaching, such as a slideshow with professor narration.
“[MOOCs] are starting to incorporate social-media types of things. So they lecture for a while, then they’ll give you questions to answer; you can collaborate. [But] it is not interactive. In order for those MOOCs to be really, really good, they have to be engaging, they have to be interactive. One good way to do it is through problem-based learning. Give the learners a problem, and then give them the links to the information they need to solve that problem. They can collaborate among themselves in solving the problem,” he said.
“That problem-based, collaborative combination of instructional design method is where you really start to get some high levels of learning. Not raw memorization of facts, but actually the understanding, application and correlation of those concepts at much higher levels of function. Very few of the MOOCs out there actually do that.”
S4 NetQuest aims to bring this type of higher-level thinking to its eLearning offerings. Learners in the medical field, for example, diagnose patients and provide a full explanation of why the presenting symptoms led to a particular conclusion. Then the learner’s answer is compared to an expert’s. Regardless of whether students’ answers are right or wrong, the process helps deepen their knowledge.
Guilkey explained that although S4 NetQuest has proprietary elements within its learning system, the company is trying to generalize some features. “For example, we’re getting ready to start a big project with nurses in residency programs. A lot of that we customized to particular clients, but a large percentage of that could be [made generic] and used across the globe,” he said.