Over the course of the last few years, we have seen a rise in many new variations of online learning platforms. However, there are still many barriers that are preventing the whole-hearted adoption of these tools. In most cases, learning management systems serve as document sharing hubs for class materials where students can download assignments and manage other course documents. The current market for online education consists of these traditional enterprise systems aimed at higher education institutions and administrators, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and smaller apps that are numerous but only provide bits and pieces of the solution (recordable whiteboards, content driven games, etc.)
Although technologically it seems our society should be capable of creating an efficient learning management system, one has not yet presented itself. Some of the current attempts to improve online education have shown promise and potential, but there is currently no platform that breaks through all of the following 3 main barriers to the acceptance of online educational platforms:
Teachers want to maintain a sense of control and ownership over the curriculum and teaching experience. They want to continue to have a personal role in the development and education of their students.
MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) are becoming increasingly popular, but these online courses are creating an environment where one-on-one teacher-student interaction is incredibly rare. In these massive online courses, students do not get the personal attention they need, and teachers feel devalued because they are reduced to organizing and managing course content rather than building relationships with their students. This is one of the reasons for the incredibly low course completion rate (less than 10%) for students taking courses through platforms like Coursera or edX (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/education/massive-open-online-courses-prove-popular-if-not-lucrative-yet.html?_r=0). Teachers want to teach, and want to remain at the center of the learning experience, but these new platforms are minimizing their input and influence. With MOOCs, students are left to their own devices in front of a computer and loads of course content. They are not getting the personalized attention necessary to properly learn.
The cost of many of these learning management systems is deterring organizations and individual teachers from embracing online education.
Many learning management systems are incredibly pricey. Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and Sakai all require a hefty fee (some schools incur expenses of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year) for any administration that wishes to contract their services. Public schools (High schools and K-12) in most cases are completely unable to afford the fees associated with these platforms, yet many federally funded grants require that they adopt online practices. In order for online education to be completely embraced and committed to by our public school system, a more affordable solution must present itself. Many higher-education institutions and organizations have given negative feedback about their experiences with Blackboard (http://techcrunch.com/2012/10/18/with-both-co-founders-now-gone-its-the-end-of-an-era-for-education-software-giant-blackboard/), and although there are some school administrations that can afford to pay for such high priced solutions, the question becomes “Are we getting the most for our money?”.
Current platforms are not efficient and intuitive for users.
The third and arguably most critical barrier to online education acceptance is ease of use. Many teachers struggle with the adoption of these platforms due to their cumbersome designs. Teachers have spent years perfecting their craft and will never fully embrace this technology unless they feel they can successfully, simply, and efficiently implement their teaching strategies using an online platform. The platforms currently available to teachers have complicated user interfaces and confusing functionality, to the point where teachers often ignore the majority of available functions altogether. Although the teacher population is becoming more technologically savvy, many teachers are still not able to use these platforms to their full potential because of poor design. The ROI is low when teachers and students are discouraged by the complicated user experience.
Teachers need a solution that will allow them to remain at the center of the online experience, will be easy to use, and will not break the bank. The market is begging for a home-run solution that is affordable, efficient, and intuitive – while allowing the teacher to remain at the center of the educational experience. This is the only way to ensure that the next generation of students receives the same personalized feedback and attention that is so crucial to delivering quality education.
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