eLearning advances to new levels in New York City - New York Gadgets

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  1. 1. eLearning advances to new levels in New York City - New York Gadgets Manhattan has become a hub of eLearning, with several companies developing innovative technologies. In addition, eLearning has captured the interest and support of startup incubators such as the Varick Street Business Incubator. And both Columbia University and New York University have outstanding degree programs in Education Technology. No wonder the New York startup community has produced such impressive eLearning technologies. To review, the umbrella term "eLearning" comprises all forms of computer-supported learning (for students) and teaching (for instructors). Although eLearning is associated with a variety of learning paradigms and technologies, they have in common that a computer or network is a vehicle for delivering functions and capturing data to facilitate learning. Overall, eLearning provides several benefits, including Training sessions can be conducted anytime and anywhere. Trainees can learn at their own pace. eLearning is cost effective. A company doesn't have to pay a trainer or cover travel costs. A firm can update eLearning modules quickly and easily. The company's HR department can track course offerings, schedule or assign training for employees, and track their progress and results. With virtual world, simulation, and web-design development services, one can accommodate a variety of learning styles by incorporating audio components, visual graphics, testing, and printable exercises into eLearning courses. There are a number of mature companies offering tools that share these basic advantages, such as Adobe, IBM, and Skillsoft. Beyond familiar business applications, eLearning also increasingly is used in academics, principally in two ways. In a pure online implementation, which typifies new online universities, a specialized learning platform coordinates asynchronous posts and assignments by students and instructors. Some online schools also are employing screencasting tools and web-based screencasting, which allow users and instructors to create screencasts directly from their browsers and make videos available online for streaming. With a combination of video and audio, a professor can mimic the experience of the classroom and deliver more vivid lectures. From the learner's point of view, this approach provides additional convenient capabilities, such as the capability to pause and to rewind. There also are hybrid eLearning universities that integrate classroom instruction with online tools to produce perhaps the most effective paradigm. For example, the Management Information Systems (MIS) department at Temple University's Fox School of Business uses an integrated content- management system to communicate with students on class assignments, course documents, internship information, and study groups. Said one student, "Fox MIS wanted to create an interface
  2. 2. that was all-inclusive, with features from Facebook and Twitter, and link them with features that duplicate Blackboard-like functionality to provide students with an open forum." The site allows students to get course information, practice test questions, share ideas about projects, hear about upcoming seminars, and find jobs. Because students in the MIS department already were using social media to connect with classmates, it made sense to create a cohesive, standard portal. The site is effective in that students not only can access course-specific information easily, but in addition they can create profiles, post possible test questions, and share ideas. Notes Andrew Cohen, Managing Director of Brainscape, "Brainscape helps teachers take 'drill practice' out of the classroom so that instructors can focus class time on more collaborative, project-based activities." Although eLearning is not new, it is supported by a growing toolbox of differentiated learning paradigms and supporting technologies that represents substantial advances in the field. Computer- based training, for example, is self-paced learning accessible via a computer or handheld device, such as a smartphone. These systems typically present content in a linear fashion, much like reading an online book or manual on one's iPad. For this reason they are often used to teach static processes, such as using software.Computer-supported collaborative learning is another paradigm that is maturing, under which collaborative or group learning instructional methods are designed to encourage or require students to work together on learning tasks. One particularly promising eLearning technology space is computer-aided-assessment, which encompasses simple technologies, such as automated multiple-choice tests, as well as increasingly more sophisticated systems that provide an experience geared towards a student's specific errors. In addition, these new systems can navigate the student through a series of questions adapting to what the student appears to have learned or not learned. Such is the paradigm of New York companies such as Brainscape, Knewton, Smart.sm, Watermelon Express, Voxy, and others. Notes Cohen, "Seven years ago your main option for teaching yourself a language was a Rosetta Stone DVD. Nowadays, savvy learners are increasingly practicing their language skills in dozens of online language learning forums. The same goes for just about any other subject." Brainscape in particular already is inventing the next generation of methods that combine cognitive science with interactive online learning technologies to produce a new, more sophisticated and effective way to learn. More specifically, Brainscape is a synchronous web and mobile flashcard program designed to improve the retention of declarative knowledge. It is different from other spaced-repetition flashcard programs in that its pattern for reassessment is based not on a randomization algorithm or on the user's history of correctness, but rather, on the user's own judgment of confidence in each chunk of intellectual capital learned - a process that Brainscape calls Confidence-Based Repetition. The goal of Brainscape's designers was to create a simple study tool for learners whose study habits are sporadic and unpredictable. Says Cohen, "Mobile learning is different. Learners don't want to study on their phone for an hour. They'd rather study for two minutes at a time while waiting for trains and busses. Mobile learning apps need to be particularly modular so that learners can easily pick up where they left off." Because a typical learner might study for varying lengths of time and separate her study sessions by varying intervals, Brainscape allows content creators (students, teachers, educational publishers, and Brainscape curriculum designers) to break concepts into their most fundamental building blocks that can be repeated systematically in customized intervals of time. Speculating on the future of eLearning, Cohen says, "Like everything on the web, the trend in education technology is toward consolidation and optimization. Yet no consolidation can occur until someone creates a standard platform that can support both professional-publishers' content as well
  3. 3. as user-generated content capabilities. Brainscape hopes to become that platform." http://www.examiner.com/article/elearning-advances-t o-new-levels-new-york-city