Conference sneak preview

The Many Faces of Digitalisation of Education

Satu Järvinen is the founder and CEO of SkillSafari. She is also a Doctoral Researcher at IMPDET (International Multidisciplinary PhD Studies in Educational Technology) at the University of Eastern Finland. Satu Järvinen is recognized as a key expert in developing and implementing innovative digital learning solutions for K12 education, especially in the field of skills development and teacher professional development. Her special area of interest is in the deployment of Open Badges as a scalable solution for skills validation and a new paradigm for learning.

Studies in Christian Theology, University of Helsinki Satu Järvinen is recognized as a key expert in developing and implementing innovative digital learning solutions for K12 education, especially in the field of skills development and teacher professional development. Her special area of interest is in the deployment of Open Badges as a scalable solution for skills validation and a new paradigm for learning.

For over a decade now I have spent most of my professional life wondering about how to combine learning with digital tools. The work has included looking at both learning and technology to understand what role digital tools can play in modern learning. From the vast array of possibilities, I found my passion for microlearning and micro-credentials. Before getting into more detail on why I focus on those, I want to share with you some of the thinking and thoughts that have been filling my mind this spring.

All my thinking is guided by a fundamental belief that all children, youth and adults should have equal and sufficient access to quality learning content and the capacity to consume it. Access means the ability to use some device that is connected to the internet with enough bandwidth at an affordable price.  Content takes many forms from text to video to virtual reality. Understanding the learning objectives and end-user / learner demographics is key in content design. Content has to be tailored to the needs, cultural setting, learning preferences and all sorts of other learner demographics. Capacity is naturally the ability to learn on a digital platform. A summary I propose that:

  1. End users need some level of ICT skills to be able to access and benefit from digital learning
  2. Learning content of various topics (i.e. languages, math, science etc) has to be tailored to fit the digital environment and the learner demographics.

For the past six months, I have spent thinking about the different roles and tasks digitalisation has as part of our education. Digitalisation is a set of skills we all need to survive, making it an object for learning. At the same time, digital tools allow us to re-invent how we deliver education, be it through the digitalisation of content, gamification of the learning process, or online collaboration to mention a few options. In these occasions, digitalisation is a tool for learning. I think sometimes we get mixed between the two main objectives. We forget that to learn a subject through a digital device, our users need digital skills for that. And learning those skills is something we need to assume exists already or we need to offer them as part of our service. Excellent content in a great platform that users don’t know how to use does not lead to motivated learners and great learning results.

When designing a digital learning experience it is fundamental to design around the end users. This work starts by trying to map an understanding of the first question and understand the ICT skills level of the targeted users. What age are they? What type of exposure have they had to the digital world, and what devices have they used? What applications or services do they use daily, and what are they comfortable with?

The second portion also works around the end user but from a different perspective. How hare they used to learn and study? What type of interactions are they used to? What do they need to learn about a specific topic? Is the purpose of the learning design just to pass knowledge, create a skill or build competence (competence = knowledge, skills, aptitude)? Is the digital service part of a compulsory learning service (like a school offering) or an additional learning service (i.e. math application for home)? How much time per day or week can they spend studying? Is the service free or paid?

For me, instructional design for a digital learning solution is a very human-centred process. Even though digital learning can act as an amplifier of access and content, it does not mean our analogue human users can fully benefit from it. Because of that the design has to start by understanding people, their behaviours, motivators, and ambitions. Sometimes also the parents’ dreams. We need to map the role digitalisation plays in the world of our targeted users today and what we would like it to be to understand if we are reaching too far, or if our challenge level is adequate.

My years working in eLearning, mLearning and the overall digitalisation of education has to lead me to focus on gamification, micro-learning and micro skills certification. If we look at wanting to create learning solutions that can are high quality, yield good learning results and that many people have access to and the ability to use, bite-sized content combined with motivation and support from gamification, among many other things make the most sense to me and see to also work well. Naturally, research also backs it, starting from simply how the brain works. Short bursts followed by rest lead to more learning than hours spent drilling. My teaser argument is that content digitalisation or substituting school education for digital education would solve the global learning crisis it would have already. All forms of learning have their place and uses of course, but for many turning a lesson into a digital snack that is fast to digest just seems more convenient.

I keep wondering why we humans seem to be so stuck in the idea that if we want to achieve anything in life it can only happen through hours and hours of hard work coated with suffering. I think we all know through personal experience and observation that being happy and enjoying life, work, and studies tends to be more appealing and yield better results in a shorter time. Life is too short to be suffering more than necessary, learning and work definitely should not be part of that domain.

This is my open invitation to you to share your thoughts with me on efficiency through the enjoyment of learning during eLA this year. It is a conference where I always leave smarter and more knowledgeable than I was walking in, and I usually have a great time all through. I look forward to seeing you there.

One Comment

  1. Emmanuel L

    What a great insight. Digitization of our learning is vital to our next move to making the next generation teachable and more focused on desirable change and being a change makers themselves. Digitization comes with a lot of distractions and shortcomings on the path of the user, as such, instructional designers and developers must know the exact kind of engagement to incorporate into learning design. In summary, we do not know the next traits we get to see after the Gen-z, which may be worst than what we expect. This put it in our hands as educational technologists, instructional designers, or learning scientists to look beyond the now and focus design on the future based on anticipated challenges.

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