School districts and college campuses across the country are trying to grab students' attention and teach them in ways they learn best. That means they're adding social media features to learning management systems, offering more online and blended courses, and taking advantage of mobile devices.
Check out the top trends in learning management systems, online learning and mobile computing identified in a 2010 Software & Information Industry Association report released this month.
In 2008, 35 percent of the K-12 schools surveyed said they had no plans to buy a learning management system, but lower prices and higher federal accountability requirements will change their minds, according to the report. And when they do change their minds, they'll be looking for digital content and professional development to go along with the systems.
They'll also be looking for tools including curriculum planning and lesson management. These tools allow them to create detailed lesson plans for individual students and assign digital curriculum lessons to students.
In higher education, professors increasingly rely on digital content and use social media to teach their students. They're also adding more online classes and reducing administrative costs. As a result, learning management systems should be incorporating rich Internet applications, social media, user-generated content, mobile devices, Software as a Service and business process management systems.
Faculty members expect to do a number of tasks in learning management systems:
The e-learning market has been expanding steadily, and over the next four years, forecasters predict that K-12 online learning will advance at a compound annual growth rate of 17 percent, while higher education will grow at 8 percent.
In online learning, blended or hybrid classes that combine face-to-face and online instruction are popping up, particularly in higher education. And the expansion of open source content on sites such as Flatworld Knowledge, Curriki and CK12 give teachers and professors more options to potentially save money.
Mobile devices, WiMAX technology, podcasts and software tools allow students to learn any time, anywhere. And that mobile computing experience is what they're looking for.
In the past two years, netbooks have arrived on the scene, but their sales are already growing more than 200 percent per year. K-12 schools adopt them at a higher rate because many of them provide devices for their students. Netbook trends include 10-inch screens, faster processors, longer battery life and built-in wireless wide area networks.
Laptop use is still growing steadily, but not as fast as it was previously. Laptop trends include LED backlights, backlit keyboards, more rugged mechanical designs, larger hard drives, newer processor designs and increased availability of 3G/4G wireless wide area network support.
Meanwhile, tablet computers are becoming more popular in postsecondary education, and companies are creating smartbooks that have long battery lives of about two days.
More people view Web pages through smart phones and cell phones than through computers. Cell phones have become widely accepted in postsecondary education, while many K-12 districts still ban them in the classroom.
As far as operating systems go, Microsoft Windows leads the pack on desktop and laptop systems. But Mac OS X from Apple, Windows Mobile, iPhone OS, Symbian, Linux and Android have entered the mobile market.
On the connectivity side, most postsecondary campuses have robust WiFi, but less than 30 percent of K-12 classrooms have robust WiFi access. While WiFi has been around for more than 10 years, WiMAX is coming on the scenes as a 4G wide area data service in the U.S. And don't forget the cellular 3G and 4G data services for smart phones.
While these are some trends that are happening now and in the next year or two, the report also forecasts what education technology will look like in the future. In the next five years, the report predicts that cloud computing, cell phone use and 3G and 4G data plans will become mainstream in education.
Will these forecasts come true?