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Digitizing The Learning Experience

Popularity, interaction and “stickiness” of sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are fundamentally changing our culture. More time is being spent in front of screens (computer, TV, web, mobile); we’re valuing digital relationships and digital communication as much as personal (real life); and we expect the answer to many of our problems to be a mouse click away.

Today people are initiating communication or content consumption on their computer, continuing it on their phone and potentially finishing it in person. In this case the conversation was continuous, but the medium changed three times—this is the new norm. This hyper-connected digitized world is not the future, it’s now, and it is happening in education and driven by a younger generation.

The social gorilla, Facebook, successfully digitized the social experience – first in colleges and now in the daily lives of more than 600 million users. Facebook proved that millions of people will congregate in a centralized digital space to share information, have conversations and connect – about everything and anything, and at any time of the day or night.

Social teaching and learning applications, like Sophia, are digitizing the learning that has traditionally taken place in brick and mortar schools.  While currently in an invite-only beta phase, we have already learned several things:

  • Educators are leveraging the changed digital/social behavior of their students and choosing to invert the curriculum. Rather than spending 30 to 50 minutes in front of the classroom lecturing, educators are capturing their material in PowerPoint slides or video presentations, putting them on into what we call “learning packets,” and asking their students to watch/consume the packet and learn the concept during traditional “homework” time.  During class time, educators and students discuss the concept, ask and answer questions, and work in groups.

  • Demonstrating knowledge by teaching is a meaningful assessment.  We have examples of teachers who have asked students to prepare learning packets and post on Sophia in a private group where peers and teachers can review, ask/answer questions and give feedback.  In preparing the material for the learning packet, deeper learning is going on—greater familiarity with the content, organization of thought and clear communication. These packets can then be made available to the entire Sophia community where other students/teachers can use the content.

  • Peer-to-peer learning among teachers is valuable.  At one university, an education faculty committee is discussing the idea of assigning teachers to make packets that demonstrate their teaching methods.

  • Our goal of inverting the traditional ratio of 30 students per teacher to 30 teachers per student is happening. We have examples of tutors - not certified or licensed educators - sharing material on Sophia.  Where they normally would share their knowledge with one student at a time, they now have the potential to reach hundreds of students and bring well-deserved attention to their tutoring work and publish only one time.

We are inspired by the innovative uses of Sophia and look forward to many more inventive ideas as we seek to surround the traditional classroom with a worldwide classroom of teachers.

~ Angie Eilers, VP Academic Outcomes

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