© 2007 Index Funds Advisors, Inc.

On December 30, 2009, I posted my predictions for 2010:

1. Follow the money:

‘In many countries, 2010 will be a difficult year financially….So we’ll have to cut the universities…..The big unknown is how governments and public post-secondary institutions will respond to lower revenues. Here are some possibilities: more of the same: larger classes, more adjuncts, higher tuition fees, poorer service.’

For evidence that this prediction was correct, see California and the UK. Canada escapes for lack of evidence. I rest my case, m’lud. One for me.

2. E-publishing

‘I predict that 2010 will see e-publishing overtaking traditional printing for academic textbooks….I use the term e-publishing, not e-books, deliberately. I don’t see a long-term future for e-books, at least for study purposes….Kobo and other open standard publishing will eventually win out over Kindle and the Sony Reader.’

This one is less clear cut (as were the predictions). Textbooks are still alive and well, and the Kindle and the Sony Reader have been selling, but not as fast as many predicted and there was evidence from several sources during 2010 that students do not like e-readers for study purposes. The iPad is very successful as an e-book, although of course it has many other functions. It is also open standard regarding online books. Kobo (another open standard e-book provider) has been successful, but if there is a merger between its owner (Indigo) and Barnes and Noble, as the markets predict, then it may be dropped in favour of Barnes and Nobles’ e-book. I would argue that although the prediction of e-publishing overtaking traditional publishing for textbooks is good for the long term, 2010 did not provide enough evidence to firmly conclude that the prediction was right. It’s also too early to predict winners on the e-book front. We’ll take the Scottish court’s verdict of ‘not proven’ on this one, which means we can come back to it at another time.

3. Mobile learning

‘Will mobile learning move from being a fringe or supplementary activity and become the primary delivery medium? If it does, I suspect it will not be in the USA, Canada, Australia or Europe, but in South Africa, an Asian country such as India, or possibly Brazil.’

e-Learning Africa 2010 provided strong evidence that mobile learning is already a very significant delivery medium now in Africa, mainly for non-formal and vocational learning, despite limitations on bandwidth, cost and the fact that most users do not have smart phones. However, mobile learning remains more accessible than learning through Internet-linked personal computers for all except a minority in Africa.

There are still relatively few educational apps in North America and Europe, but they are growing. However, a major limitation is that there are multiple operating standards for mobile phones, which limits their use to proprietal phones. Hopefully, this problem will be removed with the release of HTML 5, which will enable device-independent web browsers. However, it is unlikely that HTML5 web browsers will be available on mobile phones until 2012 at the earliest. At the same time, educational institutions in North America and Europe should be thinking about mobile applications as they begin the design of new courses in 2011. Me lud, I beg the court’s indulgence as I claim the benefit of the doubt on this charge.

4. Convergence through cloud computing

Maybe not in 2010, but perhaps in 2011, we will see the ultimate, all purpose device that will combine a big enough screen/fine enough resolution (maybe in a foldable format), an intuitive user interface, full mobile access, a full range of applications, and still be small enough to carry in your pocket or purse

Well, we’re not there yet, but the iPad, the iPhone and the devices coming from its competitors certainly moved increasingly in this direction during 2010. The problem is that the higher education market still hasn’t got it yet. We are still using tweets and Facebook to support classroom teaching, instead of designing any time, anywhere learning. Nor have we solved the security and student privacy issues around this development. Indeed, expect in 2011 more attempts to ‘lock down’ these non-institutional cloud-based services for students in formal courses as legislators and particularly IT managers move ‘risk management’ higher up the governance agenda. I think the prediction still stands (for 2011) but this won’t necessarily mean a big change in teaching practices.

Brazil: the international leader in e-learning in 2010?

With its GDP growing at an anticipated 8% or more in 2010, and hence resources for continued investment in e-learning, Brazil is on track to becoming the world leader in its use of e-learning. Another country to watch is India, with a vast and growing e-learning industry, the ability and resources to innovate in applications of e-learning, and English as a major language. Increasingly we will see the development of online learning materials, courses and quality open content being outsourced to Indian companies.

I can’t provide any evidence for or against Brazil on the basis of 2010 – I didn’t follo closely enough the Portuguese news on this. Any Brazilian readers out there who can help me on this?

However, there were snippets of information during 2010 that identified India as a major provider of e-learning services, both internally and for export. And if the number of e-mails I get from India offering me e-learning services is anything to go by, at least their marketing is aggressive.

6. Something totally unexpected

Well, the unexpected was that nothing unexpected broke in 2010. I can’t think of any significant, totally new technology, software, or political or institutional initiative that proved to be a game-changer (except maybe the financial context, which was highly predictable). Nothing really took off this year, although (see next posting) online learning continued to expand rapidly.

But help me out here. Have I missed something obvious? What do you think were the significant developments in e-learning in 2010?



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