From the blurb on the Ithaka site:
“This Ithaka S+R report is a landscape review of important developments in online learning today. It is the first in a series that will provide leaders in higher education with lessons learned from existing online learning efforts to help accelerate productive use of these systems in the future. The goal of this research was to understand what benefits colleges and universities expect from online learning technologies, what barriers they face in implementing them, and how these technologies might be best shaped to serve different types of institutions.”I just finished reading the report and must say that I am totally unimpressed. And surprised, the quality of Ithaka reports is usually quite high.
There are three main issues I have with the report.
There is nothing much new to be learned from their analysis of the current state of e-learning in higher education. The obstacles to the implementation of online learning that are discussed in the report have been known for a long time now, and, by consequence, the strategies mentioned for overcoming these barriers should be well known by HE administrators.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that the report is about e-learning systems that are not yet here. The authors coin the phrase Interactive Learning Online (ILO) to differentiate such a system from our current, poorly used and poorly performing, learning management systems. An ILO system, or platform, is different in that it would use largely machine-guided learning, data-driven, adaptive and customized to individual students, that would also assist instructors in delivering targeted guidance. One of the report’s recommendations is for a national, system-wide initiative to develop such a platform. Instead of a new initiative, I think it would be much wiser to support the open source communities around Moodle and Sakai in order to capitalize on their vast experience with systems that have been actually deployed for some time now.
Also, the authors call for educational content that can easily be customized and adapted by faculty. We used to call that the not-invented-here syndrome, ten years ago, and of course the argument is still valid and the obstacle is a very real one. As with the software development issue, I would at least have expected the authors to mention Open Educational Resources as a possible solution to this problem.