Blog Archives

An empty college quad?

95% of the 18-19 year-olds surveyed in a sweeping EDUCAUSE study said they used Social Networks (SNs). The study looked at about 23,000 college students at more than 90 institutions. They spend anywhere from 5 hours to 9-10 hours in these spaces, blogging, updating their profiles, and on average, 19 hours online on all kinds of activities – schoolwork included. With so many hunched over their laptops (80.5% have laptops) or internet capable cellphones, creating content, blogs, videos whatever (30%), and “connecting” with friends, who is left on the college quad?

You’d think this group would ask for more IT in their classroom, but only 59% felt a “moderate” amount was acceptable. Well, with what is currently available under the name of e-learning, this lukewarm reception is hardly surprising. The study digs deeper. When asked about online courses, negative responses were clustered into four categories, no face to face, potential for cheating, technical problems, and the need to “teach themselves.”

This puzzles me. For a generation that is comfortable hanging out online in SNs – clearly, face to face is still important. And the negative response to the need to “teach themselves”, the increased cognitive demands of self study, tells me that the online learning still has not figured out how to deliver effective scaffolding and adaptive learning environments. They are not complaining about the need to teach themselves when they spend time on World of Warcraft – they teach themselves pretty fast in that environment. So how do we fix this?

CItation: Salaway, Gail and Caruso, Judith B., with Mark R. Nelson. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008 (Research Study, Vol. 8). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2008, available from

Collaboration Spaces

FirstClass is extremely popular at Emory.  Even before Facebook came on campus, Emory students were obsessively checking for new messages on Learnlink (our FirstClass client) and the coolest professors (my dear colleague, Matthew Weinschenk for example) on campus would chat with their students during student friendly hours (like after 11 pm!)  But it never really got the online collaboration piece right.

Online collaboration is  a critical component of the learning experience for this generation.  My three kids, 9, 12 and 17 hit the computer even before they throw their backpacks on the floor.  Their homework is online, their teachers’ powerpoints are on line and yes, their friends are on gtalk and AIM.

At my start-up, Inquus, we are trying to work out all the different dimensions of online collaboration.

These are exciting times because successful online collaboration for today’s digital youth has to yet to be implemented.  Visionaries (Terry Anderson, George Siemens and others) have defined the ideals and the shortcomings of today’s solutions.  We know in theory what scaffolding to provide, what affordances we ought to provide and the outcomes we desire.  But what will this look like?

So we pulled out the lego blocks and we are having fun imagineering the learning space. What will promote stickiness for this demographics?  What environment will be easy enough for them to use so it is truly useful?  What will get them motivated so that they spend more time in this collaborative learning space, and less on Club Penguin?  If we build it, will they stay here?

Of course, our best consultants are the 10-17 year olds who crowd our home computers, playing games.