By: Manuel Rivera León

Los Gatos, CL, United States

Phil is Co-Publisher of the e-Literate blog, Co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner at MindWires Consulting. As a market analyst, Phil has spent the last 15 years analyzing the growth of technology-enabled change for educational institutions, uncovering and describing the major trends and implications for the broader market.

E-learn interviewed him and this was what he shared with us:

E.L: According to your experience, what should higher education institutions take into account in order to implement online education programs?

P.H: The most important factor is for the institution to have a clear idea of what problem they are trying to solve, which should be focused towards gathering an understanding of the target student group. The schools that simply say, “we want a higher enrollment” or “we want to be modern” are most likely to have problems. Schools that say, “we need to offer this student group what they did not have before, and they need X type of program with Y type of support” are most likely to succeed. While that is true for other types of education, it is especially important for online education, where students might not be used to the format and need extra support.

E.L: Regarding the new world of digital education, what are the major challenges that universities and K-12 district schools should face up to?

P.H: The biggest challenge in digital education is to avoid the tendency to think that digital is easy. Many people think because young people have more experience with the Internet that moving to digital is easy. However, many forms of digital education require re-thinking of how to design courses and a reconsideration of the teacher’s role. These changes are not easy to understand, and they are not easy to implement. Schools need to be patient.

E.L: How should educational institutions raise awareness about the potential of online education?

P.H: In the US, the problem is that institutions and vendors often talk too much about the potential without being realistic. Online education is powerful, but it is not easy. For example, developing online education and teaching the course can cost more money, at least in the early stages, than traditional education. Going online is not an easy path to “save money”, at least in the short term. Over time, assuming that a school reduces its need for physical facilities, online education can save money, but that requires commitment and difficult decisions.

So my answer is that US institutions need to do a better job at raising awareness of the true potential of online education, setting expectations that can be met. I believe in Latin America it is somewhat of a different challenge; however, I think it is important to be realistic.

E.L: What about Moodle? What is your opinion on Moodle in Latin America?

P.H: Moodle is very important in Latin America due to its almost universal and low-cost availability. The software is free, and with hosting services, schools and companies can get a low-cost, flexible system. During my visit, I got a strong sense from people that they pride themselves in being able to solve problems without a lot of resources. Moodle adapts well to this sensitivity, being open source with no software licenses required, as well as being modular and flexible.

E.L: What kind of problems should LMS focus on?

P.H: LMS should focus on solving basic problems and getting out of the way. The best use for LMS is making lists, course assignments, grading, discussions in simple format, so that teachers and students can focus on learning and not on technology.

*Phil Hill – Co-Publisher of the e-Literate blog