The Media Debate in Education: VR & MOOC’s

Image credit: Jan Vašek from Pixabay | Co-written with Jean-Pierre Joubert

To investigate whether the media debate in educational technology (EdTech) is relevant to the review of modern EdTech products, we explore two articles depicting their respective technologies as significant to the evolution of education and learning. This debate is embodied in the opposing views of authors Richard Clark and Robert Kozma regarding media and how the medium of education delivery directly influences learning. Clark views the methods instantiated within educational media as influential to learning, rather than the medium itself, and that learning outcomes can be replicated using a variety of media (Clark, 1994). In contrast, Kozma views the capabilities of each media to be highly influential to learning, arguing that technologies, such as computers, can provide unique learning conditions that not all mediums can provide (Kozma, 1994).  Two articles, then, have been analyzed briefly through the lenses of both Clark and Kozma in order to determine the relevance of this debate to press releases and product reviews.

Kannu: STEAM-Focused MOOC’s

One company that shows signs of such techno-deterministic thinking is Kadenze, an Arts-specific MOOC platform that touts itself as, “the future of STEAM education … [bringing] together the world’s leading colleges, universities, and industry partners to provide the best online courses in [STEAM]” (Kadenze, n.d.). In order to achieve this, Kadenze’s CEO and co-founder Dr. Ajay Kapur stated that, “we needed a learning management system (LMS) that could handle the robust and changing content of arts and creative technology education online, which didn’t exist” (Ascione, 2015). To meet this need Kadenze released Kannu (n.d.) which Chris Chaffe, Director of CCRMA at Stanford University, states, “has been instrumental for us to bring the traditional classroom experience to life for online students,” as it allows the, “ability to interact in the media-heavy and capable Kannu platform” (Ascione, 2015). Kannu is noted as, “[enhancing] the education process by providing all the tools needed to teach, create, assess, and communicate in one place” (2015) since it supports, “all existing media file types across portfolios, quizzes, gradebooks, and comments/suggestions and is highly interactive …” (2015).

Adobe: VR in Education

Virtual reality (VR) in education, according to the article “How VR In Education Will Change How We Learn And Teach” by adobe.com (Babich, 2019), will make a profound impact in the way we approach learning for the foreseeable future: “Twenty-first century classrooms will be technologically advanced places of learning, with VR technology significantly increasing students’ engagement and learning” (Babich, 2019). According to the article, VR affords students opportunity to experience education through interactive virtual worlds as opposed to traditional learning modalities such as books and lectures, which, according to author Nick Babich, increases learner motivation and impacts cognitive load requirements: “Being immersed in what you’re learning motivates you to fully understand it … [resulting in] less cognitive load to process the information … [VR] gives a better sense of place: not just words and illustrations, its exploration” (Babich, 2019). This VR-induced level of interaction, as Babich claims, encourages students to actively learn educational content through their virtual surroundings, resulting in more memorable learning experiences, which in turn, influences learning outcomes (Babich, 2019). In addition, VR affords learners with an “infinite set of possibilities that people can experience” (Babich, 2019). From virtual field trips to simulating the human anatomy in a virtual biology laboratory, VR propels the learner out of the traditional classroom and into simulated real-world situations to learn, making it a viable education solution for any industry (Babich, 2019).

Analysis Regarding Clark and Kozma’s Views

In reviewing these articles, Clark might ask whether or not another instructional medium might lead to a similar learning result before questioning which was the least expensive solution (Clark, 1994). Clark’s view is that the most efficient and inexpensive solution would be the one to take. One comparison, if looking at sheer economy, is the use of an open source LMS such as Moodle (n.d.). This might be a more cost-effective alternative provided setup and maintenance costs are less than that of the operational costs of Kannu; however, this assumes that the article’s assertion in replicating a classroom environment is the most efficient manner to teach online. In regard to VR, Clark would likely question the initial setup cost: is it most cost effective to employ VR in the school setting, where multiple students can share the equipment, or is it possible for all learners to acquire VR equipment for at-home use? Ultimately, is VR a technology that can be instantiated in the lives of all learners, or does technology like this create a divide in socio-economic status? Extrapolating Clark’s views further, since the media or medium serves only as a vehicle or delivery method, the LMS and VR console (medium) chosen would be immaterial: Only the content and methods employed directly impact learning. As such, any statements given regarding any benefits would be subjective hyperbole to be dismissed.

By contrast, Kozma’s questioning not whether the media will, but rather whether it does influence learning, leaves room for investigation and study (Kozma, 1994). While not an endorsement of a product, his view seems to imply that studies using both Kannu and Moodle, for instance, would be useful in determining if any of the proposed “media richness” (Ascione, 2015) truly makes a difference in the learning. This is because knowledge and learning are, “the reciprocal interaction between the learner’s cognitive resources and aspects of the external environment” (Kozma, 1994, p. 3). If we view the LMS as relating to the environment in which a student learns then the qualities of that LMS, as well as any media employed in such an environment, may lead to different learning outcomes. VR affords a learning environment that is arguably unique to the medium as it places the learner in a life-like environment that, according to Babich, leaves a lasting impression and encourages long-term memory storage (Babich, 2019). Kozma would argue that it is the unique attributes of mediums, like VR technology, that affords such learning opportunity, noting that “the attributes of a medium are its capabilities … [it is a] defining attribute of television that it is capable of employing dynamic pictorial symbol systems … [this] is not at all a capability of radio” (1994, p.13). VR technology possesses capabilities that, again, are likely unique to the medium and can unlikely be reproduced, at least to the same extent, by other mediums. In summary, any statements regarding the benefits of Kannu or VR, then, would bear study and confirmation, particularly as, “learning is an active, constructive, cognitive and social process,” (1994, p. 3).

Conclusion

Through our articles it is evidenced that there is a continuation in the media debate, particularly regarding innovations in usable and effective education solutions that address gaps within the education industry. Clark reinforces the need to approach EdTech, and the evolution of education, through the lens of pedagogy first, as well as to allocate research efforts towards the innovation of pedagogical provisions that implement cost-effective mediums which meet the socio-economical requirements of diverse learning communities (Clarke, 1994). Concurrently, Kozma brings an interdisciplinary nature to bear on educational technology, and a focus on the interaction with technology as complimenting the human component of learning (Kozma, 1994, p.10). Kozma’s writings demonstrate the need to review the capabilities of various media, as well as their social uses (p.15). This is particularly evident in his focus on moment-by-moment observations, that analytics is often more valuable when coupled with qualitative data (p. 16), providing an encouragement to explore media and learning.

In summary, Clarke and Kozma’s opposing perspectives are still relevant to modern EdTech; the media debate continues, and likely will for the foreseeable future. This debate reinforces the need to critique EdTech claims with a critical eye, cutting through marketing hyperbole while affording educators the opportunity to explore various learning options that meet the needs of students and teachers. Is there a future where Clarke and Kozma’a perspectives unite to inspire the development of advanced learning environments that, knowingly to researchers, utilize unique media capabilities and effective pedagogical provisions to enhance learning? And if so, when will it occur? Perhaps the resolution of the media debate lies with those who can appreciate both sides of the argument; time will tell.

 

References

Ascione, L. (2015, December 7). Kadenze launches media-rich LMS [Magazine]. ECampus News. https://www.ecampusnews.com/2015/12/07/media-rich-lms-536/

Babich, N., (2019). How VR in education will change how we learn and teach. Adobe. https://xd.adobe.com/ideas/principles/emerging-technology/virtual-reality-will-change-learn-teach/

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Kadenze. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://kadenze.com

Kannu – LMS – Learning Management System. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://www.kannu.com/

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 7–19. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.167.4904Moodle – Open-source learning platform (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://moodle.org/

Image Credit: Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *