Active Learning: Giving Students A Leading Role in Digital Learning

The question of whether EdTech is effective is in fact, not a question about technology at all. Nor is it a question of learning design. Rather, the question ought to be rooted in outcomes: Are students learning the material and able to apply what they learn? Are they acquiring new skills as a result of the courses? 

The failure of digital learning to deliver on this promise, as I wrote about in a recent op-ed, is not about how we’ve yet to bear witness to virtual reality or some equally “futuristic” tech, as viable tools for remote learning. The point is that overwhelmingly, technology has thus far failed to deliver effective teaching practices to students learning remotely. The majority of online learning is being transmitted via the video professor lecture, and the lecture, in the classroom or online, has proven to be a less effective method of teaching. It’s the equivalent of watching TV, putting the professor in the spotlight while a passive audience, the students, sit back and soak in the broadcast. 

Active Learning on the other hand, is a method of teaching that gives the student a leading role. They are participatory actors, driving their learning forward, while the instructor provides feedback that individualizes the learning experience. This is Quantic’s method. Our platform prompts students to engage every 8 seconds and provides instant feedback based on their interactions. Only once they’ve mastered a skill do they move on to the next topic; they learn by doing. In this scenario, the student is the star and the outcome of their experience — whether they truly learned the material or not — is the key metric of efficacy. Investments in learning science alone won’t translate to better outcomes for students. Advancements in online learning must come from a two-pronged approach: using the right tech with the best pedagogy and only when the student succeeds should we deem it a success. 

Here’s more on how our process works:

To be clear, Active Learning is not new. Maria Montessori pioneered it within early childhood education, Berlitz with immersion language learning, and Suzuki within violin study. What is new is using this pedagogy in online learning in a way that’s effective and efficient (it’s also pretty fun, too).

The Blue Ocean Mind

In my third year of running Rosetta Stone as CEO, I opened the book Blue Ocean Strategy, and it was a pivotal moment.

 

Ten years ago, I picked up a copy of Blue Ocean Strategy at an airport bookstore.

At the time, I was in my third year of running Rosetta Stone as CEO and we were enjoying annual growth rates of close to 100%. While still operating out of a converted seed warehouse in rural Harrisonburg, Virginia, I engaged consultants and advisers who invariably asked me: “Who’s your competition? What are your competitor’s strengths? How can you stay ahead or catch up?” or “Do you know how big the language learning industry is today? How fast is it growing? How can you gain market share?” Those weren’t the things we were focused on! We were thinking about how to build an interesting, enduring and delightful company.

We were an emerging company and were…well…a bit odd. Our price point was tenuous (twenty times the cost of rival language learning software). Marketing spend also seemed unsustainably dominant (with sprawling kiosks and crazy-high ad spending), all managed without an integrated media plan. Indeed, we were unfocused in terms of our end markets, offering the same curriculum in 25+ languages to the US Army, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, homeschoolers, and individual consumers. We were a legacy of seemingly illogical decisions (we were told) in need of a strategy to become more competitive.

And yet, we had just become the #1 company in the US language learning industry by revenues overtaking the long established brick-and-mortar based Berlitz. We were profitable, and were one of the fastest growing companies in the nation. We certainly did not feel like we were all wrong—even if we didn’t have it together in all sorts of ways. We were doing well, and enjoying the ride.

Discovering Blue Ocean Strategy was a pivotal moment for me. It provided a framework for what we had been doing and explained why our independent and unusual approach was working. It spurred me to hone our strategic approach as we evolved new innovative offerings and business models. And as colleagues also became familiar with Blue Ocean Strategy, the powerful concepts became part of our common parlance across the company, inspiring product designers to re-think English language training in Asia, while also helping with on-boarding new collaborators who typically wanted to teach us their more reasonable way of focusing on beating the competition.

While not every single Blue Ocean Strategy turned to gold, it was the right framework for designing solutions to age-old problems. Like anything in life, it will not work every time and reality is unpredictable. But it is a wonderful way to approach work and life in general—a license to do what you think is right, and to stop wasting time on stuff that you don’t think is required. It is what explains success such as Tesla, Cirque du Soleil and IKEA—and how they escape the traditional competitive mindset that is so limiting and even exhausting. If you haven’t yet used the Blue Ocean Strategy framework to think about your company and life, please do so! You’ll be happier for it.

As one of our first courses at Pedago, we’ve developed a quick intro to Blue Ocean Strategy via our new platform Smartly. Whether it is your first contact with the framework or more of a refresher, with Smartly, you’ll breeze through it!

And in the process, you’ll get to see what Alexie, Ori and I, and the rest of the Pedago team, have been up to over the past couple of years. We think we’ve come up with a powerful new way to teach using technology, and we hope that it works for you. In the future, we’ll develop many more courses using this platform and technology.

Our solution is designed for the smartphone, and works great on desktop and tablet. And there aren’t any plans for a CD-ROM or any bright box packaging! So get going and escape the red ocean by going to https://smart.ly/blue-ocean-strategy.

May Blue Ocean Strategy become your team’s strategic lingua franca!