Jeroen Krouwels: “The educational system must keep up with time”
With a rich history in education and ICT as a teacher, involvement in a governmental educational ICT project ‘Teleleren’, the establishing of an ICT institute for business education, being manager at an educative publisher and a management trainer, Jeroen Krouwels is currently co-owner, executive Business Development and senior advisor at PAT Learning Solutions, based in Tilburg. It is here, that PulseWeb, an online educational environment which specializes in the needs of the student, was developed. Furthermore, Krouwels owns a Dutch blog on e-learning called ‘Leren met Internettechnologie’ (Learning with Internet technology). On this blog, Krouwels true visionary nature is revealed. Anyone who can read in Dutch and who is interested in e-learning I would recommend paying a visit to this blog, featuring interesting studies, visions and critical points of view.
For the Master program New Media of the UvA, we were assigned to a project concerning a subject of our likings. Our group chose (the future of) education and e-learning. Considering it useful for the project, I decided to interview somebody engaged in the field of e-learning. This interview blog post is the result of a snow-ball-search, some e-mailing, short term appointment making and a telephone conversation with Dutch education expert and e-learning visionary Jeroen Krouwels. All text and answers have been translated to English and paraphrased (consequently).
What is e-learning?
E-learning is a broad term that can be interpreted in different ways. Some call it a learn management system, others call it a content module, some understand e-learning as all learning tools which involve Information and Communication Technology, ICT. I prefer the last definition.
What do you think, with today’s knowledge, education will look like in the future?
In the future, schools will be open 52 weeks per year from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Students will have their own homepage in an e-learning environment from where their process can be commenced, monitored and measured. All content will be provided in that online environment, such as links, assignments, texts and tools, as well as all contact with coaches and trainers, either on educational demand or through regular practice. Collective teaching will always have a place in the educational system, but it will get less prominent. My estimation is that at a minimum 30% but probably more than 50% of all classical education time will disappear. This will be replaced by a much more open system which can be approached any time on any device. This way, students who can handle it will get much more responsibility over their own educational process and at the same time more freedom to design their own course. Important here also, is that the education of a person will take as long or as short as is needed, instead of a predetermined amount of time.
The shift that has to be persisted here, is from planning people through an education to planning an education around people and their work or situation. This is a turn of 180 degrees, in which the student is the central concern through which the educational system, the provision of content and of time is appropriated and designed. A present example of a school which applies this method is the Netwerkschool (Network school), an educational model which attempts to provide better educational tools at lower costs. It is a flexible organization of schools formed around competence. Also a good example of modern education is the National Education Technology Plan (2010) or NETP. This is an American project which calls for more use of technology in our daily personal and professional lives and the improvement of student learning, acceleration, up scaling the effect of practices and the use of data and information for continuous improvement.
On your blog, you said that the rate in which information has to be appropriated by students is rapidly increasing. Is it feasible for students of all levels to cope with such responsibility and freedom, given this fact?
Every student is different and on all levels adjustments have to be made. Not every student can handle such freedom. But the beauty of the new system is that this can be dealt with. The education can be completely outlined for each specific student if necessary. Instead of a structure build up based on the “average student”, the need of the individual student is prominent.
I think primary schools and high schools will stay pretty much the same, while integrating digital tools (blended learning). Their task is to provide a safe and social environment which prepares them for (their role in) society. What does have to change there is that the teachers must teach the students how to use the computer and not the other way around, as is the case now! But other than that, the organization will stay the same. Vocational schools, higher vocational schools and perhaps also universities will be the target for groundbreaking change. It will be based on models of lifelong learning. Adults are most able to deal with freedom and responsibility and thus the new educational model will be applicable there best.
How does the new schooling method change the way teachers do their work?
The expertise of teachers, coaches, trainers etc. is helping people move forward in their educational process. They will become “process coaches”, focusing more on people who struggle on certain points as opposed to giving the same routine course for an entire classroom consisting of people with different levels of comprehension and different needs.
Especially in vocational education we see that the half change value of information is rapidly decreasing. In the care sector, it is now down to two years, meaning that after two years the information has decreased in relevance and needs upgrading. As present schools will also decrease in providing relevant information, it is only a question of time when hospitals and other care institutions will design their own governmentally approved educational systems. In that case, it will be surgeons who will be teaching student-surgeons. Hands-on practical knowledge will become more important here, especially in vocational schools.
Some teachers (especially in high schools) and even the government itself are known to be stubborn and wary of change in education. Will they hold back innovation?
Stubborn teachers are a race which will become extinct. They are going to lose this battle. When you compare an Operation Chamber of last century with one from present day, you will see a lot has changed – and changed for the better it has! Compare an old classroom to a modern one, and you will find that the changes are minimal. As Frank Kalshoven has adequately noted at a conference once, the educational sector is the only sector in which ICT has not (yet) lead to large scale improvements and cost savings. The reason for this might be sought in stubborn teachers (and governments). But I think they are a dying race, for others will take over now. Innovation can lead to so much good, and people will realize this. “Homeschooling institutions” such as LOI, NCOI, NTI etcetera, are going to win massively.
Modern schools are going to win from traditional ones, for being more efficient. There are four important factors that play a role in this: the decreasing halve change value, the decreasing rate of applicable knowledge provided by schools (now, when a vocational student graduates and finds an employer, he or she must receive additional in-service training for an average of a year before possessing the proper knowledge), shifted governmental financing (when for employers financial privileges for choosing (higher) vocational schools cease to exist, commercial institutions will take over) and the acceptance of ICT by people. Healthy business competition can drive innovation. It’s all about Darwin-esque survival of the fittest then. And technology as driving force is going to change all this for the better.
Do you believe in globalization of education? There is now, for instance, a collaborative project of the Stanford University with India, in which Indians can receive legitimate certificates by completing online courses by Stanford.
To that I answer a plain ‘yes’! Why should information gathering stop at the border? I can only applaud international collaboration. In the future, students don’t need to pursue teachers anymore, they only have to pursue institutions where adequate information is provided. Again in this aspect, technology plays the important role of making this all possible.
Do I sense some technological determinism?
You know, things happen because they can happen. Technology is not the only driving force, but it is a very important factor. Think of shops like Bol.com and Amazon. They have fundamentally changed the way products are presented and bought. One out of eight marriages in America are now initialized through the use of dating sites. So, technological determinism? Yes: technology has the power to shift existing patterns, but no: if we really reject the technologies, they will not persist, and if we really don’t want to have them, they will perish. But yes, things do change, and things do change because of technology.