Personal Learning: The Next New Thing?

The e-book industry is maturing fast.  Amazon’s success with Kindle and Apple’s recent forays into iBooks suggest the industry is shifting to a new phase.  No longer are online publishers content to provide self-publishing tools and sell through their online stores.  They are preparing to overturn the backbreaking textbook business with lighter, compact e-books and provide solutions for educators.

Apple’s iBooks will redefine the way that learning and education are done. Self-education will be the easier part.  Reorganizing schools and retraining teachers will be the big challenge since e-books will extend learning beyond the school walls where 90% of the learning occurs anyway.  To fill this void, lots of new e-learning ventures and services coming!

I believe e-books are the first step the coming revolution in Personal learning (PL) — the “Next New Thing”. Like PCs, tablets are triggering a boom in mobile apps for learning, training and educational methodologies, systems and services.  Khan Academy has already proven that there is a huge pent-up demand for basic education online.  MIT recently expanded its Open University program.  Other universities, schools and training centers will follow suit to capture market share in this emerging business. In Silicon Valley, Neery Khosla’s efforts remind me of the Home Brew Club, which nurtured PCs.

With hardware prices declining due to China, tablets will be dirt cheap or even given away like low-end phones, with personalized libraries of education and learning apps and e-books sitting on tablets and the cloud.  Tablets could save schools lots of money and kids backaches from heavy textbooks, especially if low-cost tablets are linked by WiFi to “teacher servers.”

What will we do with all this cheap hardware?  What will this new world of Personal Learning look like?

– Experts and teachers will be able to offer personalized lessons to groups of students, whose performances are tracked in real time.  Skype is already being used by music teachers to offer online classes, which will expand into all fields. Tutoring will become a multi-billion-dollar industry.

– Students will develop personal learning profiles, like art students do today, which will reside on tablets and the cloud.  They will be able to identify career paths based on their interests and skills, study online, and find projects or work online.  New online learning exchanges will appear, replacing or supplementing traditional universities.

– Companies already outsource training, which will boom during the next decade as the speed of innovation and new knowledge outstrip the ability of companies to keep up.  Real-time training, testing and reviews will become more common, especially high-risk fields like finance, civil engineering, and healthcare.

– New online schools will emerge from online forums and clubs, as members try to find ways to monetize their social networks with valuable training services.

– Instant e-books with audio, video and animation will proliferate due to the availability of online authoring tools.

– Many people will defer going to college, instead learning online and through face-to-face workshops, in order to pick up practical work skills.  Knowing how to manage people, data, money, premium content, property and other critical assets will become increasingly important.

These are just some of the “obvious” trends that are likely to emerge.  It would take much more research and brainstorming to fathom the breadth and depth of the emerging Personal Learning industry, so I invite you to add your comments.

Apple introduced a new version of its iBooks app aimed at interactive textbook offerings as well as software for building the textbooks during an event in New York City on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

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