lates better than I the value and potential of this type of
creative redesign.)
Prediction 2: New and More
Sophisticated Academic
Technologies
Not too long ago, the term academic computing or
instructional technologies would have elicited visions of
HyperCard, the popular technology from Apple Computer
that has long been used to develop instructional supple-
ments. CD-ROMs that provide question drills might have
come to mind a close second. In the last five years, with
the growth of the Internet, the breadth and choice of
instructional technologies has gained incredible steam.
Today’s faculty and specialists can choose from virtual
classroom tools, simulation tools, discussion board tools,
collaboration tools, content management and authoring
tools, streaming media tools, assessment tools, and so
on.
Although the number of options has increased, we are
still only at the beginning. For the most part, the tools that
exist are designed to support the generic activities of teach-
ing with technology (i.e., quizzing). Among technologies
missing are tools that support the varied subjects and
teaching styles that comprise the full constellation of in-
The Wired Tower
206
struction that exists (i.e., specialized mathematical nota-
tion tools that allow a faculty member to walk students
through complicated math formulas over the Web). In addi-
tion to being fairly generic, today’s technologies have diffi-
culty supporting the range of novice to sophisticated users,
all within a common interface.
Accentuating the current limitations, many of the tools
sold in the marketplace today are still early in their devel-
opment and have been known to break down just when
they are needed the most. Too often they crash, frustrating
students and faculty alike. Sold independently of one an-
other, they do not integrate together so that a quizzing
product from one company can be “launched” by a virtual
chat tool from another, the way that a user can click on an
attachment in an email and know that the computer will
load the appropriate software application needed to open
the file. Given that the market is still early in its develop-
ment, many of the tool providers are young companies that
from time to time become financially insolvent and close,
leaving users in a bind.
As gloomy as this description of the current state of
the academic technology market reads, my second predic-
tion is that within 10 years the state of affairs will look
very different. A broad range of learning applications will
be available for faculty and institutions to assemble as
their needs require. The technologies will support com-
mon standards for greater interoperability, and they will
Chapter 8 Five Great Promises of E-Learning
207
improve through the same cycle of maturity and usability
that Windows did, moving from Windows 1.0 to Windows
XP, including plenty of ups and downs along the way. Al-
ready, course management systems are beginning to serve
much the same role as an operating system does on a
personal computer. The core system for creating and man-
aging online course environments, institutions are inte-
grating third-party tools into course management systems
so that faculty and students experience all of the learning
applications they need in one user interface. Services,
such as security, tracking, and session management, are
provided by the course management system to third-party
tools as seamlessly as to the tools that are native to the
system. For example, a course management system may
come with a discussion board technology as part of the
core system. As the choices of various tools increase, a
faculty member might wish to switch out the bundled dis-
cussion board with one that fits a specific need, knowing
that the third-party tool will run as seamlessly within the
environment as the original discussion board.
As e-learning adoption grows, the demand by academic
institutions for technologies will expand, enabling a viable
business climate for companies to grow profitably and in-
vest in future technologies. Much as in the desktop comput-
ing world, a few large companies will provide a broad array
of technologies, and boutique companies that specialize in
a specific product area will meet niche needs in the disci-
The Wired Tower
208

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