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Education 3.0: A Conversation With Dr. Curt Bonk

By October 22, 2015 Q & A No Comments

It’s no secret that education is undergoing a sea change. For those in the higher education space, disruptive technology has become the new norm. Knowing what the future holds will be critical to ensuring institutions remain relevant now, and in the future.

Recently, Indiana University professor of instructional systems technology Dr. Curt Bonk answered our questions about what he calls “Education 3.0,” and what it means for the future of higher education.

What Is Education 3.0?

Traditionally, education has referred to a one-way transfer of information from instructor to student. This model focused on instructors as the primary agents of education; for their part, students were only passive receptors in their own education.

However, the introduction of a more blended approach to the learning process began to change that. For the first time, instructors and students started using open educational resources (OERs) to diversify and enrich the instructional process.

Now, according to Dr. Bonk, “we are experiencing a new type of discussion about what education is.”

With Education 3.0, the learning process has become more personalized. New and evolving educational products like OERs, MOOCs and alternate pathways have expanded opportunities for students and institutions alike. For instance, MIT’s “inverted model” supply chain management master’s degree program allows students to complete half the required coursework through MOOCs, saving them tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.

By taking advantage of projects like MIT’s MOOC initiative and Udacity’s nanodegree programs, students are taking a much more active role in their education by collaborating with their instructors and gaining autonomy over certain tasks such as creating a course syllabus.

Education 3.0 calls into question the traditional pathways students have taken to gain an education. “Students are no longer confined to one place, one path, one way,” Dr. Bonk continues. “You now have choice as to how you go about the learning process.”

Teacher as Curator

“Anyone can learn anything from anyone at any time.”

Dr. Bonk believes that technology has helped elevate us, creating a new type of discussion about what education is. “We are no longer limited by books; we have the resources of the world at our fingertips,” he said. But with that quantity of information comes a need for a guide, or it is easy to get lost.

Enter the instructor as curator. With so many new pathways and options for today’s students, the instructor is no longer simply a course manager or vessel to carry information in one direction. Rather, the instructor has taken on the role of curator or learning ambassador, who finds and collects ideas, connections and resources to share with students, guiding them along the path of their own development. Dr. Bonk notes that this adjustment to how instructors approach the learning process “helps students find their way through the curriculum in a way that’s personally meaningful to them.”

This alternate approach may present a fresh set of challenges for instructors, but also may prevent burnout. By acting as a guide in a student’s education rather than a talking head, instructors have the opportunity to turn the instructional process into a dialogue that is not limited to one method, book or classroom.

Of course, this doesn’t diminish the role of the instructor. “After curation, there’s still work to be done,” Dr. Bonk says. “People still need guidance; the nuances of your expertise and the advice that you lend are also apparent in this age of information abundance.”

Beyond Education 3.0

“We need a more balanced discussion—it isn’t all or nothing.”

If there’s one guarantee, it’s that change will continue to happen in higher education. When thinking about what could follow Education 3.0, Dr. Bonk says “we have to think about the enhancements on the human and technological sides.” The technological development we’ve seen in the past 20 years will only continue to accelerate, bringing with it educational opportunities that have not been seen before.

Technological advancement will likely push current trends toward lifelong learning. “As computers can do more, soft skills will be more important, and as the knowledge that we need to function in society expands, so will the need for training,” Dr. Bonk says. He also predicts that “lifelong learning will be more apparent, in that people will be expecting to go to school well into their 20s and 30s.”

Also important to the future of the educational landscape is the increasing ubiquity of our access to information. We are now able to have media delivered instantaneously and in multiple ways; many of us have computers at our fingertips at all times; and products like Google Glass and the smartwatch are bringing access to information closer to us all the time.

Dr. Bonk advises that with constant and near-total access to information an inevitability, “we will need a reflective component—a way of debriefing or reflecting on the information that has been consumed and come back to base, to reflect with a counselor or mentor.” Thus, the need for instructors will remain high, as students seek a mentor to engage with and help them understand their educational needs.

Dr. Curtis J. Bonk serves as professor of instructional systems technology at Indiana University and President of CourseShare. Drawing on his background as a corporate controller, CPA, educational psychologist, and instructional technologist, he offers unique insights into the intersection of business, education, psychology, and technology.

From 2012 to 2015, Dr. Bonk has been named annually by Education Next and listed in Education Week among the top contributors to the public debate about education from more than 20,000 university-based academics. In 2014, he also was named the recipient of the Mildred B. and Charles A. Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education. A well-known authority on emerging technologies for learning, he reflects on his speaking experiences around the world in his popular blog, TravelinEdMan.

About Todd Zipper

Todd Zipper serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer at Learning House. He joined Learning House as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer during the Weld North Holdings LLC acquisition in 2011. In his role, Todd oversees all operations and provides strategic management. Before joining Learning House, Todd co-founded and served as Chief Operating Officer for Education Connection. Todd can be reached at: