• Mega Menu
  • NEWS

E-interview with Dr. Larry Johnson

Dr. Johnson is an expert on emerging technology and its impacts on society and education, and has written five books, seven chapters, and published more than 50 papers and research reports on the topic. He speaks regularly on the topics of creativity, innovation, and technology trends, and has delivered more than 125 keynote addresses to distinguished groups and organizations all over the world. Johnson currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of the New Media Consortium, an international not-for-profit consortium dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies, and Director of the Edward and Betty Marcus Institute for Digital Education in the Arts (MIDEA). Having served as president and senior executive at institutions in both the higher education and not-for-profit realms, he has nearly 30 years of experience in the global education arena, and has served in campus roles from professor to dean, CIO and provost, and president.

What is the future potential you see for extending, upgrading and transforming higher education through development of online learning and other means?

I see this as a critical growth path, especially in the developing world, as it is the quickest way to scale both adult learning and teacher training. We now know a lot about online learning, and the potential is well established. If it is to truly transform higher ed, however, it cannot simply be lectures on video -- it must be personalized, content rich, and interactive.

What are the most important issues to be addressed and initiatives needed to upgrade and transform higher education globally?

Globally, the most pressing issue is access to the Internet. We must address the digital divide via policy and government initiative, as it will not be solved by industry. The challenge parallels the era of electrification -- there are simply areas business will not see as viable if this is left solely to the market place.

How can systems of accreditation be effectively extended to support open online education at the national and global level?

This is mostly a matter of political will. There is nothing inherently different between the large lecture class and online education, yet no one questions the efficacy of the large lecture. There is a great body of research that has established that online learning is not inherently inferior -- in fact, it is more flexible for most people, and affords critical support to learners who need more time, or want to review prior learning. We must not let accreditation be confused with quality, as most system of accreditation focus on inputs, rather than the outputs that are true indicators of quality.

The internet has facilitated greater accessibility and democratization of education. But how can quality of online courses be ensured, maintained or even improved at the same time?

I would frame the question the same way and ask about how the quality of classroom learning can be ensured, maintained or even improved at the same time. There is typically nothing in accreditation that looks at learning outcomes in any way. Because online learning establishes a clear trail of effort and activity for every student, it has genuine advantages over face-to-face when it comes to documenting learning outcomes. In fact, the reality is that in today's world, every class, whether fully online or not, should be making extensive use of the internet, as a source of content, as a way to collaborate, and as a way to extend learning beyond the classroom.

How best can advances in internet communications be utilized to reduce the gap in access to knowledge between economically advanced and developing countries? i.e. what can developing countries do? What type of system and actions will be most effective? What are the radical changes needed in educational delivery systems?

The key here is expanding access, via municipal wireless networks or even cellular (3G) networks, subsidized smart phones and tablets for the economically disadvantaged. There are many ways for developing countries to address the access issue, and great models -- Project Ceibal in Uruguay, for example.

If you were asked to design a world-class system of higher education available to people everywhere, what key elements would you include and how might it differ from the MOOCs that are rapidly developing today?

I would ensure that the system allows for personalization, student choice, curricular flexibility, multiple modes of delivery, and a strong emphasis on applied mathematics, science, and communication.

Article Type: