Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why We Need Learning Engineers”

Here’s an interesting post from the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why We Need Learning Engineers.” In terms of a reality check for all of the hype that sometimes surrounds edtech, the Chronicle post is fairly spot on in describing the gap between theory and practice:

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“Almost no one who is involved in creating learning materials or large-scale educational experiences relies on the evidence from learning science. We are missing a job category: Where are our talented, creative, user-­centric ‘learning engineers’ — professionals who understand the research about learning, test it, and apply it to help more students learn more effectively?”

It sounds almost too simple, but methodical application of evidence-based research of learning and teaching models is crucial to delivering on the potential of what edtech can enable teachers, educators, and students to do. All of this probably sounds a bit too abstract, but we need only look at the sad, frustrating example of Los Angeles Unified School District’s failed iPad experiment (see Wired: “What Schools Must Learn from LA’s iPad Debacle“) to see why we need to take more of the guesswork out of edtech policy decisions.

And as the Chronicle post mentions, it comes down to asking the right kinds of questions in order to bridge that gap between research, evidence, and delivering positive learning outcomes:

“We also need decision makers in higher education — especially those who buy learning materials and educational-technology offerings — to ask harder questions. For example: What learning science underpins this offering? Is there learning science behind a particular professional-development activity as well? Do you have valid and reliable data showing that a new product works better than what we’re using? Will you conduct a pilot program to demonstrate that it works better? How are you using data to improve the learner and staff experience?”