Putting heart and intelligence into e-learning

Christina Gómez
13/12/16
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Madrid, Spain

E-learning has been a world changing industry because it has been able to mold to certain people’s needs and allow them to get an education in conditions that they otherwise couldn’t have. However, in a simple analogy, e-learning is like coffee; not everybody likes coffee the same way. Some like cappuccino, others like espresso, and others like it black, with or without sugar. The same thing happens with learning. Each person learns differently, understands differently, and even reads differently. E-learning delivers one way of teaching. IADLearning is a company that recently partnered with Blackboard and aims to give each person a personalized e-learning strategy for maximized learning.

José Omedes and his team at IADLearning, who have been working in the e-learning sector for some time, received three common complaints from their clients:

1. It was difficult for them to transfer their existing content into informative content on the e-learning platform.

2. Students were unmotivated because the content was the same for all students, without understanding what specific information was needed.

3. The teachers had very little knowledge about what was happening in their courses, so they didn’t really know if the course was working or not.

IADLearning decided to take on all these complaints and create a software that would solve them, and in turn change e-learning for good using Moodlerooms and Blackboard Learn as the LMS for their software to run on.

Converting content into e-learning

The IADLearning software is capable of taking any content the teacher has: Word files, PDF, or Powerpoint presentations and digitizing them to fit the platform. But that isn’t all. The software takes the information, analyzes it, and makes a conceptual map with the most important and relevant information. This way, the student can navigate the documents knowing exactly what is in each of them, and can revise concepts without getting lost. If the student wishes to dive deeper into certain content, the software also makes a second conceptual map of things that might be linked together in other parts of the text. If a certain topic is touched upon in the beginning, but is later expanded later on, and also has a deeper explanation in a different part of the text, the software allows the student to navigate the concept without having to scan through the whole text himself.

Additionally, with the analytics that the software gives teachers, they will know how students are navigating the content and will know if they need to provide additional information. If students show a pattern where they seem to learn better through video or audio rather than text, the teacher can modify the content to fit the class in the best way. 

Fitting the content to the student’s needs

José Omedes, Co-founder & Research and Development Director at IADLearning. Photo: AFP Curto de la Torre.
José Omedes, Co-founder & Research and Development Director at IADLearning. Photo: AFP Curto de la Torre.

As mentioned before, not everybody learns the same way. Some people retain information when they hear it, others by reading it. Some people read in much detail, stopping for little details and examining the information. Others like to skim through the text and grab the biggest ideas, and work from there. It is impossible that one teaching method helps all students and teaches all students the same. In the classroom, and depending on the teacher, they could help each student individually, but e-learning can’t do that.

IADLearning first starts off with the student’s basic information: age, sex, grade history, level of education, etc. Then, they do an examination to see how well the student understands the topic they will be studying in the class. As the student begins the class, the software analyzes how long the student takes reading each page, what the navigation pattern through the text is, and how long he or she takes to grasp a concept. Based on that, the software will start giving the student recommendations of what he needs and how he should be studying in order to maximize his learning.

José Omedes is clear on the fact that they want to be as least invasive as possible, because he explains that there are other software that examines student behaviors through cameras. They don’t want to do that, but they do want to be able to fit to the student’s needs. By doing this, they can ensure that more students want to study via e-learning, lowering the dropout rate, and that the students understand the content much better.

Feeding teachers with adequate analytics

When in a classroom, teachers can see certain patterns and correct them. But through e-learning, their view is obstructed. Good analytics are the best way to give a teacher feedback on the way they are teaching, how the students are understanding the materials, and if the class is serving its purpose.

Here, is where José says, that the human element is critical. The software shows the teacher certain patterns, if there is a certain content that is not being understood well, or if on the contrary, they easily understand certain content, and if the teacher should probably look for more content that is similar.

José explains that teaching is about putting your heart into what you are teaching, weather it’s inside a classroom or through a computer screen. If a teacher doesn’t put in his heart and intelligence into his teaching in order to make their class as good as possible, then it’s never going to work. But he also explains that for teachers who do use these analytics intelligently, there can be no better tool to achieve excellence amongst the students.

IADLearning and the partnership with Blackboard

Since they started working on the development of this software two years ago, José knew that they needed to partner with a big name in the e-learning industry. Obviously, the name Blackboard came to mind. They approached Blackboard and realized that the benefits they would both gain would be enormous.

Thanks to the Business Development Partnership model, they both get the best deal. Blackboard, being in a league of their own and having presence all around the world, allowed IADLearning to have access to their list of educational institutions that Blackboard provide to, in order for them to offer their services.

The software shows the teacher certain patterns, if there is a certain content that is not being understood well, or if on the contrary, they easily understand certain content, and if the teacher should probably look for more content that is similar.

In turn, Blackboard receives a high quality product and a solution that many institutions are looking for. It’s not easy to plan an e-learning class. It’s not easy for a teacher to make the transition because not everybody knows how to digitize the content so that it works for e-learning, and even though students today are good on the computer, it doesn’t automatically mean that they are fit to learn through e-learning. IADLearning makes the transition much easier, and helps Blackboard out in this stage.

The e-learning community and all institutions that use either Moodlerooms or Blackboard Learn will soon have access to the IAD software, making the transition to e-learning easier and more satisfactory, which will also allow for more institutions wanting to explore e-learning and be successful at it. Technology is something that still scares lots of people; a lot of teachers and many students may feel insecure using it. IADLearning makes sure that that fear isn’t felt and that each person, weather it is the student or the teacher, get exactly what they need individually.

Another important aspect of this partnership is the Latin American exposure. Being a Spanish company, it’s hard for them to get out of their own country. However, having very similar cultures and the same language, the transition to Latin America isn’t difficult in terms of transition, but it is fundamental in the fact that the e-learning industry in Latin America is huge and one of the most important places where Blackboard is located. José understands the importance of having a presence of their company in Latin America. They hope to have 10 very big and important institutions using their software by the beginning of next year.

José is sure that e-learning will continue to take over and  grow, and will continue to change people’s lives, who without today’s technology would probably have no chance in getting a degree. However, he does make the point that e-learning can’t continue to be separate and be standardized. It needs to fit everybody’s individual needs, and this is the only way for e-learning to have a real future and growth. Teaching and learning has been more or less the same for hundreds of years: a teacher who knows it all and speaks for hours on end and the students who have to listen and are expected to memorize. e-learning has changed that dynamic, but it also has to change and evolve to modern needs. This, José says, is exactly what they offer: a new perspective.

 

* José Omedes, Co-founder & Research and Development Director at IADLearning.

Photography:

* AFP Curto de la Torre.

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