It’s common knowledge that online educators have historically struggled to deliver the kind of three-dimensional interaction that is achieved naturally in a classroom. Certainly, there are curricula that don’t benefit from an interactive instructional environment; you can learn Chinese characters just as quickly with electronic flash cards as in a study group. But for online business schools many other disciplines, interaction is key.
Soon, they might have it. Already, cloud computing has revolutionized the portability and accessibility of personal data. Now, Windows 8 about to land as a fundamental paradigm shift in Windows computing, with substantially improved cross-platform interoperability. These emerging dynamics will have the net effect of making all our devices more powerful – and the time we spend plugged in more efficient.
At the same time, the “going social” trend has ceased to be a trend and has become a way of life, creating two new, powerful dynamics for the online learner. First, when a student begins an online curriculum she has the ability to leverage the brain trust of her existing social network for support and mentoring. Second, as online schools for business themselves become more social, she has the ability to connect with other students and alumni online and in the real world.
Anybody who’s watched the way in which multi-level marketing companies have leveraged social networking knows how effective it can be to promote within an individual’s captive social network. This is true even when the product being promoted is snake oil. While every business school can talk and teach this dynamic, students at an online business school actually live a version of that dynamic in the way their curriculum is delivered, in the way they interact with their professors, and in the way they connect with other students.
As technology allowing us to take our school and library with us, and as social networking allows us to connect with like-minded people and port those relationships into the real world, the potential for interaction among online students will skyrocket. Consequently, I predict that in the future, the large career college organizations to begin to invite the social network into their online classrooms and to embed themselves within social networking platforms.