The world according to Curtis Bonk

Big Picture

In his new book “The World Is Open,” author Curtis Bonk makes bold predictions about a more personalized age of learning. Below are a few highlights.

The Emergence of Lifelong Super E-Mentors and E-Coaches

Everyone will need and likely have an electronic coach or e-mentor. By 2020, there will be access to learning gurus who understand the innumerable learning pathways available on the Web. These super e-mentors and e-coaches will be knowledgeable in counseling as well as human developmental psychology, providing timely advice about one’s learning journeys and future paths. At first, such super e-mentors will spring up in high schools and higher education institutions. But as time goes by, many of them will serve a societal function, not simply an institutional or programmatic role. And they will be available lifelong.

Quarter-Century Learning Clubs

The average years of formalized education will continue to lengthen. At some point in the next two or three decades, the standard twelve-year educational obligation will double. As we live longer and have more information requirements to absorb and ultimately master in order to be a specialist or a generalist, we will need to devote more time to learning. Two or three generations from now, ending college at age twenty-eight or thirty will no longer be a luxury for a small percentage of the population; it will be expected of nearly every contributing member of the planet.

Terabyte Learning Access Points

Within two or three years, most of us will have access to encyclopedias of knowledge on our wristwatches and mobile phones. Terabytes of information and knowledge off-loaded to a nearby mobile device will free up mental capacity for creative thoughts and collaborations. It also allows learners to participate, if only casually, in an activity on a particular topic or engage in a conversation as needed.

The Veneration of Learning

During these societal shifts, learning will become more important than stock market reports, the weather, sports, or the daily news. Reports on new resources or innovative tools from which to learn will become part of daily life. In the twenty-first century, learning is the essence of being human.

Personalization + Portfolios

Humankind will come to realize that learning customization and personalization is the norm, not the exception. Web 2.0 technologies and learning plans push us toward the creation of personalized learning environments. Fairly soon, such options will be accessible through simple pointing or voice comments and, perhaps one day soon, by mere thinking. Learner excitement will heighten when learning style options can be juxtaposed so that students can simultaneously see, hear, feel, and perhaps even taste the learning. Along the way, any resulting learning will be captured in individual learning portfolios.

The Selection of Global Learning Partners

As present technologies such as ePals, Ning, or Facebook have hinted, within a decade every learner on this planet will have a co-learner or co-learners in another part of the planet. These learning partners will be connected in ways never before imagined. Already learners give presentations or write books and papers with those in other parts of the world. What is different is that as this becomes standard practice, there will be chances to dramatically change how we deliver courses, programs, and education in general.

The Shared Learning Era

The sharing of curricula and educational ideas will be expected of all in education. But will the knowledge-sharing events among rich nations and people, who are among the first with Internet access, be put on a pedestal for others to observe? Will the Bill Gates and the MITs of the world continue to dominate the headlines? Or might the sharing of educational resources lead to new forms of trust and collaboration among the people of this planet? Can free and open education lead to forms of human kindness and empathy never previously witnessed?

Teaching-Learning Perpetuities

When and where we learn and teach will be increasingly undeterminable. Work time will be learn time and vice versa. Credits, if they continue to matter, will be earned and monitored from any location.

Teachers, Teachers

Just as learning and teaching will be more apparent and increasingly ubiquitous, the sheer volume and type of teachers at the ready will skyrocket. Teachers and trainers will be available for anyone at any time. And most of these services will be free.

The Rise of the Super Blends

The mixing or blending of learning contents and technologies will make it difficult to categorize the primary delivery platform. Shared courses, seminars, discussion groups, and degree programs will be made available for students—courses from different schools, institutions, and corporate training institutes will form the blend.

Self-Determined Humans

With help from mentors and coaches where needed, learning events, activities, and degrees will be increasingly chosen by the learner. As online learning resources proliferate, learners will make decisions on the type or amount of learning that is appropriate.

Free Learning Zones

The coming decade will see heightened tension between free education and high-cost education. As people become more familiar with online content and comfortable with online courses and degrees, free learning certificates and degrees will emerge. Mentors, tutors, and teachers providing that content might do so free of charge for some initial activities or limited-interaction events. The free learning providers will offer fee-based services over the top of such degrees; they may also sell advertising space and merchandise.

Authentic Learning Amalgamations

Advances in technologies for simulations, gaming, virtual worlds, and real-time experiences will foster an era of learning authenticity and learning on demand. Individuals will scan previews of the learning options before deciding which format is most relevant to them. When done with an activity or lesson, they can immediately review their learning on small roll-out screens or other portable devices. As learning formats rise, learning will continue to shift from the mastery of instructor-based content to problems to be solved and products to be created.

The Web is laden with opportunities, some that replicate those possible in a traditional physical setting, some that extend well beyond it, and others that offer fully new possibilities. Thoughtful leadership, however, is required to create transformative experiences.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis Bonk. Copyright (c) 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.