THE BLOG

Push Learning: How Smart Notifications Will Change Education

05/06/2015 03:44 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2016
The web exploded in 1994 signaling the end of information-poverty teaching. Search was the most important learning tool ever invented, it powered the beginning of anywhere, anytime learning.

Fast forward 20 years and push-based web where information comes to us appears on the verge of replacing the search-dominant web we're most familiar with.

Dries Buytaert is the co-founder and CTO of Acquia and the inventor of Drupal. In The Big Reverse Of The Web, Buytaert notes that, "With devices like Apple Watch shipping without a Safari browser, we'll have to rely on highly personal bits of incoming relevant information. And now that companies can collect enough data from our ever-present devices, they have the opportunity to master one-to-one communications."

Buytaert adds, "In order for companies to survive in this new custom-everything world, they need to both co-exist with current aggregators and harness the data they collect within their own user platform to get direct, one-to-one connections to their customers."

"Google Now has taken the idea of live information pushed through cards and delivered it directly to the consumer," notes Buytaert.

Push learning. We've been pushing learning at cohorts through print and lectures for centuries now. For the last two decades, individual inquiry, and project-based was aided by increasingly sophisticated search technologies. But it's required a good deal of manual effort on the part of teachers and students.

Adaptive learning systems were the beginning of turning the corner. Dreambox Learning built an intelligent math learning system. Curriculum Associates introduced i-Ready which powers K-8 reading and math learning (see three case studies). Incorporating diverse content, New Classrooms has an adaptive middle grade math learning system. ALEKS from McGraw Hill and Knewton power adaptive secondary and postsecondary math learning.

New learning platforms, including Fishtree and Realizeit, ingest content from many sources and aid the development of linkages and assessment gateways creating adaptive learning systems quickly and economically.

Just around the corner, comprehensive learner profiles will drive recommendation engines that will queue playlists of learning experiences to help learners progress through competency maps. For younger students, parents will manage profile privacy settings. Older learners will own the student record.

Push learning will grow most rapidly in HigherEd in programs with competency maps and adult learners. Learner relationship management (a term used by Fishtree and Fidelis) systems will 'nudge' learners to engage, study, and participate.

The biggest growth area for push learning will be personal growth--fitness, language acquisition, spiritual development, addiction recovery, recidivism reduction--you name it and soon you'll be receiving notifications from your wristband that you have a learning opportunity.

There is a race on to own your personal learning plan--particularly if you're in a field that requires continuing education. Professional schools have started to recognize the value of powering lifelong learning relationship. Doctors and dentists increasingly get texts about learning opportunities associated with new drugs and trials. Engineers are pinged about continuing education webinars that will add to their stackable credential.

There's more push going on than you may recognize. If you're like me, the majority of email you receive are a function of push notifications (and if you'd spend 10 minutes cleaning up permissions you'd cut it by 70%). Your Facebook stream is a function of preference settings.

Mark it on your calendar, summer 2015 is when the leading edge will shift from search to push notifications as the dominant web interaction. "We're creeping closer and closer to a fully realized Internet where we don't need to search for information; it will come to us," said Buytaert.

Implications. Since education has ran about five years behind, 2020 should be the year that smart engines begin contributing at scale to the learning of what's likely to be three billion connected people on planet earth.

Yes, this does signal a change in the role of teachers, counselors, and those committed to personal growth. Cohort information dumps are a thing of the past. The lecture and textbook are dying fast. But building relationships with learners is becoming more important than ever. For most of us, learning is relational--it's motivated and supported by relationships. Human connections inspire interest, power persistence, and guide progress.

Teachers and guides will soon have much more sophisticated ways to know learners and connect them with powerful learning experiences. Aided by smart engines, push learning will boost motivation, personalize experiences, and chart progress.

Join the push learning revolution, manage your permissions profiles.

For more on anytime, anywhere learning:

Disclosure: Tom Vander Ark is CEO of Getting Smart and a partner at Learn Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in educational technology.