Recent trends in virtual learning spaces are clear: learners and educators are, at increasing rates, moving away from traditional virtual learning environments (VLEs) towards a “parallel VLE” (Thomsen, et al., 2016) consisting mainly of conversational interfaces such as WhatsApp, Slack and Facebook Groups. The idea of “hacking” the VLE to create “authentic learning experiences rather than a Byzantine collection of folders” (Rorabaugh, 2012) is not new, but the scale is unprecedented.
Until now, the migration to the conversation-focused “parallel VLE” has been mainly non-institutional. However, with increasing acknowledgment of the idea that traditional VLEs have been “highly successful in enabling the administration of learning but less so in enabling learning itself” (Brown, et al., 2015) the adoption of conversational interfaces as VLE-alternatives is now being institutionalised.
The idea of conversational interfaces is not new, but the increased richness of deeply integrated API ecosystems in platforms such as Slack, Layer, WeChat and Facebook Messenger cements the viability of so-called “hybrid interfaces” (conversational interfaces where each message is an atomic application) in replacing any complicated graphical user interface (GUI) such as a VLE (Štolfa, 2016).
Evidence from BI Oslo (3,500 learners migrated to Slack), many FE Colleges in the UK such as Warwickshire College Group (all learners migrated to Google Classroom), and from 200+ pilot classes on Aula provide clear indication that the innate affordances of API-powered conversational interfaces provide “frictionless adoption paths” to move away from “Byzantine collections of folders” towards an institution-wide technology-enhanced approach to teaching.
In addition, conversational interfaces provide viable “just-in-time” opportunities for facilitating the interaction between humans and robots (“chatbots”) to further reduce technology-enhanced teaching adoption friction and increase learner engagement. For example, making student surveys conversational could close the feedback loop between learners and educators. At the administrative level, another example is Georgia State University’s pre-admission chatbot which led to a 3.9 % increase in enrolment for the treatment group (n=3,114) (AdmitHub & Burke, 2017).
By participating in the session, participants will get an overview of how current developments in conversational interfaces challenge the assumptions around the need for an administrative VLE as well as an understanding of the practical implications of recent large scale pilots of conversational interfaces with respect to enabling the move beyond “islands of innovation”.
AdmitHub & Burke, S., 2017. Case Study: How Georgia State University supports every student with personalized text messaging. [Online]
Available at: http://blog.admithub.com/case-study-how-admithub-is-freezing-summer-melt-at-georgia-state-university
Štolfa, T., 2016. The Layer (Medium.com). [Online]
Available at: https://medium.com/the-layer/the-future-of-conversational-ui-belongs-to-hybrid-interfaces-8a228de0bdb5
Brown, M., Dehoney, J. & Millichap, N., 2015. The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment. ELI Paper.
Rorabaugh, P., 2012. HACK THE LMS: GETTING PROGRESSIVE. [Online]
Available at: http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/hack-the-lms-getting-progressive/
Thomsen, D. L., Sørensen, M. T. & Ryberg, T., 2016. Where have all the students gone? They are all on Facebook Now. Lancaster, Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning 2016.
White, D., 2017. Digital leadership framework. [Online]
Available at: http://daveowhite.com/digital-leadership/