Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Cengage and their MindTap Personal Learning Environment

Personal Learning Environments gain credibility as Cengage launch MindTap.

Cengage has taken a first step in development of an entirely new approach to delivering educational content with the launch of MindTap which they say goes "well beyond an eBook, a homework solution or digital supplement, a resource center website, a course delivery platform or a Learning Management System."

On this platform, students and faculty can interact with textbook eContent, select materials they find useful, access and use applications developed by them, the publisher or third parties and engage others in the process of learning. Specifically, the platform:
  • Engages students through highly interactive content including assignable and gradable learning activities
  • Offers instructors choice in content, adaptable learning paths, additive learning tools, and multi-platform/device support
  • Mashes up and orchestrates rich content, learning activities, and apps delivered in one cohesive context to drive higher levels of engagement and outcomes
All education publishers have or are developing electronic content and are delivering that content in multiple ways. Additionally, publishers are attempting to integrate their content to make the compilation of products as flexible as possible for both educators and students. What might be unique to the MindTap platform is the (radical) idea that external (to the publisher) developers could build applications that use the content in different ways. Publishers with more advanced experience in electronic publishing particularly in professional publishing have provided APIs to third party developers in numerous examples but this may be the first example in educational publishing where a large established company has taken this step. Readers here will recall that Elsevier recently launched SciVerse which allows for the same type of collaboration from their user community as the MindTap product presumably intends to do.

Interestingly, and whether intended or not, the company seems purposeful in drawing a distinction between their platform which they say is 'agnostic' and LMS platforms such as Blackboard. Whether this is a skirmish or prelude to war is hard to tell; however, in a recent profile of Blackboard and their development plans publishers may have some concern that Blackboard is looking to play on a much larger playing field.
MindApps create learning paths that integrate content and learning activity applications that map directly to an instructor's syllabus or curriculum. Unlike other products which are affiliated with a single Learning Management System (LMS), MindTap is LMS agnostic and designed to work with any supported LMS the instructor chooses to use. Students can navigate through a customized dashboard of readings, assignments, and other course information. This powerful combination of personalized content and on-the-go access encourages interactivity, increases student engagement and improves learning outcomes.
Quoted in the press release, William Rieders, executive vice president of New Media for Cengage Learning states:
"Many eBook and other technology platforms currently exist, but none of them have addressed the main needs of students and professors holistically. Digital platforms, until now, have simply recreated the experience of the print textbook in a digital format, leaving students dissatisfied and instructors limited in their ability to teach. MindTap takes classroom engagement to an entirely new level. It is an optimal blend of sound pedagogy, authoritative content and advanced technology."
What will be interesting is how the other publishers react - as I am confident they have their own platforms in development - and how the product will be accepted in the schools and by students. To date, students have been lukewarm about content delivered electronically.

No comments: