Reading, writing and…ripping?

Executives are getting schooled in new technologies that make continuing education easy, convenient and affordable

It’s back to school time, and many executives are deciding how to continue their education while balancing work and family. New technologies can make education accessible and flexible enough to accommodate work schedules. This kind of flexibility is essential in today’s workplace, since professionals who use digital solutions at work also expect digital solutions for learning. There are some amazing new learning options for the tech savvy and for those who aspire to graduate from old school to new school:
According to Pew Research, more than 22 million adults own iPods or MP3 players. These devices have the capability to do more than just music listening. The term “podcasting” emerged in 2004 as people combined the words “iPod” and “broadcasting.” Podcasting combines the portability of an iPod with the mass reach of broadcasting. Podcast listeners download audio files from the Web onto a computer and transfer the files to a digital MP3 or iPod player and listen to files at their leisure. Colleges and universities are exploring how to provide complete courses in a downloadable format for students to access whenever they want. The military is working with higher education providers to deliver degrees via podcasting for troops who are commissioned for extended periods of time. ABC News, Disney Online, and the Wall Street Journal have put together a lineup of free audio podcast content that is available via podcast directories on the web. Students receive an e-mail alert when new content is available and automatically download that content from the Web to their iPod for use at their convenience.

According to CNET, more than 170 million Americans own cell phones. By 2007, 70 percent of cell phones will have built-in digital television receivers. By then, your cell phone will have enough memory and processing power to make it possible to have a TiVo-like video recorder that fits in your pocket. Your cell phone will become a video viewer for mobile episodes or short video clips – mobisodes – that are reduced in size and scope to work best on cell phones. Smart phones like Treo and Blackberry will be used for more than e-mail and phone calls. Imagine downloading a video of an international expert speaking about the future of your industry and watching it on your cell phone. Your free time could be used to watch a video segment to improve your management techniques or learn new a new production technique. This technology is great for the constant traveler.

Handheld game players are another vehicle for learning. Technology is available for you to download lecture notes and streaming video to your handheld viewer or game player. Like video games where you can add information and actually change the how the game ends, interactive media enable you to interact with the information provided. You can select definitions, listen to the instructor discuss related topics, test your retention of knowledge and have your test results sent to your instructor.
One of the fastest growing technologies is e-books. Publishers Weekly reports that electronic books were the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry in 2004, with 31 percent growth over 2003 that represents $9.6 million in revenue. E-books are an electronic copy or version of a printed text. Advances in text displays on handheld devices and smart phones make the text look so crisp that it resembles printed paper. The University of Phoenix gives students the option of using e-books with 100 percent of their courses. E-books are easily downloaded from the web and can be viewed on handheld devices such as personal data assistants (PDAs).

Now, you can access education anywhere at anytime. The challenge is deciding which method fits your style of learning and the technology that you use on a regular basis. Using your cell phone, PDA or iPod to take a course is definitely new school.

Dr. Lisa Pletcher is the Executive Dean of Workforce Development & Continuing Education at Clark College. Dr. Pletcher actively works with the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, and the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and numerous businesses to be responsive to their needs.

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