Shakespeare has never looked this good.

Take a video tour of one of the Providence eLearning titles:

Macbeth, Shakespeare’s darkest and most often performed play, comes
to life in this video enhanced edition from Providence eLearning. Professor
William Lasseter provides a unique audio narration of the work along with
scene by scene analysis in the form of over 30 video lectures. This highly
complex and layered text is transformed as Lasseter guides you through
Macbeth’s descent into murder, regicide and darkness."

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Tech Desk

From the Tech Desk

eLearning Movement Gets Its Next Big Player

Over the past five years or so, modern education has been building towards a cusp of revolution and innovation. Just as book publishing and music distribution have both shifted from physical product to digital proliferation, teachers, professors, and students across the globe have been relying more and more on the endless possibilities of smart devices and the Internet. This “eLearning” revolution has manifested itself in several different fashions, from college professors posting supplemental content on course-specific websites to outfits like Khan Academy, making video-based lessons on a wide variety of subjects available to their visitors, free of charge. 

Existing somewhere within this eLearning surge is the “flipped classroom” movement, a blended learning ideal that stresses multimedia interaction and outside-of-class mastery of material. Teachers record lectures, instructing their classes to view them as homework and thus freeing up time inside the classroom for stimulating discussion, student-teacher interaction, and concept building. 

That all sounds well and good, doesn’t it? Less time slogging through endless lectures and more time honing in on the concepts, questions, and implications that truly engage us. What student would say no? But one of the biggest shortcomings of the flipped classroom model, as has become rapidly apparent, is how it should address English classes and the age-old fixture of the semester reading list. Too often, students shrug off the classic literature titles, from Shakespeare to Jane Austen, in the same way that they zone out during lengthy, pre-lunch lectures. Is there any way that the flipped classroom stalwarts can rebuild and re-engage student perception of reading, writing, and literature in the same way they have with science, math, and history? 

For Providence eLearning, a new company with innovative and exciting ideas on the table, the answer is yes. Founded a year and a half ago and built specifically with the intent of creating online courses for a single independent school in Minneapolis, Providence eLearning quickly evolved beyond their fairly modest roots. Six months into their timeline, Providence struck gold with their first “iBook,” blending the concepts of online coursework and digital publication, and creating interactive, educationally-viable Literature courses embedded within the literature itself. 

The concept is simple: take public domain titles frequently featured on syllabi for English Lit courses—Providence eLearning’s current library boasts classics like Macbeth, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Frankenstein, and Beowulf—and augment them with audio narration, lecture videos, explanations, and on-the-fly quizzes. And while Cole Mathisen, Providence’s eLearning coordinator, acknowledged that some students will always do just fine with (and prefer) a no-frills print book, he praised the iBook model for its ability to get students engaged and interested in literature they would have previously struggled with. 

“The students we have using iBooks are really enjoying them,” Mathisen explained. “A lot of kids really like the audio narration aspect: they can listen to classic works and it makes them easier to understand. And with iBooks, since we can put quizzes right in there, students can know what they have learned, what they are getting or missing, and can just go back if they missed something.” 

So where is Providence eLearning headed? For Mathisen, expansion is the name of the game, in multiple senses. With new additions to the iBook library already on their way within the month and an eye for building the book selection into something approaching comprehensive (at least within the realm of classic literature), Providence’s eLearning presence will only increase as they go forward. Add the possibility of a history class (as well as the peripheral hope of building Providence into a fully-functional online school), and it seems as if Providence eLearning could play a big role in the development of a modern education revolution.
For now though, it’s all about turning the iBook into a widely-used educational tool. With strong responses from early pilot groups and rave reviews from home-schooling parents, Mathisen is just hopeful that the Providence model can make enough noise to catch the attention of curriculum directors. There’s no way of knowing how long that will take, but Mathisen is happy to be involved regardless. 

“We are on the cusp of a big change in the evolution of learning,” he said. “It’s a very exciting time to be involved in eLearning.” 

Interested in learning more about Providence eLearning or checking out their library of iBook titles? Visit their website here


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