The Fourth Industrial Revolution Meets the Fourth E-Learning Revolution by Dr Curtis Bonk

Dr Curtis Bonk

Indiana University, USA

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Meets the Fourth E-Learning Revolution

Over the past few centuries, humankind has entered and exited a series of industrial ages from the age of steam and water power to the immense benefits of electricity and efficient assembly line workers to the tremendous life enhancements from computers and pervasive automation. Now we are on the cusp of the fourth industrial age related to cyber physical systems with extensive physical, biological, digital, and educational implications. It is in this age that we now are witnessing hyper-accelerating advancements in robotics, mobile supercomputing, artificial intelligence, drone technology, autonomous vehicles, and much more. Similarly, in education, after just two decades of Web-based learning, we have entered the fourth phase or wave of e-learning. Interesting, each of the four waves of e-learning have come exactly seven years apart. First was the establishment of Web browsers and learning portals, brought about by Web search companies like Netscape which was founded on April 4, 1994. Seven years to the day later, MIT announced the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement on April 4, 2001 and the age of open education was spawned. Another seven year span resulted in the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) in 2008. Now we enter the fourth phase of e-learning involving the personalization of e-learning. This is the age where mentors, tutors, experts, colleagues, and instructors can appear instantaneously on a mobile device. As with the fourth wave of the industrial revolution, there is immense change around the world today related to new forms of learning typically involving technology in the fourth phase of e-learning. In fact, there are three megatrends related to learning technology today: (1) technologies for engagement; (2) technologies for pervasive access; and (3) technologies for the personalization and customization of learning. To better understand these new forms of learning delivery, Professor Bonk will discuss these three megatrends as well as his recent research on the personalization of e-learning. Along the way, insights will be offered into where the fourth industrial revolution bumps into and fuels the fourth e-learning revolution.


As technology and expectations for online learning change, online educators look for new ways to meet students’ desire for a more interactive, engaging learning experience. Dr. Curtis Bonk is a well-known authority on the intersection of learning and technology, who writes a popular blog under the moniker of the TravelinEdMan. In his talks and travels, he shares some of the latest pedagogical innovations of today, while also gazing into the future of education. Currently a professor at Indiana University Bloomington, Bonk specializes in psychology and technology. A former accountant and corporate controller, Bonk’s innovative approach to technology-enhanced education is informed by his diverse background. After receiving his PhD in educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin, he used his business acumen to found SurveyShare and serves as the president of CourseShare. Self-described as part global educator, part writer/speaker, part creative pedagogist, part maverick, part educational technologist, and part entrepreneur; Bonk has been honored with a number of awards, including the Most Outstanding Achievement Award from the USDLA, Mildred B. and Charles A. Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education, and the CyberStar Award from the Indiana Information Technology Association. He has been listed by Education Next and Education Week as a top contributor to the public debate about education from 2012 through 2017. Bonk is also a prolific speaker and author, having given over 1,500 talks around the world and written more than 300 publications. One of his newest works, Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online, can be downloaded for free.

During his presentations, Bonk discusses his new instructional design models and frameworks for online learning, including his R2D2 (Read-Reflect-Display-Do) model and TEC-VARIETY as well blended learning models from institutions and organizations around the planet appearing in his groundbreaking Handbook of Blended Learning. He also offers visions of this new-age education—Education 3.0—where learning is more informal, resource rich and self-directed, and where learner-as-product creator is the new norm. Dr. Bonk’s widely acclaimed book, The World is Open, as well as his latest book, MOOCs and Open Education Around the World, provide glimpses of how this more free and open learning can reach those in every educational sector and learning need.