Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Formal Education Online

Call to Action: Go with the flow. (The flow can take us to a revolution and/or a conversation, it's your choice.)

I am a student. I am enrolled for 9 units in the Professional Teaching Certification at the UP Online University. Technically, that is 9 hours of studying per week, one work-day excluding time for homework and other requirements. I am also an educator. I "teach" first year IT students; 2 classes of 3 sections each, 40 students per section.

It is in this context that I post this essay as a baseline on what I think I know about online education. Let me organize my thoughts and outline this essay as follows:
1. Characteristics of online learning today
2. Developments in education
3. Opportunities for change

1. Characteristics of online learning today

Content is no longer king.
Knowledge resources are readily available to anyone for free. Defensive innovations that refuse to embrace The Commons do not realize that they already have lost the war in the clouds.

Connection is king. Curation is queen.
So what now is of prime importance in the Relationship Era and the Age of Conversation? Connection. Connectivism tells us that knowledge lies in the conceptual and physical connections. The connection can be between real entities (an entrepreneur connected with suppliers and customers), ideas (technology and education), or knowledge objects (The Internet, the book you are writing and your best friend's half-sister's colleague's neighbor's expertise in design). Amidst all these points of knowledge and the flood of information that all learners need to deal with, an essential service we desperately need is CURATION. We need experts to tell us which among these things are important to us in different situations and contexts.

Time is not of the essence
Asynchronous learning now provides learners the freedom to schedule their own learning periods. Learning objectives provide the direction and learning tools & resources provide the venues for the actual learning process.

Synthesis rather than Synergy
Learning remains to be more effective and more relevant in a social context. Individual acquisition of knowledge is almost useless in comparison with the breadth and depth of the collective & collaborative process of group learning. The last couple of decades' focus on Synergy has brought us overproductivity, surplus and waste. What we need now is synthesis of the essential components towards sustainability. We don't need more and better. We need just right and good enough.

2. Developments in education

Use of technology has always been frowned upon by educators. From ballpens and calculators, to Wikipedia, Facebook and mobile phones. They/We have tried to resist using these tools in schools. Why??

Education everywhere
Some educators believe that there is no ADD, just an organic need to actively participate in the learning process. Classroom lectures is simply un-engaging to today's learners. We need downloadable knowledge when we need it ala Matrix. To a certain extent, this is now possible. And, that is why hybrid or blended learning easily captures the imagination of both educators and learners alike.

No more teachers
The evolution of the teaching profession is on the brink of getting to the next level. Educators are no longer instructors. We are coaches, facilitators and co-learners. We enhance the learning process by providing affective guidance, critical expertise and experiential context. But, simple person-to-person knowledge transfer is now becoming an archeological artifact.

Accelerated learning
Notwithstanding asynchronous learning, synchronous as well as face-to-face interactions still provide the great advantage of immediate and satisfying feedback from all particants leading to a more active learning environment.

Technology offers a range of collaboration tools that help learning. From the imaginative & effective to the simple and efficient. Brian Solis' conversation prism is a good working list of services available to us.

3. Opportunities for further learning

Open up
Before Google, they used to tell us about the "invisible college" where academics and researchers shared knowledge to solve the world's problems. Now that it's more possible than ever, it is strange that it is the academic publishers and institutions that remain closed. Why is the academe always the last to adapt the advancements that it spawns?

Before Facebook, my family would hardly know my officemates and my classmates would never meet my neighbors. Now, we are all in this crazy funky mix of people where apparently an obscure neighbor is the best friend of a good friend from gradschool and a friend of a friend of a friend is potentially my next boss or supplier or client or MMO guild member or love of my life. Initatives like BranchOut has a lot of potential in this sense.

Mob rule
Crowd sourcing is the in thing, but team sourcing is where the learning happens. Focused individuals with common values, interests and complementary skills and resources are bringing us open innovations. Kiva and Kickstarter are showing us the power of the mob, but communities like and MOOCs are showing us the reality of groupthink.

It is an exciting time for nerds and geeks and intellectuals for they/we are now part of a revolution, but it is also a great time to be the common person and find that you don't even need to study to learn. You just need to be part of the conversation. In whatever course you take, revolution or conversation, you will need to connect.

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