#CCK11 Re-thinking traditional course structure and roles of educators, and education

Is this post on re-thinking traditional course structure- actually going to class challenging enough?

In an era when students can easily grab material online, including lectures by gifted speakers in every field, a learning environment that avoids courses completely—or seriously reshapes them—might produce a very effective new form of college.

Sounds convincing, but here we seem to focus again on lectures by gifted speakers in every field, and might have assumed that these students still like to attend lectures to learn.  Why would students attend such lectures?  What are the assumptions behind these – that students have lost interests in attending lectures in their institutions?

Are there other avenues of learning that might provide an equally effective learning environment?  How about on-the-job learning and training?  In Australia, we have been using such ways of learning and training for the last decade.  There is no need for a formal lecture, a formal classroom, and learning could take place on the job, with authentic learning experiences.  The educator could be the supervisor, the trainer, the teacher, professor, or the mentor, who may be part of the learning team to support the learner.  Instead of lectures, there could be training discussion session, small groups discussion in a work setting, or one-on-one mentoring and assessment session. This, together with online learning support may provide a far better outcome than the traditional course lecture, especially when the target learners are adult learners, working in businesses or organisations.

For young university students, the use of internship, on-the-job placement or simulated learning environment could be used as an augmentation to the formal lectures.  Besides, the use of PLE and Web 2.0 could surely benefit the students by opening more opportunities for them to practice their social networking and learning skills, by actually immersing into the social media, and experiencing the virtual social life, on top of the face-to-face social interaction.

The UnCollege

Some universities have gone even further to challenge the course model. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, administrators run seven-week immersion projects with no lecture component, in which students work in teams on projects that benefit nonprofit organizations. Mr. Bass, of Georgetown, describes that as a harbinger of things to come.

If the core activity at college shifts away from the classroom and into practical activities, do students even need to come to a campus? re-thinking traditional course structure- actually going to class

So, instead of having mass-lectures, all packed with hundreds of university students, it may be worthwhile to re-consider using technology and media and some of the on-the-job training to stimulate the interests of students.

When I was attending my polytechnic university, I spent half-a year in the workshop as part of the formal engineering training.  There were only short instruction sessions given by the instructors, and as a student I spent most of the time working on assignments and projects in a factory workshop environment (which has exactly the same environment as that of a factory).  The work provides the learning platform.  Work becomes learning.

How about the educators?

So, is there still a need for educators in schools and universities?

It is imperative however to note that the role of educators (professors) here might have changed from being a lecturer or professor (giving lectures only) to one who actively plans and provides new and novel learning environment that could cater for the changing needs of students.  This requires a totally different mindsets amongst the professors which involves a paradigm shift from teaching to one focusing on learning – where learning becomes the spotlight.  The educator may need to be aware that he or she is there to support the learners, making learning easier if ever possible, though challenging the learners to raise their potential at their best.  This means the educator has to play out multiple roles throughout their teaching and learning journey with their learners.

What are the other ways of learning?  We have e-learning as highlighted here as a means to support workforce development.

How about this presentation by Zaid?

Or the MOOC, which provides a rich opportunity in connecting and networking with global networks, professors, educators and learners.

There are many benefits in having university courses, and so is the need for teachers and professors to support learning within those courses.

What about education then?

Do you think we should keep the traditional  course structure?  Why/Why not?

How about the roles of educators? What are the implications  of  such changes in the course structures for educators?

Postscript: This post on if something is shared do you value sounds interesting


5 thoughts on “#CCK11 Re-thinking traditional course structure and roles of educators, and education

  1. …watching the Ken Robinson video – he is a good entertainer. While watching I had a thought that networked learning (Connectivist-style) might be more of the same factory learning – again a drowning out of the ‘star’ students in order to flatten the network and make a mesh. I wonder if it is possible to diverge from or within the mesh network? I understand that an argument is attempted to posit diversity in a mesh network, but with a homogeneity of nodes in the mesh, how does one distinguish and observe diversity? Does diversity, in the context of a mesh network, really mean diversity or is it more a uniformity of voice, where everyone has the same amount of voice and connectivity, a collectivist non-diversity that prohibits any specific voice from arising, permitting only a collective voice to emerge from this network?

    Meshed networks for learning is starting to sound like a desert place, a space where life is tough and the diversity of networks is limited to, well, meshed networks. Diversity can be seen as a condition of changeability, something a dsitributive network is good at producing in its cascade phenomenon, yet in Connectivism, this type of change is not valued. So, diversity is valued, within a mesh network, yet a diversity of networks, is not valued. hmmmm….

    But I digress. Better to have the network anaesthetize my thinking, I suppose. What’s new is old, what’s up is down…

  2. Hi Ken,
    Great that you bring this up. I don’t think there is simple solution – as to which sort of networks rings supreme. Is diversity the same as democracy? May be without diversity, the network would become one voice, or the loudest would likely overpower the weaker voices, or those with voices would then remain silent because of the power present. May be the stars are needed at different times of human evolution, as revealed through our Saviour, and the various bright leaders to “save” the world from extinction. How such networks would evolve could likely be the result of self-organisation of the agents, and though there are super-nodes, invisible hands, and strange attractors always changing the shape and direction of the networks, the ones that a mesh network may survive and thrive longer as democracy is manifested, and so is its ability to maintain a power balance – where power law takes on a different shape…

  3. Hi John. Well said by you. I wonder what is the shape of power in a mesh network? If it is democratic, then power might be in the hands of a majority, or a plurality? Hopefully the minorities have voice too. Yes, I was thinking of Christ and other stars. How would these arise in a mesh network?

  4. Hi Ken,
    Would this power in a mesh network be revealed in our society through different ways and patterns? In certain networks such a community or group having distinct leaders or features members leading the community (both formal and informal leaders) then likely there are power distribution like 1-9-90 or 10-20-70 etc. Would such be a combination of star superimposed in a distributive network? But then when the network evolves, different members may take up the leadership position at different times, causing a re-shaping of the network, and within such distributive networks, there could be further small groups (the distributed network where the power needs to be in balance to be efficient, likely in the form of teams – like 1 on 1 or 1 on 1 on 1, that is 2 in a team, or 3 in team). This may be what happens in a conversation like what I think we are learning and sharing together, if you agree 🙂 So, the interests within small groups could be slightly different from a large group and so on, where the community of practice is shaped by these small groups when the groups and communities co-evolve. Would this be the reason why most researches could only identify the forest (the COP), BUT not the groups inside (as the groups – where some may be interacting privately, or in closed spaces, whilst others are lurker groups) may remain silent, or forming closed bonds with each other, and may or may not associate themselves that strongly when their interests diverge from the COP?

    I am convinced of the merits of COP as proposed by Wenger, and the strong momentum of community learning carried through by and with the networks of COPs. These sort of stimulation towards educational changes and creation of more COPs (could be viewed as part of educational reforms, if not transformation) would propel the community to explore improvement and innovative practices through the involvement, participation and contribution of the collective actions of the members and COPs. Would these be the seeds of local and virtual global COPs within communities or networks?

    The challenges of COPs are however, due to the power tension between organisational setting and the formal or informal COPs, which derive their powers from their constituent members. As mentioned earlier, the COPs recommended actions or resolutions would only act as local “forces” or power to changes when members learned and work with those others in the vicinity or via virtual networks. So, would the action stops there? Or would the actions spread out further to influence other COPs and the institutions (education authorities, HE, business organisations, industry and professional associations) etc? There are political factors and power issues which seem to be inherent in such COPs formation, development and evolution. Besides, lots of COPs may be based on the sponsorship of government or professional bodies, or institutions, or scholars or entrepreneurs, or private charity associations. These posts significant pressure on the need of a focussed vision and missions, rather than a multi-vision or mission as envisaged in networks. A significant example is the funding arrangement of the sponsors for the COPs. Often, when the funding stops, the activities of the COPs would slow down, and so members of COPs have to resort to other means to re-activate the COP. Power in this case would relate to funding (money, or sponsorships) and political position (what it stands for in the society, and the influences they have on the institutions)

    That also explains why so many COPs have a limited lifespan, and that either they have to transform themselves into a different sort of COPs, or they have to evolve into one where the power influence could be exercised more locally, to actually reap the benefits.
    Further comments in next comment.

  5. Pingback: #CCK11 Mesh Networks and Communities of Practice | Learner Weblog

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