Attaching more than the network to open courses

Alan Levine summed it up nicely:

And frankly, the open courses, marched to the beat of a fixed time length syllabus, might be seen as an incremental step from (I guess they would be called) closed courses? Non open courses? Are there other models than attaching the open network to a fixed course?

We have been attaching a network to the fixed course. It doesn’t matter if not all aspects are fixed, but there is sufficient resemblance through a fixed time length syllabus to a traditional course to bring Alan to think of these as an incremental step (actually, there are other startling contrasts that have been pointed out in the Educause article by Dave and George).

I have been thinking about NBT and Native Collaboration for some time now and been raising the same question. It actually started with a brief online exchange with Stephen and others prior to CCK08 where I proposed that you need to look at aspects such as time and content structure from a 2.0 lens. Of course, I learnt a lot more during CCK08 and thereafter, getting the distinction Tom Werner made between looking at the problem from an instructional lens vs. from a network lens.

Maybe we need to think of a model that stands contrasted in every way to a fixed course. So are there other models we can propose? Illich states:

The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity. (Deschooling Society)

Maybe we can look at the learning web and think of a continuously running learning environment which teaches everything and to everybody who wants to learn. All the experts are there and there are millions of people who come to learn for varying periods of time – some with the same needs as you but connecting to different resources than you – based on their preferences and learning comfort. The effectiveness or efficiency of learning would be dictated  in some large part by the way that environment is designed.

Illich takes it further by stating:

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education–and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.

He talks about universal education not just education. That is an important distinction, more on the lines of initiatives like the Education for All. He could be correct there because of the sheer scale if that distinction is accurate. If he talking about all types of education being done like this, the problem is not of scale but of developing appropriate methods – methods that result in accomplishing the goal of “transforming each moment”, methods that embrace complexity and non-deterministic but desired outcomes – for different educational domains.

In the professional space, learning happens in the way that Illich conceived – a Wengerian network of practice transforms everyday activities into learning and performing in a networked environment. It happens tacitly or explicitly; by mistake, accident or on purpose; by fear of failure or intrinsic motivation. That’s why I am so intrigued by thinking around connective simulations.

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