Monday, 29 March 2010

Learning: What would Facebook do?

Just  listening to Free: the future of a radical price by Chris anderson of the long tail. Making me consider how paid for education fits in with a market based on giving away most things for free.

I assume I'm not the first to consider this. Just thougth I'd log a few of the models that come to mind.

1) Provide and use free content. Charge for assessment and for tutoring time to enhance your understanding of the content and chances in the exam.

2)Provide basic free examinations including certificates with basic grading. Charge for more detailed feedback highlighting strengths and weaknesses and support in how to improve.

3) Make exams and content free, make it easy to share results and support. The way facebook enables entertainment and social life. Learning could be made easy, free and intuitive with one site where all learners and tutors can easily get together, have fun and learn at the same time.

Where would the money come? I've noticed how farmville in facebook  has grown to 80 million users because your game is built by obtaining objects. You either generate money in the game or recieve these objects from friends. Many of the most interesting and fun items can only be bought with cash. Often as little as £2-£3, the price of a pint or burger. Payment is just a couple of clicks and you'll get your item instantly.

The cost of delivering the game is so cheap and number of users so high it doesn't take much to turn a profit.

What if students were either on a learning version of facebook or in an app on facebook itself. They're learning and, answering questions discovering concepts. For everything they do they receive game money and experience points. and objects to use. Like access to virtual microscopes. Simple apps for their mobile phone. A free ebook. In a digital world there is no end of things that interest people that can be used as incentive.

I can see that I'm going into this example but I think it has potential. What if students earnt big points for taking on responsibility. they became the teacher for 10 minutes, an hour or a day. They earn the responsibility by gaining experience points and showing knowledge in a particular area. Maybe others suggest they become the teacher.

So as teacher they lead a group and teach them something. The group rates their teaching. The group gets a little reward as discussed above just for taking part and also rates the teacher. The higher the teachers rating the better bonus the teacher gets.

A key point I've just realised is that this is a way to get the students to also be the teachers. You no longer have to pay directly for lecturers. You can still have lecturers but they have earn the earn respect of the group and deliver what others actually want to pay for and follow. It's just the result of throwing the ideas of the new economy into the learning arena.

It's got potential because it massively reduces costs. Most of what you receive is cost nothing or very little. things such as bandwidth and servers are going down every year. What you're doing is bringing the models that have made Google,  Amazon and ebay so strong in so little time. Removing the middle man. Connecting learners to teachers and providing transparency in quality.

What you need to work on is ensuring quality learning gets recognised. Build tools that help you identify this.

In farmville you can build your farm as you want but start the same as evryone else. What if you started a course the same as everyone else. course items were available as you progress through the game and gain xp. Yet you can purchase them at different times and store and use them how you want.

From new economy rules such as those in What would Google do by Jeff Jarvis this approach does many things

  • Gives control to the people, learners and teachers
  • Makes education providers a partner of learners and teachers 
  • Makes distribution easy. things can easily 'go viral'
  • PUts focus on intelligent organisation. Just make it easy for learners and teachers to get in there and share
  • Develops a gift economy: 
  • Replaces scarcity with abundance
  • Gets barriers out of the way. removes middlemen. Brings learners and teachers together
  • Less control more trust
  • New ethics: Make mistakes well: No teacher is perfect. Experts have generally learnt by learning from their mistakes. Learning to anaylse and learn from mistakes as a great skill. Rather than avoiding mistakes. Use it as a chance to learn. See the truth in the mess.
  • Answers are instantaneous
  • Simplify, Simplify: Just get peopel communicating. Remove all the barriers. If some one has problems talking help them. Find out ways to help them communicate. If they have trouble listening, help them too. An envrionment that's focused on communication and collaboration is a wonderful learning and teaching environment. The rest is just content. 
  • Encourage enable and protect innovation. good art is innovative, it's new. The best engineering is innovative. encourage people to take chances with their learning. there are generally so many version of a correct answer but being able to find all those different answers is a skill in itself.
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