Thursday, 30 September 2010

Self directed learning, a market with great potential

We all know that the way we get things done is changing under foot right now. New tech is enabling faster, cheaper and simpler processes and interactions. I think this is going to have a direct impact on self directed learning and I think plenty of other people like Quest to learn agree.

Working at the Open University on their Virtual Learning Environment I've got a good idea of how the structured learning that we all know and love is being made virtual. There's fantastic work going on. But I still feel that big institutions are just thinking about how to get people to study topics and courses that big institutions and the general education community feel are important.

I'm far more interested in self directed learning. I did this when I was at school in my own time. I just didn't call it that. Now that I've spent a decade working I believe even more strongly that it's the best way to learn. I just want better support.

The reason I think it's the best way to learn is due to its return on investment. Now that I'm much more experienced at work and prefer an agile approach to development. Agile to me is underpinned by getting a prototype out quickly. Get the idea into a very basic example asap so you can see if it will fulfil a need and people will want it. I do this regularly during a project to ensure what I'm doing is giving a return on the time and resource investment.

The learning model that seems the most common is to spend a lot of time learning a specified area with no real consideration to how you'll be using the knowledge. Then get back to work and figure out if you've actually learnt to solve any of the problems.

This seems like a very wasteful model to me. When I find a topic interesting I'm happen to explore it but when I have a job to do I want to be solving problems with the time I invest.

I'm frustrated because I don't feel tools to support self directed learning are being developed with the same impetus and funding of those that just deliver the same school and class based approach that we've had for so many years. Hence I feel no one is really changing learning. We're doing the same old thing with a new set of features.

I'm working on some tools to help but I'll take a while because I don't get much time to do this and don't have much resource. for me there is a big market out there of potential students that the education industry could be supporting. Guys who don't want or need a big cohort to study with and don't want to have to pay for all that just to study a topic.

The same way the travel industry had to repackage their holidays to flights and accommodation due to new competition I feel we need to separate the people and their learning goals from the process of learning and the tools and structure employed. Those who want the cohort and top down teaching style use the relevant tools and enrol on courses. Those who want self direction may use a suite of tools adapted for this purpose. They pay for the use of the tools and also a mentor if they want one. That's the service the learning provider adds.

Personally I don't see any reason why current education providers could not be providing this, atleast on a small pilot scale, within a year or two. To really help it scale changes to funding models from the government would need to allow funding for this kind of learning. Even without government funding I feel there are business models out there that could make this a very profitable and useful new area of study.

I think that's where we're going but how it's implemented is always what really matters. any who I just wish I knew of companies who are pursuing this model so I could get more support learning.
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