Organizing University Learning: Moving Beyond the Course to Micro-labs

University learning is centered on the course. A pattern for learning familiar to any current or past student. Students and teacher meet 1-3 times per week for 8-12 weeks. There's lectures, readings, papers, projects, quizzes, and tests.

This, by and large, is an adequate pattern for many learning purposes. But no rational person would suggest this is the only workable solution or even what's best, or adequate, for all purposes.

Learning in the open

I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of transparent learning or learning in the open. With blogs, twitter, wikis, and other social media tools, our ability to share what we're learning with others has increased dramatically. The shift from learning in private to learning in public is dramatic and chaotic, much like swimming from the edge of a river into the fast flowing current. All of a sudden you're being pushed and tumbled along much faster than before.

Deploying Social Software in Universities: Go Broad then Deep

Michael Idinopolus wrote an intriguing post over on his excellent blog yesterday titled "Enterprise 2.0: Skip the Pilot."

I thought I'd repeat some of his arguments because it agrees nicely with an argument I've been formulating lately regarding deployment strategy for social learning software within higher education.

But first to his article:

Reflections on OpenEd09

Wow, what a great conference. And talk about intimidation. I had a mild to strong case at different times of Chris Lott's imposter syndrome. So many brilliant thinkers. But I'm definitely glad I made the effort to go as I learned a great deal. Many of my assumptions were confirmed and many gaps in my understanding were exposed. So an excellent time of growth and learning.

The following is a few of the thoughts I had during the conference.

Internet reduces need for experts. Where does this leave professors?

[I wrote this originally on Island, the student learning website I'm building at BYU.]

Clay Shirky writes:

[Credentialed] experts the world over have been shocked to discover that they were consulted not as a direct result of their expertise, but often as a secondary effect — the apparatus of credentialing made finding experts easier than finding [non-credentialed] amateurs, even when the amateurs knew the same things as the experts.

My educational philosophy

A book I read recently helped me finger out why school can be so irritating at times.

The book is entitled Weird Ideas that Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation. One of its "weird ideas" is that companies should hire slow learners. Not stupid people but slow learners of the organization's code. A code is, the author explains, "a company's 'knowledge and faiths,' its history, memories, procedures, precedents, rules, and all those taken-for-granted, and often unspoken, assumptions about why things are supposed to be done in certain ways."

He goes on to say that most companies hire "fast learners" who quickly learn to do things the "right way" and see things much as others do in the company. But companies that do innovative work need a different kind of worker, one who won't get "brainwashed into thinking just like everyone else. They need people who avoid, ignore, or reject 'the heat of the herd. . .'"