Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Practical University




The article linked below provides food for thought to those contemplating a foray into the world of MOOCs.  Brooks concentrates on two types of knowledge, technical knowledge and practical knowledge and discusses the pros and cons of an online delivery mode.  In my experience, having delivered content online via webinars and in person via live workshops - and in my earlier life as an attorney having delivered written briefs, oral arguments and conducted trials - I am a firm believer in the personal connection in the learning process.  That said, the reality is the internet provides access to an amazing swath of technical knowledge and cannot be ignored.

How do we move forward from here? I think we experiment.  We try new delivery models, test them, validate them and modify them.  Or discard them if they don't work.  Regardless, we must continue to improve the efficiency with which we learn and we must continue to instill a culture of learning.  In the emerging economy change will be rapid and brutal on those who fail to respond well.

Here's the money quote for me and the link follows.

Nelson’s venture, Minerva, uses technology to double down on seminars. Minerva is a well-financed, audacious effort to use technological advances to create an elite university at a much lower cost. I don’t know if Minerva will work or not, but Nelson is surely right to focus on the marriage of technology and seminars. 
The problem with the current seminars is that it’s really hard to know what anybody gets out of them. The conversations might be lively, but they flow by so fast you feel as if you’re missing important points and exchanges. 
The goal should be to use technology to take a free-form seminar and turn it into a deliberate seminar (I’m borrowing Anders Ericsson’s definition of deliberate practice). Seminars could be recorded with video-cameras, and exchanges could be reviewed and analyzed to pick apart how a disagreement was handled and how a debate was conducted. Episodes in one seminar could be replayed for another. Students could be assessed, and their seminar skills could be tracked over time.


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James L. Salmon, Esq.
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