Thursday, March 13, 2008

Do we need "courses"?

George Siemens in a very interesting presentation asserts that we are beginning a process of unpacking our educational process into smaller and more distributed units and that we can begin to construct educational environments without courses.

Here is his general definition of a course:
Courses are structured, organized, bounded domains of information that are administered to students by educators who seeks to wrap some form of interaction or learning activities to that the experience will ultimately be able to achieve value primarily defined by academic standards through accreditation.

He unpacks courses into four parts: content/information, conversations (that is, instruction), connections (relationships between teacher and students, and among students) and recognition or accreditation.

We have been able take courses apart and distribute them, but how do we put them back together?

Here is how he frames this issue:

The key challenge that remains and it has not been addressed to date…is how do we pull these pieces (accreditation, content, conversations, and connections) together. How do we bring together the informal reputation points that we might derive through interactions with other or the referral process that may occur in our interactions with learning content and how then does that come together in an academic setting so that we have some degree of comfort when we dialogue with someone who stated they’ve received their degree from global online and distributed university as evidenced by these thousand learners who’ve assigned reputation points and as a result of having gone through x-number of sources of learning material, podcasts or whatever else. At this point this is a key missing piece. Pulling together the distributed conversations with the distributed content and finding a way to assign a degree of value is one of the biggest challenges of discussing an educational model that moves from the largely traditional hierarchical structure most of us recall.
This is a bigger problem than just "accreditation." The other aspect of courses is that there are sequences of learning various topics. It is generally important to learn to add and substract before learning to multiple and divide. Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody has been exploring ways that organization is formed on the web, but there is still much that must be done to pull distributed learning back together. And we still need guides through this sequence. Most learners will not find their own paths through all the possible material.

No comments: