First I’d like to start with what learning online can’t be. It can’t be – do as you do, but instead of in a classroom, use Zoom! The book can’t be an eBook, and the class can’t have 30 people in it. Your professor can’t be someone who hasn’t kept up with the digital times, and your certificate can’t validate your usefulness in the world of work for all eternity.
The professor has the knowledge, and imparts it to the students. Despite being in a thousand teacher trainings, I can tell you this model still exists, and it’s no different from the Victorian Age where the classroom was designed to produce discipline and obedience. Who is the professor? He’s the local know-it-all that lives round the corner. So with the switch to online, the professor then starts sending emails and running Zoom calls? Well maybe. But how about a different professor – one based in the country you long to visit. How about not a professor at all, instead a corporate CEO, or a Scientist, or a military Sargent? How about someone you met in an internet forum who happens to be better than you at the same subject. He’s a student like you, but he’s a few levels up – he’s Warlock grade, and he will show you things your local professor could never do.
Think about your latest online class. It probably was a very strange meeting of people – people who wouldn’t normally meet online. What do I mean by ‘people who wouldn’t normally meet online’? Well… it’s online, so why would you restrict yourself to a geographical radius of 20 miles (school), 100 miles (university), or even a country? Online, these people can be anywhere. And why would you arrange a Zoom meeting with 30 people? Have you tried to meet with 30 family members at a dinner table with the rule only one person can speak at once? Seriously!? The switch to digital means we can have seamless conversations with many people over the course of the day, without losing track what the subject matter is. It’s much more normal to have a chat with 100 people over a Discord server, 20 one-to-ones over Whatsapp, two Zoom calls and two normal phone calls, and hey why not, a meeting with your colleague for lunch. This is my world of work, and it can be reflected in learning as well.
An eBook is a digital book right? Remember books are made for the classroom. They are replicated so perfectly meaning everybody has the same input, so the teacher can control the lesson of 30 individuals. The teacher brings the book to life, but if you miss class, just read the same book. Only we don’t need to do that digitally. Because digtially we don’t have to be in the same space, learning at the same speed, taking in the same inputs. Digitally, we can learn at our own pace, about what interests us. We can learn on our own time, and if we don’t understand something we don’t have to move on, or we can, or we can do something differently. What I’m talking about is personalised learning journeys: Machine learning, where the machine learns how you learn. Struggled with a question? Ok more input is required. Find the input boring? Switch to a video. In fact, switch to a different subject altogether. Not sure which one? Browse the video library, speak to a professional in Oslo.
Are we working towards a certificate? One that matches a specific job posting like a key fits a lock? One that comes with 50-100k of student debt? One that smacks with entitlement? One that reflects something you learnt in a smelly classroom a few years ago and is now completely redundant? And most importantly, does it show education? Well what is education? Today’s definition of education should be the ability to learn in new ways, on new platforms, collaborating across teams. The world of work is dynamic, and we should no longer be chasing guilded paper. Your future employers are online. They will receive a PDF copy of your CV, and better still, a link to your projects. The old maxim is; don’t tell, show. Show what you’ve been up to last week, last month, who did you work with, what did you produce? Why would they want to select you to join a tiger team to help solve the most pressing issues today. And how can they be sure that they can reuse you tomorrow on a different matter? Your portfolio/projects are your resume.
An example. Right now I’m learning Python. I take a few lessons on Codecademy.com – my course material. It’s interactive and I’m learning at my own pace. Sometimes I learn a few things, sometimes I learn nothing. Most importantly I’m learning how to learn. I’m taking notes to help me, and not because my teacher said so. At the same time I joined a few servers on Discord and when I get stuck I ask peers what’s wrong with my coding on there. Openstack.com is also a good site to search for answers on – because more likely than not, one of the milllions? of people learning Python have had the same error. Sometimes I flick through my ebook, I can’t deny I have been taught to use books. When I finish my course on CodeCademy I will receive a certificate which I don’t care about. What I care about is the projects I will create along the way and publish on my website.
So low and behold! Learning is making a switch to online. And if you want to get ahead of the pack then I advise you to figure out how you can learn quicker, make better allies, and display your abilities in the online world. Because we’re not going to switch back to face-to-face, not next year, not ever.