Monday, February 15, 2016

Designing E-Learning Communities---- Part I--Bridging Generations

In the last post, I suggested the importance of developing effective and vibrant collaboration. However, there is an important consideration to note that would enable such collaboration to take place whether in the business learning culture or the formal education culture. Such collaborations need to happen within the context of a "community of learners". The establishment of dynamic e-learning communities has been the subject of rising interest within the education research community. In order to build the future of effective virtual or online learning communities, it is important to understand the present obstacles to achieving this.

The Obstacle of An Entrenched Dated System

We are the products of the education system that we were raised in. In the industrial based economy, the following ideas were part of what it meant to be educated:

  • The purpose of education was to create a work force that would conform to all the requirements of industry. Therefore, the idea of encouraging a focus on developing creative and innovative learners was considered a non-essential best left to specialized private schools. The ability to develop basic skills and the stress on repetition was mandated as essential and repeated assessment of learning was considered to be similar to the use of quality control in manufacturing processes.
  • The purpose of education was also to create life long consumers who would use the wages that they earned to benefit the growth of wealth for owners of industry. In the 20th and 21st century, consumers who were as young as 4 yrs old were targeted. Through the use of ads focusing on cartoon characters using or promoting "must have products" to these targeted age groups, the attitude of accumulating more and more products to consume created and nurtured excessive consumerism as a positive mindset at an early age. With each age group, the consumerism mindset grew exponentially.


Businesses reading such points might ask the question:

"So, what! Consumerism has provided employment for people, provided good lifestyles with modern conveniences and has allowed capital through taxation to create wealth for the country. What's wrong with that?"

 The Changing Needs of Societies

With the exponential advance of technology and new ways of communication, the needs of a new generation of learners and the societies that they became adults in, changed. The heavy emphasis on consumerism created great wealth for business but greed created complex real world problems that threatened to destabilize our civilizations. The skewed distribution of wealth on a global scale created areas of the world where large populations were suffering pre-industrial problems associated with great poverty, disease, and starvation. These very real and painful inadequacies resulted in the rise of civil wars, dictatorships and breakdown of the rule of law.

So, the obvious question that should occur to you, is:

"What does any of this have to do with creating online learning communities? I sympathize with such horrible global inadequacies but how can education alleviate any of this?"

Building a Generational Bridge Through Online Education

The past model of excessive consumerism has had its impact on the one element of people's lives that can enable them to tackle complex real world problems and improve their quality of life, that being education. In this age if we do not change this mindset in education then the events we see happening in our world will continue to spiral downward. In order to effect change in education, the past generation, who are now in positions of power in business need to cross a generational bridge by restructuring core values that have been a part of their business for so long.

Brad Fergusson of the People Before Profits Organization, recognizes the need for this restructuring of core values. Putting "people before profits" is a radical concept in the global business world and it is not saying that businesses should not make a profit. Businesses have a responsibility to their share holders to produce wealth and obtain for them a good ROI. It is saying that we can no longer ignore the growing needs of people, especially when businesses have both the resources and global reach to make a real and lasting change in the quality of life that people have. It is my belief that the quality of education and how we make that accessible to societies will determine the path that societies follow and ultimately decide whether civilizations are enriched or whether they destabilize.

Next......Part II-Creating Opportunities for Effective Learning Communities

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