Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Re-Visioning E-Learning: Breaking With Knowledge Silos in Formal Education and Business

The industrial model of education from the 19th century has left us as course designers and instructors, constructs that are no longer viable in the 21st century. One of the hold overs from this model that is still with us today is the idea that the knowledge of disciplines need to be taught from separate, specific compartments complete with their own vocabularies and guiding principles and pedagogy for instruction.


It is for this very reason that schools were designed the way they were with students going along a hallway from class to class. Replace the hallway with a conveyor belt and each class room with stations along that conveyor belt, you have the model of a factory floor where each product in process that is moving along must be conformed to a set pattern. The products, being students, must conform and be adapted to that pattern. Notice that this is not an action that they are performing but it is an action being performed on them.

So, what happens when you have a creative student who is either "gifted" or  what is euphemistically referred to as "challenged"? Putting this back in terms of the factory environment, these disparities would be seen as "defects" because they do not fit the set pattern. In this case, a defective product is either off-ramped to quality where the product is collected with other products for further experimentation or correction. In terms of the school this off-ramping would be to what has been called "classes for the gifted" and "classes for the challenged". These students represent exceptions to the defined norm.

This all brings up some very important questions which are:

  1. Is this model in sync with the needs of the 21st century, given the advances in technology and its application to conducting research and business in online global networks?
  2. In the continuing use of this model, are we preparing students for the past or the future? 
  3. What skillsets do we need to meet the challenges of finding solutions to very real world problems?
When you consider that the goals of this model of education were two fold:

  • to create a work force that that would conform to all required by areas devoted to mass production of goods and services. To discourage anything that did not fit the prescribed pattern, and
  • to create life-long consumers of products and services so that the workers who produced the products also became the consumers of them,
you realize very quickly that in the 21st century, we are still living out these goals especially with the over the top consumerism. Consider what happens, as a case in point, when a new I-Phone comes out:

Sir Kenneth Robinson, a well known author and speaker on the state of education systems in the 21st century makes a strong case for the need to dispense with this model that supports a continuance of a knowledge silos as useful constructs for learning in the following presentation:

As Robinson suggests, a change in paradigm is needed.

" So, if we need a change in the paradigm of education, what are we changing to?"

In this age of the 21st century, we need students who will become effective agents of change who will be able to work together on a global scale in a totally online environment to address the rising global issues that need innovative and effective solutions. They need to have the following skillsets:

  • Able to collaborate with others who may be resident in different cultures and world situations anywhere on Earth to solve global issues that impact multiple groups of nations
  • Able to recognize that the new global issues require the pooling of the talents from various sources in a cross disciplinary approach.

Problems in the 21st century are not one dimensional in nature and therefore can not be adequately resolved by one specialist addressing the problem These new problems require a multi-disciplinary approach. The interconnected relationship of such approach can be illustrated as in the diagram below.

Credit: Lina Markauskaite

Higher education institutions are starting to realize the importance of this needed paradigm change in that areas of study and collaboration are being created to advance  students in ways that are in sync with the realities of the 21st century world.

E-Learning and the New Paradigm

E-Learning is evolving to become a useful asset for meeting the demands that this new paradigm requires. However, it does not just mean a change to a whole new environment, it means a radical re-evaluation of our pedagogical methods that we have grown and entrenched in an education system built on the industrial model. The question that begs an answer is:

"Do our "best practices" still apply when looked at in the context of a completely new environment as represented in the online world?

There are still higher education institutions who allow their instructors to simply copy their courses over to an e-Learning environment in an uncritical fashion and call it e-Learning. The obvious down side to this is that students who attend courses have never known a time when they were not connected to the web so they can recognize that which is true e-Learning that makes use of all the assets of the web and that which is a phony, lazy, attempt to be an e-learning experience.

Attendance statistics for courses tell an interesting story and support the student's awareness of course offerings which are not true e-Learning courses. It seems that in these courses, the only time that attendance is up is when tests need to be done.

E-Learning, Knowledge Silos and Business Organizations

If there was ever an area in our society in need of a revolution in thinking it is in business organizations and the training regimens that they inflict on their employees. There is a very serious disconnect in learning done within business organizations compared to learning that employees engage in outside the hours of business. The idea of using silos of knowledge as a viable construct is alive and well within the learning culture of business organizations. Largely, this is driven by fear that any type of innovation or change will disrupt the flow of business.

So, the question that should be addressed by business is:

"Which is more important, the organizational needs or the learning needs of our employees which directly impact on innovation and performance?"

 Next--Steps for Business into the 21st Century


Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your article. Please make more interesting topics like this on.
I'll come back for more :)

From Japs a researcher from Always Open Commerce

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