As Associate Professor of the Practice at the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University, I am very familiar with “applied studies”—learning that’s designed for performing tasks and solving problems. Think: discussions, collaborations, hands-on activities, and more.
The Course Hero Education Summit 2018 not only addressed this type of active learning but had it in spades. The morning sessions included structured lectures, workshops, office hours with Course Hero staff, meditation, and yoga. And, of course, a wine-tasting session with John Boyer, who explained the differences between Old World and New World approaches to grape and place. Talk about immersive education!
In fact, the workshop I facilitated was focused on the tactics of active learning. I believe we are at the point where the learning principles of andragogy will apply to students of all walks of life—not just nontraditional ones. We are now a mobile workforce that transfers with ease between interests, declared majors, cities of residency, and jobs. Our new-economy lifestyle requires us to embrace the model of lifelong learning.
The evening sessions confirmed this and generated more ideas.
First there was Robert Reich, who emphasized the difference between those he taught more 30 years ago and those he teaches now: The “sage on the stage” paradigm no longer works; today, concepts have to be communicated in 7 minutes. (“Multitasking,” Reich called it.) Education is a product of the Industrial Age: linear, stratified, designed in batches, and sequential in nature. Now it must embrace the Information Age, too—just as the rest of the economy already has.
Then there was Sir Ken Robinson, the most watched speaker in the history of TED Talks (Do Schools Kill Creativity?), with his thought-provoking distinctions between learning, education, and schools. Nobody teaches us how to learn, he explained. It’s a natural process. We are born learning to absorb language, behavior, relations, and identity … but the formal education model is broken.
After attending the summit, one question is prominent in my mind: If higher education is at an inflection point, where does that leave us educators? I have stated before that I believe we have become less experts and more coaches, less lecturers and more facilitators. But with a platform like Course Hero growing at the pace it has been growing, I would add curators to our job description as well. We will be needed to curate the subject areas, knowledge maps, disciplines, inter-disciplines, concept taxonomies, and meta-information that machine-learning algorithms come short of classifying.
Educators have a critical role as “knowledge guides” in the reinvented higher education we are glimpsing. Our challenge will be to pivot with the times and scout the knowledge trails of this unchartered territory. We’ve done it before—we have arrows in our backs to prove it—and I have confidence we’ll do it again. On we go!