February – “OD-ing” on learning


This month is shaping up to be one of those months when I have too much on, but, the truth is I love it! Especially when it’s to do with learning.

A couple of weeks ago I started a MOOC (massive open online course) on “E-Learning and Digital Cultures” delivered through Coursera by the University of Edinburgh.

The course is taught in two “Blocks”, the first focusing on “Utopias and Dystopias”, broken up into “Looking to the past” and “Looking to the future”; and the second focuses on “Being Human” broken up into “Reasserting the human” and “Redefining the human”.

As one would expect with any course delivered online the resource base is enormously comprehensive and rich, encompassing readings, online forums (Google+, Facebook and Twitter), “hang-outs” (where everyone gets on-line but being 4 am for me I passed on this one!), a competition, and the creation of a “digital artifact”.

Thus far the material supplied provides an overview of the many and various discussions which have been happening for the past few decades in terms of the human-technology dichotomy, and I have found some quite insightful videos and TED talks (this one by Steve Fuller is well worth watching). All in all the material captures the state of play combined with serious content which can inform “E-Learning” and there are some references to the work of digital anthropologists and digital sociologists, but not necessarily the most up-to-date articles or references to the latest research.

What I am finding, as I seem to do with all online courses, is three things:

  1. an overwhelming amount of information to sift through, made worse by the social media aspect which has the odd useful snippet and link, but is largely just adding to the noise in my opinion, although it does reflect the broad base of the group;
  2. the predominant focus on the visual and ‘text’ without really incorporating the other main senses. Yes, there is auditory in videos, but the more “stuff” there is the more reading there is to do, one way or another; and
  3. a lack of “going back to basics”, of reference to the fundamentals of learning science based on deep psychology, anthropology and sociology, tempered with a heap of common-sense.

I think this is one of the great challenges with online learning programmes, and this year I hope to expand my own skills and understanding about this area by focusing on the concept of “Learning Science and Technology”. This course begins in March so we shall see.

Personally I have always struggled with the predominance of the visual, and thus online courses, as an environment within which to study. My own learning preferences are auditory and kinaesthetic, and, as I discovered through my studies of NLP and Coaching Psychology, too much visual overwhelms me, as it does the majority of the population.

As a corollary to this I am undertaking two additional learning activities, which I hope will allow me to play much more to my strengths.  The first is a week-long “Creative Writing Masterclass” at the Centre for Continuing Education, University of Sydney, being delivered by Mark Tredinnick. The second is the annual two day ANZSOG “Master Class”, being facilitated by John Alford, and which follows on from that which I was lucky enough to attend last year.

Understanding the link between emerging technologies and human learning is something I am passionate about, but also something that I think will have a profound impact on society as the symbiotic relationship between the digital and the analogue continues to evolve.

Hopefully what I learn will be worth sharing!