Nowadays when people work on online education, they still think in term of classes. So when you look at those online learning sites, you see all the classes, such as courseware, videos, lectures, and so on. What the learner actually gains from such a class is just a little more understanding in some aspects of the domain knowledge. The learner certainly can get such understanding through other means, for example, reading, talking to people, or other activities. They can even gain the same insights from some seemly unrelated things. We know knowledge is flowing everywhere and connected. So it is just natural that people might gain insight in one area by interacting with some other areas. And quite often, it is much faster to gain such insights from other sources than from these “well-designed” classes. There is no wonder that people turn away from these classes and learn by themselves through whatever ways they deem most effective for themselves.
So for online education, instead of building such online classes, it is better to go inside the learners’ minds and build the classes that are inside their minds. So for a learner, if s/he wants to build up knowledge in a domain, such as knowledge on product management or human resource management, he can learn in whatever ways to gain those important insights or understanding, then put all the insights and understanding together to construct knowledge for that domain. This is the internal class inside his/her mind.
First of all, it is a “reverse” class. Different from conventional class, which is built by teachers or educators for students, this internal class is built by the learner himself inside his brain. It reflects his understanding of the domain knowledge.
Secondly this class is “super” because it encompasses all the important resources and insights he has accumulated through his exploration of the domain knowledge. So it is much bigger than the conventional class, which is very limited.
If we really want to realize learner-centered learning, we need to give learners the tools to help them build up their internal super classes. This super class is dynamic, asynchronous, and always ongoing. For example, when I was building this internal class for Product Mgr, when I gain certain insight in this area, I can record it and share it with others. Others can comment on it and form a discussion. So after a period of time, we can see all the important points in this internal class and the discussions behind each point.
We need good tools to help learners build up their internal classes, and share them with public. Other learners can participate in the learning as well to achieve peer learning. Teachers or experienced learners (teachers are learners as well, aren’t they?) can provide guidance to the learner through this internal class, thus we have “teaching”.
Software is to digitize various domains of human world. For many years, we cannot truly tap into the great potential of online education because we have always been trying to digitize classes that are built by teachers. But actually that kind of external classes is everywhere. There is no place in your life that cannot be a lesson for you. So trying to digitize in this area is just fruitless. I think many educators have the same feeling. So you spend all the energy to make those instructional videos. Are you a film maker or educator? You spend time organizing those learning events. Are you an event organizer or educator? So the videos made by non-educators have no usage for learning? When I was in college, much of my liberal arts learning was achieved by watching western movies and reading western novels. Much of my critical thinking ability was trained through reading the best newspapers and magazines, and through selling stuff on street and other business activities I was doing for my part-time jobs. So as educators, are you going to make better movies, write better novels, or publish better newspapers or magazines?
So what online education should really focus on, or what we should digitize, is this super inner class. The future road of online education is to help individuals building those super internal classes. This is the digitalization of learning/education should be about.
Actually this inner super class is just KNOWLEDGE! The essence of knowledge is: past personal experiences can be immediately recalled to help identify problems and solve problems when faced with new situations. And to recall the experiences timely and accurately, you need to rely on a certain abstraction and structure of experiences. This inner super class, is to continuously construct a better structure of those experiences and insights. Only when we shift our focus of digitization to this inner class, can we really enrich the “learning” content and thus “knowledge”.
For this kind of class, how should we call it? Super Inverse Class? Or you have a better name? I am trying to avoid the word “flipped” as “flipped class” is already used to mean something else.
As I said before, learning activities must be scattered and everywhere. We shouldn’t confine people to one place for learning. Instead we should encourage people to move around and to try whatever best ways for themselves to learn. What matters is what experiences and insights they have gained. That is what we should focus on. And we do that by building this super inner class.
This is an effort of talking to people who work on online education but still think in the mindset of the traditional school classroom based education model. You cannot just talk with them about what is learning and what is knowledge. They have no idea what you are talking about. You have to talk with them in term of classes. So here you go: Super Inverse Class