Monday, January 23, 2012

Edu-conomy of scale... Learning Circle University

flickr CC image via nicolasnova

I'm beginning to understand crowd-sourcing in a new context. As the concept of learning circles evolves, I'm seeing the definition of crowd in crowd-source evolve alongside it. Learning circles are the crowds we encounter and choose to place ourselves within for the purpose of learning. 

To me, crowd-sourcing in the traditional sense generally taps really broad sources... social media being a most obvious contemporary example. Learning circles are derivatives of crowd-sourcing that focus more intently on a specific purpose, or set of purposes related to learning. The people that find themselves connected within learning circles are often strangely attracted to each other through the necessary process of chaos in authentic learning, but once found by each other, their relationship takes on a nemetic dynamic.

My Twitter pal, Dibyendu De (@TheDesignKata) describes nemetics as a language that "simultaneously serves as a discovery or exploration tool, understanding tool and a design tool to solve complex, difficult or 'wicked' problems to create new futures." I don't know if I could divine a better or more authentic definition of the language of learning. Learning circles form initially when people notice something they need or want to reconcile through learning. The deeper they focus on that learning; the more they think about it and explore its quantum, related elements, the likelier they are to encounter other strange attractors that draw them into a learning circle they will share.

This is happening now. Joe Brewer talks about open collaboration as a neo-economy of scale. Learning circles are open collaboration edu-conomies of scale. Daniel Durrant (@ddrrnt) passed on this bit of brilliance from MIT today. In the article, author Kevin Carey introduces MITx; a new project from the renowned post-secondary institution that will revolutionize how we view learning as a currency...
MITx is the next big step in the open-educational-resources movement that MIT helped start in 2001, when it began putting its course lecture notes, videos, and exams online, where anyone in the world could use them at no cost. The project exceeded all expectations—more than 100 million unique visitors have accessed the courses so far... Meanwhile, the university experimented with using online tools to help improve the learning experience for its own students in Cambridge, Mass. Now MIT has decided to put the two together—free content and sophisticated online pedagogy­—and add a third, crucial ingredient: credentials. Beginning this spring, students will be able to take free, online courses offered through the MITx initiative. If they prove they've learned the materi­al, MITx will, for a small fee, give them a credential certifying as much.
MITx is the alpha learning circle. It seems obvious that the currency of a fine institution of learning would be learning itself, but MITx is creating a new, long-time coming form of that currency in radically accessible learning legitimized by a formal accreditation. MITx is what I believe all other measures of the next generation of post-secondary education will be compared to. In sharing the impeccable learning that takes place at MIT through MITx, the renowned institution is absolutely paving the way forward within higher education. It is, as Kevin Carey describes, "the act of a truly educational institution, in the finest sense of the word." MITx is a project that exemplifies the concept of Learning Circle University.

I'm thinking that higher education leaders around the world intent on being at the most forward edge will be wise to stay abreast of MITx, the project. The game is changing, and in the interest of institutional preservation, the faculties they lead will be smart to get in the new game as fast as they can. 
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