October 14, 2012

Guiding a SCUP “Mojo” on Learning Spaces

Designing Experiences

SCUP (The Society of College and University Planning) is transitioning its print journal into an online community they call a MOJO – a Multilevel Online Journal Odyssey, an acronym inspired by the MOOC or Massive Open Online Course.

Elliot Felix served as panelist or “knowledge guide” for a session on learning spaces in week two of the endeavor. The canary in the coal mine experience of beta-testing the site proved fruitful in jumpstarting an asynchronous discussion through a recorded Google+ hangout. In preparation for the session, he synthesized the week’s “required reading” and offered a few observations for what this might mean for the future – this appears below.



In preparing for Friday’s panel, I thought I’d describe a couple key takeaways from the material we were asked to review and some possible themes for discussion. No idea if this is the right place to put this, but that’s the beauty of doing something entirely new…

Lennie Scott-Webber’s Institutions, Educators, and Designers: Wake Up! makes a succinct case for change in pedagogy and learning spaces to shift from an industrial era of factory through-put to one that balances efficiency and effectiveness by engaging students in active learning. This is made possible by strategies like the flipped classroom with content online in advance and interaction in the space or by more versatile spaces/furniture, including informal learning space.

Dave Cormier’s Short Video provides a useful overview of MOOC’s – Massively Open Online Courses with an overview of this kind of “networked” learning environment, without getting into a lot of detail or examples. One important point here is the quick mention of decoupling participation in the course from the certification for taking it (more on this later). ELI ‘s 7 things about MOOCs is also a great primer.

Jeanne Narum, Sally Grans-Korsch, and Jim Swartz discussed the history of PKAL to bring attention to the impact of space on learning and its recent evolution to create a learning spaces collaboratory (PKAL LSC) that is creating a “handbook” for the planning process, that takes institutions from (1) the outcome of what students should become, to (2) what experiences should be designed to make this possible, to (3) the spaces which will enable these experiences, to (4) how we’ll measure the success. A great model.

So, given these points above, a few thoughts for discussion on what this could mean and what the planning community might do about it.

1. MOOCs are representative of a large move toward unbundling education (thx Michael Stanton) – that’s separating the different aspects of formal education which used to come as a package deal (e.g.: participation, evaluation, credentialing, and payment all together), now can be obtained separately. Examples like skillsharegeneral assemb.ly, and edX are signs of this. When the course is no longer the irreducible “unit” of education, we’ll be there.

2. Once access to content and experts is massively open and obtainable anywhere, institutions will be forced to specialize and partner. (Why take computer science 101 at a small regional college when you can “take” it at MIT or have your local class serve as its complement). Accordingly, each institution will have an opportunity to think about its truly unique needs and potential offerings so as to focus on those. This responsiveness can only help. This has already happened in hyperlocal news, albeit with mixed success at the start.

3. All of these changes will necessitate redesigning service models and business models. You schedule and support flipped classrooms differently. Faculty spend their time differently. A different mix of skills, knowledge, and experience is required. And so we’ll need a process that integrates the design of spaces and the services within them – helpdesks, clinics, consultations, events, etc… We’ll need different ways of accounting for people’s time (students, faculty, staff) and compensating/credentialing them. We’ll need new sorts of measures and incentives. And we’ll need a carefully orchestrated process to enable these changes – “if you build it, they will come” won’t do.

Looking forward to Friday’s discussion!

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