Alternative Learning Spaces

1st Aug, 2018

You’re not going to learn to swim by just reading a book. Video courses and books are great, but they aren’t sufficient for a lot of us to actually build and improve skills over time.

Building expertise takes systematic practice, ideally with feedback from other people who’re further along the learning curve. It also requires us to stay motivated through a course or a book. This is usually easier to do in an immersive structure like a university.

Universities have also traditionally been the spaces which provide access to experts and peer groups. However, they’re painful to get into and tend to be prohibitively expensive. They’re also designed for an older model of how the world works: take a few years out, learn a few skills, get a degree and use that qualification for a lifetime.

Here’s the problem with that model. We simply don’t know exactly what careers will be relevant in the decades to come. We know that it will be important to learn new things quickly, sustain focus and motivation, adapt to new situations, communicate and collaborate with others and look after our emotional health.

But, specific careers? Not so sure. For instance, “data scientist” as a career option only appeared on the scene a few years back. A more relevant approach to helping people develop skills is lifelong learning. There’s no reason why learning should stop or should be limited to something we picked when we were teenagers. We’re fairly adaptable and there’s always so many interesting things to learn!

While universities do tend to be hard to access and afford, they do provide something that online courses don’t: physical environments to form relationships with other people.

Whether it’s through working on projects, teaching each other things or just sharing our hopes and fears, these relationships help us immensely. They provide a support system for not just staying motivated and exploring collaborations, but also maintaining our emotional well-being.

This is crucial, and it’s why, online education in its current form, isn’t an adequate answer to traditional learning spaces like schools and universities.

On the other hand, online courses do provide better access to education. Accessibility goes beyond addressing geographical constraints. We have elders and kids to care for, chores to attend to and a host of other road blocks that stand in our way of learning.

Taking a few years out is a privilege that only a few of us can afford. This is why it’s important to build better online and offline spaces for learning.

So, how can we build these learning spaces that are social, online and offline, affordable and that help us stay motivated? ownpath is an effort to explore how such learning spaces could look like.

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