Personalized learning “on demand”

Most personalized learning systems have focused on the business-to-business (B2B) rather than business-to-consumer (B2C) model. The B2B model holds appeal both since it secures large contracts all at once and since it can tailor solutions to unique institutional needs, particularly applicable in the world of education, which is subject to extensive rules and regulations for funding and accreditation at multiple levels.

Yet with giant consumer sites such as Amazon jumping in to the online education space, the possibility of offering personalized learning direct to the consumer and at scale challenges old norms about regulating access. How much will consumers trust content and instruction offered outside of accredited institutions? Along what dimensions will consumers evaluate the educational experiences they choose? How will this affect the nature, content, and quality of instruction provided? How will the added mobility affect the formation of social networks which support learning, student persistence, and consumer “stickiness”? How will learners’ data be shared (or not) across institutional barriers and over time, as the students mature?

Watch this space; there are many changes afoot.

Alternate models for structuring learning interactions

Timothy Chester ponders the power of many-to-many peer networks in facilitating learning:

If there is to be a peer-based, many-to-many collaborative structure ensuring rigor and the mastery of learning outcomes, it must also be deemed authoritative and persuasive by participants. Some ways to ensure authority and persuasiveness might include the following:

  1. The teacher must drive the collaboration. While teachers engaged in many-to-many relationships with students are not the authoritative center of the collaboration, they are responsible for structuring the student experience and stewarding the learning processes that occur.
  2. The collaboration has to be bounded by a mutually agreed upon scope and charter. Compared to traditional one-to-many collaborations, many-to-many forms can appear chaotic or disorganized. In order to drive effective learning, many-to-many collaborations must operate within a set of boundaries – those things we might define as learning objectives, outcomes, standards, or rubrics. As steward of the learning process, the teacher must take responsibility for structuring the learning collaboration within a set of consistent and firm boundaries that include these structures.
  3. There must be incentives for full student participation. Critics of peer grading systems in MOOCs note that such interactions by students many times lack significant investment of time and focus – resulting in peer feedback that is spurious. Both the quality and the quantity of peer feedback within a many-to-many system have to be statistically significant in order to avoid such spuriousness.

There are many models of such networks in both formal and informal learning settings: peer review systems (e.g., Calibrated Peer Review, SWoRD peer review, Expertiza), tutoring and peer learning communities (e.g., Grockit, P2PU, Khan Academy, OpenStudy), Q&A / discussion boards (e.g., StackOverflow), online communities (e.g., DIY, Ravelry), and wikis. The challenge for formal learning environments is to foster and nurture the kind of authentic, meaningful social interactions that emerge from sustained interaction within informal communities, in the context of the top-down and often short-lived peer experiences typically associated with school classes. Yet for personalized learning to succeed on a large scale, it needs to solve this problem effectively, so that learners are not isolated but can benefit from each other’s presence, support, errors, and wisdom.