Open, free access to quality learning – Our Goal?

I’ve been reading several articles suggested by the I’ve quoted a few ideas below that begin to define my thinking in response.

The principles of connected learning suggest “student experiences of social connection, self-expression, relevance, and interests … are at the core of connected learning.” Describing the Why of Connected Learning

“Learning will come unbundled from the pursuit of a degree just as songs came unbundled from CDs.”

“Demand for knowledge is so enormous that good, free online materials can attract extraordinary numbers of people from all over the world”

“The audience for education [is] people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system…”

“It’s possible to educate a thousand people at a time, in a single class, all around the world, for free”

Napster, Udacity, and the Academy by Clay Shirky

Much like Clay Shirky’s example of listening to live musicians vs recorded music, how do we reproduce the individual feedback of an expert when we are learning? If you define teaching as content presentation, then offering the lectures of fascinating experts is much like listening to recorded music, valuable and inspiring, and often better than many faculty could provide. We can provide focus questions and examples of possible responses. We can automate feedback on exams. We can provide activities that support student learning by having them produce and do authentic problem solving. Peer and self assessment techniques can be a valuable means of supporting learning.

How can we “unbundle” teaching from content presentation and certification? Quality teaching is about helping individual students in particular make connections among concepts, giving feedback on student products, diagnosing difficulties with learning, facilitating the conversation among a community of co-learners, supporting peer collaboration, providing direct instruction in response to student questions in the moment  … How many students can one teacher teach?

We can now provide open access to organized content and continue to improve that access. How can we provide a space for thousands of learners to become a commons – a community of practice/inquiry –  for peer collaboration and individual feedback from an expert?  We know meaningful connection to a faculty member/mentor matters to students’ success. How do we make it possible to also teach to the many?


3 thoughts on “Open, free access to quality learning – Our Goal?

  1. Tom

    I wonder how much of that individual feedback occurs now. There are a few elements to it- the skill of the giver, the openness of the receiver, the scale, the methodology etc.. I also question whether a chunk of this feedback builds an internal reflective ability in the receiver or does it breed a dependence on outside review/approval. There’s a mix there to be sure but I’d argue at scale US education tends to breed more of a compliance mindset.

  2. Laura Gogia

    It’s interesting, Joyce, that what we were just talking about aligns so well with your post! To add to your last paragraph (although not answering your question, for sure): There are multiple types of feedback – one is corrective feedback from an expert, one is facilitative feedback which allows the person to self-correct, another is co-constructivist feedback where the instructor and student learn from each other through conversation…I imagine that, while corrective feedback from an expert can be extremely desirable, socially driven feedback – meaning from peers and other experts in the community – can be quite powerful in a different way. It’s a matter of setting up openly networked learning environments that take some of the pressure off of the instructor. To connect this to Bud’s negative experience with feedback in his last MOOC (, it seems that we need to do a better job teaching people of all ages and backgrounds how to give good feedback and why it’s important to do so. In some ways, it loops back to civic engagement.

  3. Bonnie Boaz

    Learning “unbundled” from not only pursuit of a degree, but I’d say “pursuit of a grade.”
    How can unbundle learning? I think I’m going to present this to my students!


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