Don’t Pack the Snowball Yet!

Recently, I have read a series of articles that suggest that the “new order” brought on by the Digital Dimension is ready to settle to be understood, organized, and controlled by existing and new institutions and practices. So colleges are going to control the MOOCs and assessments learners will be offered in institutional settings, and so on and so forth. While it is a natural human instinct to create order out of chaos, to do so in this environment at this point in time is premature.

If disruptive innovation is a snowstorm, harnessing its true power for the betterment of the many is a snowball. And I say, don‘t try to pack the snowball yet!

In fact, by their very natures, the Digital Dimension and the post-traditional forms and opportunities that they encourage, may well not settle for a while, if ever. Rather, I believe they will proceed in a herky-jerky fashion through multiple stages and versions. For example:

  • How long will it take employers and career management organizations to consider badges as equivalent to formal courses?
  • How long will it take OpenStudy to get so accurate at compiling evidence of excellent learning through crowd-sourced learning assessment that their word is taken as “good” by employers and other career and educational institutions?
  • How long will it take before Kaplan University Open Learning (or some other entity) separates free, lifelong, and web-enhanced learning from assessment and the earning a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies or a Masters of the same strain?

The world we live in, the blizzard of information, opportunity, and the confusion of being surrounded by multi-faceted and multi-dimensional change, will defy easy understanding or organization for quite a while to come. But before the preferred or dominant forms become clear, before the snowball is packed, there will be a sharp change in the way we understand learning and how we make sense out of it and better understand its effect.

Having said that, I believe there will be emerging characteristics that offer some coherence in this blizzard of change.  For example, what do all three of the questions posed above have in common? The use of evidence — trusted evidence — to support the claim that the learner knows what s/he claims to know. If employers trust the source, they will use it.  If learners believe they can cash in their learning for credit or other academic recognition whenever they want to, they will do exactly that, depending on their dreams and the realities they face.

Therefore, don’t pack the snowball yet. Rather keep your eye out for practices that work across multiple environments. And in this case, pay attention to evidence of learning.

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