We know from Dr. Allen Tough’s research — first published in his seminal book, The Adult’s Learning Projects (Toronto, Canada, OISE, 1971) — that adults learn continuously throughout their lives. In fact, the average adult learner conducts between 8 and 10 such projects each year, committing over 700 hours to these cumulative efforts. But in the 1960’s, when Tough began his research, we were pre-Xerox machine, let alone the cloud and tablets. So these adult learners were left with precious few resources – libraries, books, friends, experts, clubs, etc. – to achieve their learning goals.
Today, as we dream about how to support, value, enhance, and bring this informal “personal” learning to the surface, we have the extraordinary resources of the internet and cloud-based data.
With this in mind, as we brainstormed the setup of the “free and open” space in our college (OC@KU), we asked the following questions.
- What would a learning model look like if college were placed not as a required passage to your future, designed to interpret aspirations and require solutions for the learner, but instead as a collaborator that clarified and supported the learner’s needs and desires?
- What would the learning model look like if certificates and degrees were not the raison d’etre, unless required by professional standards or the law?
- What would college look like if learners could use existing resources to understand learning requirements and design their own pathways?
Based on the answers to these questions, we decided that our space for informal but organized learning will feature several resources, including
- Access to free open courses
- An electronic portfolio where evidence of all kinds of prior learning can be submitted for review for college credit (LRC100: Documenting Your Experiences for College Credit)
- Services which allow learners to refine their thinking about careers and academic goals, while better understanding their behavioral characteristics and cross-cutting intellectual abilities (Career Journey)
We want to help learners make sense out of their lives, frame their questions about career and education, and get good answers to those questions as they design a path forward.
For some learners, these services will fulfill all of their educational needs. However, others will want to use OC@KU to gain access to degree programs. And one such option will be the topic of my next blog entry.