I took a leave of absence last term. I had plans… glorious plans… around writing, working around the house, running a marathon… (that last one may have been a stretch). Never quite got around to most of it. Built a lot of Lego though…
By November I was going a little stir crazy at the lack of academic work (not sure what that says about me), so I started writing my second PhD proposal. There wasn’t anything really wrong with the first one… a few relatively minor changes would have got it past my committee… but I just wasn’t feeling it. I had been planning to look at how participants in MOOCs learn how to learn, focusing on two of the MOOCs run here at UBC. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised I’m not interested in these types of MOOCs (the Coursera/EdX type video/quiz ones) that really just replicate the structures, the assumptions, and the limitations of traditional higher ed.
We’re living in a world now where knowledge is changing; not just knowledge as facts or content, but our entire understanding of what knowledge even means. As a result, the way we learn is changing. The traditional four year, bums-in-seats type university degree doesn’t work for everyone. FN And now we have this new world where information, connections, are at our fingertips. But unlike schools, and unlike xMOOCs, learning in these environments isn’t packed up into neat bundles, easily distributed for consumption. There’s no expert out there on the internet spoon feeding you all you need to know (and if there is I’d seriously recommend you get off that site). So how we’ve learned to learn in school, the passive consumption and regurgitation, just won’t cut it.
That’s what I’m interested in. How we learn to learn in this world of information abundance, of distributed knowledge, of self-assembled learning. So PhD proposal one hit the recycle bin and I hit the books. And that’s what I’ve been up to for the past four months. Well, when I’ve taken a break from the Lego.