The Revolution in Online Learning: Not Education, Learning

Seth GodinEducation is a model based on scarcity, compliance and accreditation. It trades time, attention and money for a piece of paper that promises value.

But we learn in ways that have little to do with how mass education is structured.

If you know how to walk, write, read, type, have a conversation, perform surgery or cook an egg, it’s probably because you practiced and explored and experienced, not because it was on a test.

We’re in danger of repeating the failed approaches of education in an online setting. Opening doors for people so that they can learn is an extraordinary opportunity, one that focuses on possibility, not compliance. No one that I know of has clearly described the elements of this new revolution, so I decided to share what I know.

I’ve heard from best selling authors, founders and high school teachers, all wondering about the best practices for this new moment in learning.

The results that students have achieved in the workshops are completely off the charts. Better completion rates, astonishing amounts of interaction and growth, and most of all, lives transformed.

As 2021 arrives, there’s a huge up tick in learning companies being founded and funded, independent teachers looking for new platforms as well as institutions shifting gears with online learning coming to the fore. Google is launching certificate-granting courses, and schools are continuing to grapple with what it means for students to be remote.

Alas, many of these efforts are unlikely to succeed at their stated goal of creating learning interventions that actually work. Some will be popular because they focus on entertainment instead of learning. And some will remain stuck in the old models of management and compliance.

Fortunately, some of these new efforts will actually facilitate learning for the people who engage with them.

We’ve seen all this before, and my hope is that people who are responsible for what’s getting built will learn from our experience. We’re at the very beginning of a worldwide transformation in how people learn.

If you’re a teacher or an organizer, an investor or a leader, I hope you’ll take a few hours to learn about learning.

I’ve put what I know into a short series of recorded lectures (not a workshop) on Udemy. (There’s a coupon to save you a few bucks–it’s valid for the first 500 people who sign up.) I’m aware of the irony in creating lectures about the power of workshops over lectures, but in this case, I wanted to put a stake in the ground that people could explore on their own and with their teams.

We have a chance to build a future based on contribution, possibility and insight. And we can do it at scale.

The educational regimes of the last century have distracted us. It turns out that the obvious and easy approaches aren’t actually the ones that we need to focus on. When we commit to outcomes, the path is more clear.

Seth Godin is a writer, teacher and says he does projects.

Last modified: Wednesday, 17 March 2021, 4:24 PM