5 Lessons K-12 Could Learn From Skillshare

The launch of Wikipedia about a decade ago marked the beginning of anywhere, anytime learning (to borrow a phrase from a Microsoft laptop initiative in the 90s and a foundation that continues to advance the mission) where anyone with a broadband connection could learn almost anything. The anywhere, anytime shift – just now being incorporated into our formal institutions – is proving to be more significant and more disruptive than the printing press was 500 years ago.
At an increasing rate, anywhere, anytime learning sites have been popping up. Academic Earth was early,Khan Academy made math accessible, Udemy let anyone teach anything, and Saylor.org and P2PU.org made it all free. Anya Kamenetz outlined the expanded post-sec landscape in DIY U last year. This year, massively open online courses (MOOC) fromCourseraUdacity, and Edx are all the rage. The aggregate impact is a dramatic increase in access to great content and great teachers.
But lets face it, most folks aren’t going to slog through a Coursera course anymore than they would read a college physics textbook. Most folks learn in a community. Like General Assembly, Skillshare started as a face-to-face community valuing the role of the instructor and the power of personal interaction. This month, Skillshare launched hybrid classes that remain true to their philosophy of collaborative learning. Skillshare says hybrid classes include:

  • Real-world projects. Students learn through a hands-on project by doing, making and collaborating.
  • Less lecturing. Teacher acts as a facilitator by designing a project, curating resources, and providing feedback to students.
  • Online Discussions. Students can ask questions, share links, and get feedback from other students around the world.
  • In-Person Workshops. To foster a collaborative learning experience, students will meet in-person to collaborate and work on projects together in their cities.

These anytime, anywhere providers will become degree replacements when they provide two or three of these five benefits:

  1. Efficient acquisition of knowledge and skills (an amalgamation of motivation, relevance, support, speed, and cost-efficiency)
  2. Skills verification that becomes widely recognized (e.g., Bar Exam, CPA exam)
  3. A respected reference/referral system (e.g., LinkedIn recommendations)
  4. Portfolio of personal best artifacts (e.g., Pathbrite.com); and
  5. Valuable contact network (i.e., the kind you develop at a selective college).

As it becomes easier for anyone to learn anything, our formal institutions of learning, particularly high school and college, will need to acquire the following five traits at Skillshare:

  1. Learner driven with (as Innosight says about blended learning) some control over rate, time, location, and path
  2. Goal-focused and relevant to near-term objectives
  3. Blended modalities of learning including online and onsite
  4. Flexible grouping and dynamic scheduling that combines individual, cohort, and project-team experiences; and
  5. Access to experts, practitioners, “clients” and peers.

Anywhere, anytime learning is great, but most of us will require a little structure and probably a blended approach with more engagement and support. Skillshare’s new hybrid model looks like a pretty good approach.
This blog first appeared on EdWeek.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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