Friday, September 25, 2015

Accelerated Learning for Accelerated Times

Constant distraction is the bane of the digital age. Most of us are now connected 24/7, the Internet is just a click away for the good and for the worse. Especially education, or better the way we acquire and retain information, is shaped by mobile devices that can come up with answers and relevant information when and where we need it.
Another factor is the fast pace of the technology space in general. Not only does it incessantly throw new gadgets and matching applications at consumers, but it also demands workers with skills in the latest programming language, social media product or design software.

This environment seems to call for education solutions that drastically cut down the time spent to learn a skill in order to make sure that employers can access a pool of employees with the latest set of skills needed.

What can one learn in 30 days?
One Month started as One Month Rails, an online coding course that promised to teach anyone the popular coding language Ruby on Rails in one month to an extent where the learner would be able to launch a fully functional web application at the end of the course.

The course became hugely successful, according to the founders Mattan Griffel and Chris Castiglione it is still one of the best-selling programming courses of all time.

With a fresh round of seed investment One Month is now extending its courses into other verticals, implementing its accelerated learning philosophy.

“We think that when it comes to learning a new skill, the first 30 days are the most important to determine whether someone is going to quit or not.” states Mattan Griffel.

Micro-Learning and Micro-MOOCs
Coursmos, another edtech startup that announced new seed investment this week, aims to condense educational content even more. With micro-learning topics are chopped into 3 minute lessons with a maximum of seven lessons forming a micro-course.

Of course, there is only so much you can teach in 21 minutes but Coursmos aims to link multiple micro-courses together, forming knowledge clouds. As the lessons tend to be around a video, Coursmos could be described as a media enhanced encyclopedia.

When I look something up on Wikipedia, I tend to spend more time on the site reading related articles. The same could work for Coursmos as learners look up a certain subject and then get deeper into the subject, or a related topic, through the interlinked courses.

Stackable Credentials
On the other end of the scale of accelerated learning one can find nanodegrees. I already touched upon them in last week’s article about the partnership between AT&T and Udacity.

Nanodegrees aims to teach a certain topic up to a credential within six to twelve months. Again, the product clearly caters to the needs of employers in the tech space. Those nanodegrees cover a very defined subject but also aim to be “stackable” meaning that the learner will be able to combine different nanodegrees in order to advance in her career.

Risk and Advantages
The advantages for employers and employees are clear. Accelerated learning will not only cut down on the time commitment but also cost to acquire a new skill. The One Month courses are priced at $99 which is a very compelling offer based on the premise that learners will be able to create a working product after 30 days. Nanodegrees are priced at $200 per month, again a good value as Udacity also hopes to get its learners into paid work after completion.

To my mind the biggest risk in this way of learning is that people are more and more trained out of retaining knowledge in their memory. Internet connected technology and accelerated learning might lead to a mindset of outsourcing when it comes to learning.

People might think they don’t need to remember information and also don’t need to cross reference in their minds anymore as Google Now or Siri do a much better job which I think is a rather chilling development

By Kirsten Winkler

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