“The ledger”

So we aren’t even at week 1 of the IDEL course, and the University of Edinburgh team are already serving up some real food for thought.

We were given some links to video content to peruse – I’m guessing as a way of getting the juices flowing and priming us for some of the content we’re likely to be discussing.

One in particular peaked my interest – ‘Learning is Earning 2026 by the Institute for the Future (IFTF)’.

It’s a video produced by the Institute for the Future. I’ve never come across them before, but am really glad to have done so. As an organisation it seems to me that they speculate on what the future could look like, by combining several recent developments or trends. In this example they’re exploring a combination of block-chaining, digital credentials and a flat, non-hierarchical form of learning from your peers.

It’s already got the cogs whirring, but some initial thoughts came to mind:

  • The digital credentials mooted in the video are not something for the future, indeed they are already here. From recent conversations I’ve had with my own clients, this is starting to trickle into the mainstream. Whereas in the past they’ve seen quite abstract (I always felt Mozilla’s backpack was a great initiative but had some flaws), we’re starting to see commercial competitors, such as credly and accredible come to the fore. I see great potential in the digitisation of credentials, especially when it comes to providing granular information around the ‘achievement’, real scale (from quick wins to full degrees), and also providing rigour around the attainment of the credential.
  • I’ve also previously come across xAPI, which is using of technology to capture ‘learning moments’ outside of any formal programme and recognising these. Again this is a theme raised in the video. It’s already a tangible form, but it’s still in it’s infancy.

(Both points remind me of a quote by writer William Gibson – “The future has arrived — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” source)

Some other thoughts came to mind:

  • I’m really intrigued by the concept of peer-to-peer teaching – and particularly how this can be tied into a form of digital credential. Is a digital credential only of value if it comes from a ‘reputable’ source, and the output of the learning can be assessed and qualified? I’m sure this is an area we’ll be digging into over the next few weeks.
  • Following on from this, the video raises the incentivisation of peer-to-peer learning through digital credentials (although it doesn’t have to be limited to this). This could be a direction that commoditises, and ultimately weakens the value of the credentials, so if I was the CEO of ‘Ledger LTD’, I’d be wary of the approach to this.
  • It strikes me that using ‘ledgers’ as a basis for granting work, as described by the HR director, can empower hirers to make better decisions. But unless I’m missing something, it should be used in conjunction with the more traditional methods of hiring, to assess overall culture fit and motivations. But this is probably a subject for another time!

Now, back to that list of videos…

A step into the unknown

Well some 13 years after graduating from an undergraduate degree in Economics, here I am back in the realm of formal education! Yet the motivations for doing so could hardly be more different.

It’s a real maelstrom of feelings, particularly in the last week when it’s moved from being just an exciting project in the future to a sense of ‘wow what have I taken on!’. I’m slowly working my way through all the introductory information and it’s a lot to take in – but as with all these things once you have a bit of momentum it all starts to fall into place (or so I hope).

So what am I looking forward to in the next few weeks? There’s quite a lot to be excited about:

  • I think there is so much yet untapped in the area of digital education and learning, we’re still just exploring the potential. I’m looking forward to learning about where we’re at, where things are headed, and ultimately what I can help shape.
  • Connecting with others to share, discuss, argue, disagree (!) in an online setting is something I can’t wait to get stuck into. As a father of three young kids, working from home, life can be quite isolated at times so extending my network, both professionally and personally is a real motivator for me.
  • Having worked in a commercial environment for the entirety of my working life, I think it’s going to be quite a culture shift to get back into ‘education’ and learning alongside people of different, and perhaps more academic, perspectives.
  • Having dipped my toe into other online offerings in the past few years, the only real experience that stood out as ‘breaking the mould’ was the University of Edinburgh MOOC on digital cultures. Given the format and thought that’d gone into this, I can only be enthusiastic about what lies ahead. In my opinion ‘elearning’ has quite a negative reputation, and that’s largely down to some of ‘click next’ compliance courses we’ve all experienced in the past at some point. I’m looking forward to being challenged about what a digital learning experience could be, and how this can be facilitated.

So what about the fears?

  • I’m sure every student has the same doubts, but the anticipated time commitment is on my mind. I want to contribute, and ultimately gain full value from the course but am a tad nervous about baking this into my week. But I’m sure once I’ve got into a rhythm it’ll be fine – once the conversations start flowing they’ll be fuel for my learning fire!
  • It seems the real framework of the IDEL course is the personal blog. Having always battled to articulate my thoughts from many words into few, I think this’ll be a big challenge at the start. But I see the opportunity to practice, and ultimately work on this soft skill as a real fringe benefit of taking the course.

So what lies ahead over the next few days? Well, I’m travelling back to the UK tomorrow (I’ve left the family in Holland with the in-laws for another week), and am downloading what I can now to get up to speed on ‘Week 0’ while in transit. Then come week 1, it’s all systems go!