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12.07.2011

Demand-driven learning


The online and hand-held worlds of digital content has brought us demand-driven listening, viewing and gaming. Shopping has become more demand-driven as we escaping the shackles of store hours and stock-on-hand inventories. All this has me wondering when demand-driven learning will take hold?

To help answer my question, this morning I pondered what drives us to learn the next thing. Here's the list I generated to explain why we seek what we want to learn:

  1. what we're trying to accomplish beyond the learning that may solve a problem or otherwise put the new learning to immediate use
  2. what we've just learned that invites us to go deeper in the same pursuit or explore an adjacent expertise
  3. what others are learning in our surroundings which sets us wanting to emulate them and fit in by sharing their progress
  4. what's immediately available to learn from a scheduled, or otherwise restricted, resource
  5. what seems to be challenging, rewarding, fun and/or immersive to pursue
  6. what we're already good at the process of learning which increases our odds of a success
  7. what needs remediation in our repertoire to become functional, reliable and/or accurate


The delivery of entertainment media is nearly this complex. Our motives to want to listen to a tune, watch a video or play a game can involve our situation and surroundings. We come under lots of varied influences. What's different is how diverse the range of what we might learn can be, compared to the number of songs, videos and games we enjoy.

Another dimension which complicates demand-driven learning is the problem of "not wanting to learn" what others are learning. There's much less of a problem when we don't want to listen, watch or play what others are enjoying. These problems open up another breed of demand for immediate learning - demand for solutions to a lack of demand. These problems include:

  1. making the learning useful in a personal context where it can be applied convincingly
  2. making connections between the unfamiliar new thing and recent momentum and successes
  3. cultivating autonomy and self confidence to defy peer pressure that opposes or dismisses the new learning
  4. providing tools and privileges to access the resources more easily
  5. changing the instructional design to make the process less boring, menial, punitive and/or overwhelming
  6. transforming patterns of personal failure or self-sabotage of independent learning
  7. revising the diagnosis of chronic disabilities with motivation, comprehension or retention


Solving these problems involves a much bigger investment than tagging digital files for easier access. Fortunately the work involves learning rather than downtime to prepare to listening, viewing or gaming. The possibility that demand-driven learning could emerge sooner rather than later seems more real to me after considering all this.

1 comment:

  1. It is here. And Universities (and policy makers) need to recognize that content tests (such as the ACT and SAT's, state standardized tests, and the new national standards the Federal government is trying to create for colleges) will not address the needs of our students in the future.

    We need to start teaching students how to learn so they can teach themselves (i.e. my daughter taught herself how to tap dance for auditions to a dance team using YouTube and she uses YouTube to augment classroom instruction in math). This means creating a different instructional structure for classes including project based learning, creating learning environments instead of lecturing, and allowing for electronic devises (and even requiring electronic devises instead of the hundreds of dollars spent on text books) in the classroom.

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