Getting expertise working in our favor

When we're trying to learn some expertise at a scheduled time in a group setting, we've set ourselves up for some costly limitations. We might hear of those contrasints by getting told:

  • "the group cannot wait around for you, or anyone else, to have a teachable moment"
  • "we've got to cover the material in our alloted time and not hold up everyone to answer your questions"
  • "there's no way to address each individual's context where they expect to put this expertise to personal use"
  • "this has to be repetitious for some and too big a stretch for others because you're not starting out on the same page"
  • "we have to go through this together at the same pace, not slow down for some and speed up for others"
  • "if we went as deep as you want to go the others, who want a superficial look, would complain about your desires"
  • "it's your job to study harder -- it's not the system's responsibility to be more responsive, receptive and engaging"

These limitations vanish when we're learning in our own time in our own ways. We may call upon others, ask for help and even lend a hand to others' pursuits without summoning those costly constraints from scheduled groups. Online learning will someday realize these freedoms with the abundance of attention it makes available. Thus far, we've set up scheduled groups online, as if classroom learning is the only way to go and physical limitation remain in effect. That's expected because the online environment is a significant game-changer. We're in that phase of calling automobiles "horseless carriages" because our frame of reference resides in the previous system of horse drawn-vehicles.

When we take full advantage of online learning freedoms, a wide variety of problems with expertise will vanish. Here are seven of those problems I expect will disappear in the near future:

  1. Excessive expertise: When we're too smart for our own good or too smart for others, we overwhelm the teachable moment. We miss out on time for reflection, encouragement of dissent, questions arising from confusion and confrontations of lurking cognitive dissonance. Amidst freedoms, the right amount of expertise can be portioned out routinely for each individual.
  2. Toxic expertise: When expertise is shared with learners who's symptoms have been misdiagnosed, the expertise does more harm than good. Problems with motivation, comprehension and competency get worse. Online learning freedoms will support the correction of misdiagnoses and speedy remedies of personal symptoms. 
  3. Distant expertise: When expertise falls far outside a learners "zone of proximal development", the value of becoming smarter appears unattainable. The expertise too far out or far from a present grasp of the knowledge. Online interactions will respond to individual ZPD's  where learning can occur by imitation of conduct and osmosis of others' ways of thinking. 
  4. Pedantic expertise: When expertise has been codified into research papers and textbooks, it's too abstract to be practical for non-academic interests. Understanding gets stuck in the idea stage where there is no praxis, internalizing by personal experiments or actively walking the talk. Online collaborative processes will translate abstractions into conduct for getting results, realizing changes and solving problems.
  5. Specialized expertise: When expertise becomes too sophisticated, it becomes insulated from preliminary and partial understandings. The disconnects create a chasm which beginners cannot cross successfully. Online accessibility will support the gradual development of thorough understandings from shaky beginnings. 
  6. Bundled expertise: When expertise gets included in a voluminous book, long course or prolonged set of recordings, it becomes inaccessible. The barriers to entry insure that very few find the expertise to be useful. Online offerings will unbundle the expertise to improve access, value extraction and eventual applications. 
  7. Inadequate expertise: When expertise is undeveloped or naive, it can be very misleading for unsuspecting newbies. It needs to be vetted by customer advocacy or crowd filtering mechanisms. Online processes will tag expertise for it's perceived worthiness and reliability. 
When these problems vanish, everyone learning online will get the timing right and be able to experience frequent teachable moments. Their process of exploration can move forward by their own questions, curiosities and fascination. They will find uses for new understandings amidst their personal problems, projects and pursuits. They will be in control of the pace, depth, sequence and duration of their learning activities. They will learn more with greater ease, satisfaction and benefit to others in the process.

Note: This post addresses issue: 3. Next generation migrations to online delivery
of the 15 Issues in the reform of higher ed.

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