Friday, April 03, 2009

The Story of X

X is a bright young man, never a great student by school standards, but clearly well read and well informed in a wide range of topics of interest to him. X continues to take classes at several community colleges so that he can transfer to a four year college and earn a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He has to attend several colleges to get all the courses needed to transfer to a low-demand transfer major like science, math or engineering.

Few of the courses are interesting or challenging. Few are taught by instructors who are very proficient in their subject areas. Often X meets other students outside class to explain what the instructor has failed to. X earns a C in the course - not good enough for meeting transfer requirements. These are the rules. In addition to completing all the lower division courses, X must have a GPA of 3.2 to transfer.

The flexibility needed isn't time or place. Genuinely assessing student capabilities and potential to contribute to society must move beyond what is taught and evaluated by formal education institutions today. Far too many young people are being short-changed by the inflexible system currently in place. These kids have much to offer. They just need the opportunity to connect and move toward achieving their true potential that has gone unrecognized, unappreciated and/or unrewarded. X and his peers will succeed in spite of the present system, not because of it.


  1. Exactly, and if X wanted to try and use a skills recognition process to expidite his accumulation of quals for such transfer he would have to:
    have enough knowledge of the Training System to work out which quals best matched his existing skills and knowledge and then find a training organisation actually willing to do it. By the time X did this once (s)he'd likely swear off doing it ever again. X would need someone to guide and manage their way through the maze.

  2. Thanks. This is news - there actually are skills recognition options? I don't think these exist in the US. I'm not sure which is worse - not having the system or having one that is impossible to deal with. It isn't looking good for poor X.

    I am planning to look into other apprenticeship and professional authentication programs. A truly flexible learning program needs some way to "test out" or demonstrate prior knowledge and skills. It would be good to get beyond the current belief that "If you didn't learn it here, you don't know this."

  3. I would greatly appreciate help learning more. Do you have any links or references to a skills recognition process, training organisations or guides?

  4. Great scenario! So efficiently put, so thought provoking! This really takes flexible learning considerations up a notch or two, and I really hope you'll keep this line of questioning for us in the flexible learning course :)

    We will look at recognition systems that Dzyanna mentions. Australia is down that road but as suggested it is unwieldy and often poorly understood or implimented by those same gate keepers.

    At Otago Polytechnic, we have set up a centre caled the Centre for Assessmnet of Prior Learning (CAPL). Far from perfect, it is an option for people to negotiate their curriculum and assesment processes more. But as you suggest ..vt, it would be a whole lot better if the teachers and students where able to thanks about and achieve the level of flexibility you point out.

    Exciting topic you raise. Thanks.

  5. not sure how that "thanks about and" slotted in there?

  6. Thanks. I was beginning to think that it would be some time before others were addressing this. Now that I know there is a name - Assessment of Prior Learning, my investigation will make better progress.

    Yes, it is pretty exciting. It makes me crazy to hear that many students are bored as instructors are often teaching to the lowest common denominator. What a waste of everyone's time.

  7. You have described my son - 18 years old, left school having been bored to tears for 14 years of his life!

    It sounds as if you're saying people need guides to help them identify their needs before we get to the flexible delivery stage

  8. Unfortunately this describes lots of kids needlessly.

    I'm looking at this from the learner side - nothing is delivered, but rather the learner accesses OERs, articles, open courses, virtual lectures, simulations, Second Life demonstrations, open textbooks, consults subject matter experts,... to acquire knowledge and/or skills.

    Guides, networks, paths and assessment - I think there are two parts to flexible learning. What to learn, and what needs to be learned to be assessed.

    Learners can learn whatever they want. They can just poke around and find interesting bits. However, together these bits may not cover all the important information about a particular topic. If there is a network of OERs, it helps the learner by indicating what is considered important in the topic and provides connections (you need to understand A first because B builds on that).

    However, if there is going to be some assessment of the flexible learning, the learner needs to know what will be expected in the assessment criteria. The learner needs access to OERs that address that knowledge and/or skill along with some guidance that encourages discovery and flexibility in the learning process.

    Is this a reasonable outcome? Are all the necessary components available to do this? What would be necessary to make this scenario work?