World-changing content? Maybe.
Stunning new technology? Um, no.
Then what is it?
They are cracks in the dam. They are canaries in the mine. Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody, wrote in part, "...We are plainly witnessing a restructuring of the music and newspaper businesses, but their suffering isn’t unique, it’s prophetic." Spot on Clay. Higher education, take note, its your turn. Oh, to all the folks in corporate learning and training who just breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn't their turn...you need to keep reading.
Ever hear of Common Craft? Lynda.com or Stormwind? How about Bloomfire? Code Academy? Quora? Snapguide? Instructables? Open Sesame? No? Look 'em up. Why? Well, I talk a lot about how we can look to the consumer market for features that will be included in our enterprise systems in the future....well look to the consumer market for new business models and production models too.
Do you remember Fletch? Of course you do. Everyone loves that movie. Remember the scene in the doctor's office? No, not that part, the part where the dialog goes like this:
Dr. Joseph Dolan: You know, it's a shame about Ed.
Fletch: Oh, it was. Yeah, it was really a shame. To go so suddenly like that.
Dr. Joseph Dolan: Ahh, he was dying for years.
Fletch: Sure, but... the end was really... very sudden.
Dr. Joseph Dolan: He was in intensive care for eight weeks!
Fletch: Yeah, but I mean the very end, when he actually died. That was extremely sudden.
That's what where we are headed. Everyone keeps cranking out instructional content based on seat time and levels of interactivity EXCEPT anyone not already in the industry. Those folks are the ones finding alternative models. Why? I believe its because the logic that once held that system together is breaking down.
Waaaaay back in 2005, Bill Gates gave a speech to the National Governor's Association. Part of what he said was:
America’s high schools are obsolete.
By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded – though a case could be made for every one of those points.
By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.
Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It’s the wrong tool for the times.
Our high schools were designed fifty years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting – even ruining – the lives of millions of Americans every year.
I believe he was spot on. Summers off? Built for an agricultural society. Desks in rows and columns? A factory model of control and surveilance not education. You can't fix it though because it's not broken. Its an outdated design.
Wonder why all the companies I mentioned above are popping up? Why institutions like Harvard, MIT, Stanford and so on are even experimenting? They feel the problems in the model. Do we? We keep pushing ADDIE like its some kind of magic charm. What happens though when we deploy a social media system first - that would make the "I" first...and we do that before any analysis because you can't analyze something that you have no data for...and then we tweak the design...whoa...now we're all out of order. I don't know if ADDIE is right or wrong but I know its too rigid. We don't operate in linear fashion we operate in a realm of simultaneity. Now what's your design concept look like? 30, 60 90, days to develop an hour of instruction? Really?
I'm sure the folks at the Rocky Mountain News, which started in 1859, thought they would continue on forever too. I'm not here with all the answers, just trying to remind people that we need to be asking these questions now.