Like most institutions, the college I work at delivers its learning in the form of boxes - classes, courses, and programmes. Classes are regularly scheduled, course are offered by semester and programmes are anywhere from one to three tears in length. All are delivered on a regular schedule defined by the academic calendar. Learners fit their learning into this schedule.
But what if there were a different way to provide learning? One that is focussed on the convenience of learners, not the rules of institutions - what if a course had no actual end date, or start date, and it could be changed as needed while being offered and could accommodate different learning styles, then perhaps such a course could be "sold" by subscription. Learners would sign in and out of the course when they wanted to over the life of the subscription on a schedule that works for them fit. No different than how we read magazines, or watch cable channels or get RSS feeds - we subscribe to them and use them on our own time, at our convenience, not the convenience of the providers.
The design of a course delivered by subscription would have to be fully interactive and activity driven... a key would the evaluation of the activities and the artefacts they produce, for example, that can evaluate learner progress. A competency-based assessment system that allowed learners multiple opportunities to become successful and was both formative and summative would work best. A portfolio learning approach would also be a key element of subscription courses, giving the learner and the facilitators a clear picture of the capabilities of the learner.
This subscription model, which would give a learner a mostly indeterminate amount of time to complete a course would work very well in an online learning environment. It would allow people to learn at their own rate and in their own way... with support from other students and expert facilitators.
A subscription based course model would also require a curriculum that is not based on
weekly class schedules, fixed assignment times, and semesters. It would require an adjustment in thinking in that a facilitator could be assigned to a course with learners in many varying stages of completion, something we do not do a lot of yet. But it is a great way to model education without boundaries, learner and learning-centred education. Subscription based courses would also allow an institution to provide learning opportunities where formal outcomes may not be as important as skill development and community access. The community of community college. This model would work for both credit and non-credit courses.
So would subscription learning take over the current system of schedules, courses and semesters? Maybe not, but it would certainly provide one more learning-centred opportunity and truly be education without boundaries. I think it is something that needs further exploration...
(Photo - Cargo by Miskan)