Last August I completed an online course on Leaders of Learning. It was offered by HarvardX on edX. edX is a platform that provides a plethora of online courses from different universities. The course talks about four modes of learning – Hierarchical – Individual, Hierarchical – Collective, Distributive – Individual and finally the Distributive – Collective. While studying each of these modes I could relate instances from my own life.
Hierarchical – Individual: A typical form of learning that we may find in our schools. The course instructor or teacher owns the responsibility of primary dissemination of knowledge to students. The success of the students is measured through their performance in the exams.
Hierarchical – Distributed – In this learning mode an adult guides the new learners master skills to work well in a group. Students learn to work collaboratively and be more productive in a community. For example, in a class play I assigned the roles to my classmates after which it was team effort that helped us stage the play.
Distributive – Individual: The digital age has brought the advent of distributive – individual mode of learning. It is based on the premise that we humans are natural learners. We are the best judge to decide what to learn, how to learn and when to learn. For instance the growth in online free courses is a supporting evidence for this mode of learning. (Like the way I studied this course out of sheer curiosity).
Distributive – Collective: Have you ever formed a group (online/offline) with friends wherein there is mutual learning and sharing of information ? If yes then this mode of learning best describes your learning style. Here no particular person is a teacher/leader. Every individual interchangeably takes up this role when there is something new to share.
A reflection of these modes of learning can be found in leadership styles and also the way different organizations work. (More will be discussed on this in the next blog – What I learned more from the Leaders of Learning course….). Just to give you a quick example: A school principal is more likely to follow the leadership mode of Hierarchical – Individual where s/he is the sole decision maker. On the other hand a group of volunteers join hands to brainstorm on different ways in which they can support a local NGO – Distributive -Collective mode of leadership.
Enhancing my knowledge by studying online courses (Distributive – Individual) and participating in Playback theater sessions wherein we learn from each other and share ideas on strengthening each other’s performances (Distributive – Collective) illustrates my presents experiences with both the modes of learning.
We may prefer any specific mode of learning or a cross between the different modes depending on the situation and our learning environment (as discussed in the course).
So which mode of learning would you prefer ?