COLE for SOLE
Self Versus Collaborative Organized Learning Environments
COLE, collaborative organized learning environment, is similar to SOLE (self organized learning environment), a program that promotes self-learning in an organized manner. COLE is a process where a group of individuals work collaboratively with the aid of a facilitator, an informal teacher, to learn in an environment of choice.
I watched a TEDTalk on education presented by Sugata Mitra, an educator and software engineer from India who believes the concept of cloud learning is more effective and efficient for today's needed knowledge base, and I agree with him. Sugata has performed experiments on self-education programs with children in rural areas of India. In these experiments a computer was all that was provided them, but their knowledge increased exponentially over time. With the use of a computer loaded with biomedical software, rural Indian children learnt molecular DNA replication in under a year in English—a language quite unfamiliar to them—without a professor. You might say the computer became the professor, but you should also note that the information was discovered by the children – they sought the knowledge themselves, and there were no structured "forced" lectures.
One could argue that these children had very little distractions as most Western students do today, but Sugata has also studied SOLE's effect on children living in England with similar results. Thinking through the SOLE concept, I began to wonder what could help SOLE bridge the gap within the current educational system. What would academicians who have spent decades studying and improving our current educational systems love and want to hear about SOLE, since it mostly alienates them? How about we consider COLE? Collaborative Organized Learning Environments can focus on the organized learning format, yet allow for a collaborative approach where a facilitator (professor) could moderate the discussions.
COLE focusses on the collaborative piece of organized learning. My belief is that humans learn more effectively together than they would independently (self-learning). The concept of collaborative education is not new to academia. For centuries, students have studied together, going deeper into subjects than what is presented in classes with the 1:3 ratio (for every hour of weekly class, a student is expected to spend the equivalent of 3 hours outside of class studying the material discussed); but what if we flipped the switch?
What if we posed a question to a group of individuals, expecting them to discuss and learn on their own and then later meet to present as a group? What if we had students study as a group over a set timeframe that is greater than their independent studies and then have them spend an hour recapping what they learned to the informal facilitator (professor)? Can academia let the students develop the integral portions of the curriculum? The concept of collaborative organized learning environments (COLE) could be the future of education. I believe we still need a place for structure and discipline in learning, and so my proposal is for COLE to be the mantra for higher education, specifically post-secondary school education. God Bless,