“…We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school…” Those words from Springsteen’s “No Surrender” were an anthem among my close circle of friends as we slugged our way through high school and college courses. And we liked school, loved learning, but the rigid scholastic structure always triggered a rebellion deep within us.
Online education may have freed students from physical classrooms, but the learning regimen hasn’t changed much. Intellectually, the educational offering of internet programs has everyone jumping through the same intellectual hoops. Well, all of my compatriots who joined me in cursing every alarm clock ring, every early morning trudge to lectures, every compulsory course we swallowed down, would share my enthusiasm for this new startup called Thinkific.
Turn That Thinking Cap Inside Out
Their premise is to flip the traditional classroom on its head. Instead of sitting in a class or in front of a computer screen and being drilled full of information, then grappling with ideas and completing homework solo, students listen to lectures online privately then attend class for discussions, problem solving exercises, and peer teaching practice. Their motto? “Grow Your Mind” with their mobile and online continuing education. I’ll be most curious to see if this program catches on.
Mostly one hears nothing but complaints about the state of our eduction system, yet new solutions (other than increased testing or more freedom to choose where a person attends school) remain strangely absent. Even the plethora of learning platforms emerging that disrupt who provides academic training, tend to repackage the same materials and the same delivery. A jolt of creativity to the structure of our learning experience has been long overdue.
Brothers Matt and Greg Smith co-founded this innovative learning platform. So far, they’ve put together a website that offers accounting, science, law, and entrepreneurship online content to compliment classroom experience. They’ve had a chance to test their learning model at Stanford this year, in computer science and biology courses. Students in the biochem class reportedly enjoyed the experience so much than attendance jumped by fifty percent, from 30 to 80.
The Smith brothers always wanted to make a contribution to the education industry. Matt planned on being a doctor, but the programming tractor beam pulled him in a different direction. Greg started out working as a lawyer. The pair from Vancouver both spent time teaching online LSAT test preparation with Alpha Score Seminars.
Even more so than in classrooms, they witnessed online students burnout from overload. Cramming information without a break just didn’t work for everyone. Add to uninterrupted information a huge dose of intense visual stimulus–graphics, videos–and students would grow distracted and disengaged.
A More Organic Approach
Thinkific gives students the opportunity to digest material at an individual pace. And I like the emphasis on peer teaching–how many times have we all heard that the best way to learn is to teach?
My biggest complaint with a traditionally-structured curriculum was that I never felt like I had adequate time to truly integrate new knowledge. There was simply too much material to absorb. Actual learning is more important than growing efficient at information consumption, isn’t it? The Thinkific motto is “grow your mind.” Rows of captivated seeds might be the way to tend a garden, but the human mind needs more space. Or else students are left wanting only to bust out of class.