[iDC] duplication theory of educational value

Adrian Miles adrian.miles at rmit.edu.au
Fri Sep 16 12:38:53 UTC 2011

hi George, et al

On 16 September 2011 03:25, George Siemens <gsiemens at elearnspace.org> wrote:

> I'd be interested to hear comments from list members on where we find the
> value point for education today...i.e. why go to university instead of a diy
> approach?
> My thoughts are here:
> http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2011/09/15/duplication-theory-of-educational-value/
> I am currently wondering similar questions, though in the specific context
of media education and practice. I'm also writing a presentation that is
going to be a bit of a riff on this idea for a conference in October here in
Australia. But my answer is pretty simple. I'll stick to media as it makes
my argument easier, but I think it translates pretty well (YMMV).

1. you once went to uni to get access to equipment that were otherwise
i. video cameras/edit suites (very expensive, big, etc)
ii. expertise in how to use such things

2. you once went to uni to get access to resources that were otherwise
i. reference books
ii. journals
iii. a decent library that had books in your area of interest

3. you once went to uni to get access to expertise that was otherwise
i. experts (academics)
ii. content via these academics (lectures, classes)

In this model (these are the reasons I had for going to university, and I
was mature age, and largely self taught around cinema studies) quantity
matters. How big is the library, how significant the academics, how good the
cameras. You learnt, you didn't, but the 'experience' of going to uni was as
much access to this stuff as it was about anything else. In other words
access was what generated the quality of the experience, the institution in
many ways didn't actually have to do a lot, except be.

This model is now redundant for all the reasons that I think are obvious to
us. So, if I don't need a university for access to equipment (I have a video
camera in my pocket, my laptop is an edit suite, and I can distribute to the
planet via the web), or for high quality commentary and knowledge (free
journals, library access, MIT courseware, blogs, specialist online forums),
and I can now email these very academics, practitioners or just listen to
podcasts of very high quality content, why would I go to uni?

Stephen Downes answered this very well recently, along the lines (I am
paraphrasing) of "learning how to become". The scarcity model is gone, but
it is still about quality and the quality is in enabling for students a
shift in their understanding. Of themselves as thinker practitioners (or
practitioner thinkers), of their discipline, of their relation to all this
stuff out there, of their role in a knowledge economy where knowing how
counts for more than knowing what.

I've no idea how much sense that made, as I'm still distilling this. But
increasingly I understand that the difference I have made that made a
difference was never been about content, about teaching *more*, but in
providing, mentoring, modelling a variety of things that are more abstract,
and teaching myself how to help students to find and learn these things
themselves. What Schön would characterise as some sort of reflective
practice, the sort of 'back talk' that you do and need to learn to find and
listen to to be a good theorist, maker, learner. So the qualitative change
is not in them coming to learn more, that's a collateral outcome that's
going to happen anyway. It is a qualitative change in their own
understanding about something that will matter. Or, as I mention above,
learning how to become.

I could go on, but that's enough. However, I will finish by saying that the
contemporary university is in general not like this, and to do this you more
or less find an eddy for yourself in the university and do it because the
university as an institution is stuck in about 1980 (on a good day) and as
far as I can see still thinks my points 1 to 3 above are what matter.

an appropriate closing
Adrian Miles
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