The educational philosophy of Learning by doing, closely connected to experiential learning, constructivism and social constructivism, is linked in origin to the philosopher, psychologist and educator John Dewey. Learning by Doing, in its construct, can be essentially summarised in the following ideas:
- People learn based on their experiences and by reflecting on them.
- Interactions, negotiation and mediation with others are necessary to learn.
- Students must feel that learning is essential for them.
- Assessment should be formative rather than simply summative.
- Students should be encouraged to develop self-paced and active learning.
- Teachers guide and facilitate (as opposed to the instructor role).
To some it may seem surprising that these ideas related to innovation in educational forums, and in particular in the field of e-learning nowadays, consolidated in the 70s.
At this time there are institutions that clearly bet on the Learning by Doing through methodologies that break with the traditional image of teaching. In the classroom experience, TEAMLABS offers an official degree in Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation (LEINN). In small groups, students must create a business from the first year, and it must be profitable. Learning happens based on experience, success and failure, and are articulated around the premise raised on day one, always with the help of a tutor who guides them through the process.
In the same vein, the La Salle Open University (UOLS) offers an online MBA in whose design the renowned professor, consultant and education revolutionary Roger Schank has participated. This experiential online programme is based on presenting real enterprise situations and projects to students who then should solve problems by adopting specific roles in different scenarios (Scenario Centered Curriculum). This need will prepare students, both individually and in teamwork, to respond to what is required of them in each project.
However, for this significant learning to occur – interactive, necessary, motivating, and mediated in a facilitation process – there is a controversial factor nowadays, the Time factor. In general, expectations of students in virtual training are actually related to training time saving. Time flexibility is often mistaken with dedication to study. In fact, at least in my experience, one of the most frequent demands from students is “express” training, achieving the same results while spending less time. On November 13th, at the last eMadrid Seminar on “Development of transversal skills through elearning”, Dr. Lluís Vicent Safont, Rector of UOLS, pointed out in his conference “Radical learning by doing in online training for the effective learning of skills” that one of the difficulties to recruit students into his institution was precisely the dedication involved in the courses available with the methodologies adopted at the University.
The challenge we are facing is whether it is possible to find a balance between the development of real impact training activities and the time that recipients are willing to spend. Traditional courses, which are purely transmissive, are often dressed with a sexy outfit, with an attractive design that basically does not transcend student’s experience or their learning. The effort must be focused on developing a learning culture that includes the time needed to learn based on experiences and collaboration. How have we otherwise learned all that has transcended in our own lives?