The future of education: the distributed school and customized learning

April 01, 2014

Ever since my friend Albert and his wife Susan have started to homeschool their kids, I have been thinking about the best ways to make custom learning more accessible to kids, families, and adults alike.

Albert and Susan have taken an innovative approach to homeschooling (if interested, you can read more about their experiences here).  They recently devised the idea to hire individual guides for each of their three children. Part concierge, part program manager and part learning specialist, these guides are responsible for creating a learning program tailored to each child.

Guides need to explore the child’s specific areas of interest (which means finding and coordinating time with skilled experts and arranging field trips), as well as building the child’s basic skills in reading, writing, presenting, researching, and analyzing in pursuit of their interests. In this way, the guide doesn’t necessarily have to have specific expertise in the child’s areas of interest, but they need to be able to coordinate access to the right tutors, experts, and resources. This goal is to give each child a fully customized education that encourages them to grow and learn by pursuing the topics that mean something to them.

Running this level of a homeschooling program is no easy feat. Parents need to find and select the right guides; the guides need to coordinate the right tutors and experts for each child. On an individual level, it can be extremely costly and time-intensive. But what if there were a distributed school that followed the same principles? For example, a school or learning platform that gave parents easy access to available guides and tutors for their kids to create a custom education.

This school could be tied to a physical space, although it’s not necessary. It would be a mix of online and offline teaching. It could offer existing courses from other institutions if there was a fit. And to make the program more affordable, a guide could be shared by 3-4 kids, and specialized tutors could be shared as well.

The prospect of such a custom learning experience makes me very excited and I hope that somebody will build a distributed school soon. Our family would be one of the first customers.

 

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  • http://whoyoucallingajesse.com/ Jesse Rodgers

    I like the idea, I worry it resembles a model tried before though.

    http://www.faqs.org/childhood/A-Ar/Aristocratic-Education-in-Europe.html

    I struggle with my kids entering the current model of education… I don’t feel the same amount of effort goes into enhancing education as it does controlling kids behaviour. It has lost the ideal of giving everyone access to an inspiring education that includes sports and the arts. Replaced it with government funded childcare mentality to churn out trade skills in science.

  • bwertz

    Yeah, the idea is not really new :-)

  • http://www.helpteaching.com/ Lilia Tovbin

    Homeschooling in general seems to not be taken seriously in the US, because the most common form is for children to be taught by parents, often unqualified. However, many parents choose homeschooling as a way to customize and improve on education program for their children and lean on professional educators to help them with their vision. The later is of course a much smaller group of customers with a smaller market potential, so Ed Tech companies choose to focus on a bigger marketplace and work on solutions for traditional schools.

    This problem only partially calls for a technology solution though, at the core of it is domain expertise – in this case a blend of experiences with traditional K-12 classroom teaching, curriculum design, and enthusiasm for personalized education possibilities.

  • bwertz

    Agree with you that tech is only part of the solution but would love to see a platform that connects parents with professional educators.

  • http://www.porte-cochere.com/ Ann Shriver Sargent

    Students who have difficulty accessing learning in traditional settings are often labeled as “learning disabled” when perhaps, as a wise educator friend of mine has put forward, “if we flip our thinking to “teaching disabled” better methods might emerge”. When a gifted teacher also
    possesses deep content knowledge they are more facile at engaging students with different learning styles. Sadly this is hard to do in traditional settings where children with learning differences are often taught by a “learning specialist” lacking the subject content knowledge necessary to engage them. A platform where technology is the facilitator of great learning relationships in en economic way would be welcome by many frustrated families! I would be happy to be interviewed by the entrepreneurs who take it on:)

  • bwertz

    Love the term “teaching disabled”

  • William Oliver

    Boris,

    Would love to talk to you more about this sometime. We may be able to connect and collaborate on solving this problem together.

    I’ve been calling the education experience for students 6 to 17 DreamSchool and for students out of high school I’ve called the institute, The Dream Life Institute. There’s definitely a blended learning experience with the model I’m building, as well as a complete set of comprehensive eLearning courses that students can purchase as they are going through the school.

    I’m at the stage of sitting down with the NRC and SR&ED now and gathering local support here in Kelowna to bring the vision to life. My proof of concept was actually last year and the results were extremely promising. My focus now is to get the right team of partners, shareholders, and core team members to take the business to the next phase of growth. There are already plans for events across North America to support the blended learning experience, and many world class facilitators have already shared their interest in being part of the schools. I’m calling these facilitators Dream Life Guides, as well as there are plans for “private 1 on 1 coaches called Dream Life Coaches, and trainers to provide corporate and team based live training experiences.

    Anyways, I check your blog every couple months to keep up to speed with what you are up to in the world and I’ve always wanted to find a way to work together. Excited to know you are thinking about this opportunity too, so if you ever would like to connect I’m spending most days just working on bringing this vision to life. Stay well Boris.

  • bwertz

    Appreciate the comment – please keep me in the loop how your project is coming along.