Learning consists of weaving together coherent (personal) narratives of fragmented information. The narrative can be now created through social sensemaking systems (such as blogs and social networks), instead of centrally organized courses. Courses can be global, with many educators and participants (i.e. CCK08).
Courses, unlike universities, are not directly integrated into the power system of a society. Can decentralized networks of autonomous agents serve the same function as organized institutions?
But who loses, and what is lost, if the teaching role of universities decline?
The virtues that a society finds desirable are systematized in its institutions. However futile this activity, it helps society, and media, to hold people accountable, to devise strategies, and create laws so people feel safe. Similarly, results that are desirable (financial, educationally, etc) are systematized to ensure the ability to manage and duplicate results. I shared some thoughts on this systematization last year as a reason for the currently limited impact of personal learning environments (PLEs). Quite simply, even revolutionaries conserve.
Teaching is what is most at risk. Can a social network - loosely connected, driven by humanistic ideals - serve a similar role to what university classrooms serve today? I hope so, but I don’t think so. At least not with our current mindsets and skillsets. We associate with those who are similar. We do not pursue diversity. In fact, we shy away from it. We surround ourselves with people and ideas that resonate with our own, not with those that cause us stress or internal conflict.
Secondly, until all of society becomes fully networked (not technologically networked, but networked on the principles of flows, connections, feedback), a networked entity always risks being subverted by hierarchy. Today, rightly or wrongly, hierarchy holds power in society.
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