There are a growing number of programs tailored to adults in the workforce who want to advance their careers or earn a degree. These days, it’s not unheard of for someone to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree online. There are also entirely new platforms emerging, called MOOCs, or massive open online courses. The expectation is that these new platforms for learning are going to change online learning, opening up opportunities to those who thought they’d never have the chance to further their education. While many of these courses offer no credits, the demand for them isn’t waning. People are looking for outlets to learn – simply for the sake of personal growth.
The trend is expanding into fields outside of higher education. Google search or visit YouTube and you will find an incredible number of courses in all imaginable subjects. Some courses are free; others require a fee or subscription. Still, the possibility of learning something – a skill, a subject, a language – all in your living room has a certain appeal to those of us who can’t imagine the thought of sitting in a classroom again. These classes can be taken on your time, fit between loads of laundry or after the kids have gone to bed. This time, it’s perfectly acceptable to go to class in your pajamas.
Open sourcing is being embraced on a larger scale. It has moved beyond watching TED talks and into full-fledged organizations, like Academic Earth, Open Courseware Consortium, and Open Culture – all online locations where you can take a course or earn a certificate.
Alabama Chanin and our partners have been embracing this concept for years, recently starting a discussion called Makeshift that creates a conversation between the user and the maker, the crafter and the designer, the designer and the manufacturer. What we have seen is that this is opening doors for more communication and sharing of ideas – more opportunities to open source information between parties with similar goals in mind.
Participant Abigail Doan said, “Being a part of Makeshift 2012 made me realize that sometimes being very far away geographically and seemingly out of the loop is such an archaic notion when people are connected by their truest intentions and passions.” We believe that open sourcing education, thoughts, and materials can bring together like-minded people, but also can create a community of all types and backgrounds. As we’ve seen: people have a desire to learn at all levels. Sharing information can make our culture and people smarter, better, more innovative than we’ve ever been before.
Alabama Chanin has also ventured into the online learning community with virtual workshops on Creativebug and a class that launched a couple weeks ago on Craftsy entitled “Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric.” In some cases, as with Creativebug, you can take brief classes on either a subscription or per-class basis. In others, as with Craftsy, the class is more advanced, in depth, and requires a bigger commitment of time and materials, and has a higher subscription rate. There are also options for virtual workshops, similar to those that we present here at our Factory and around the country, and we must admit that we find this idea very appealing.
Whatever your interest, you are sure to find a group of like-minded individuals who want to learn the same thing. Want to study Photography? There’s a web class and even an iTunes app. Perhaps the Ancient Greeks are your passion. Find others with the same passion here. You can even take a class on Nonviolence: From Gandhi to Martin Luther King. People often say that technology has made our society more disconnected as people. That doesn’t have to be the case. We can use this technology to reach out to those like us and those we have to learn things from. We can create a larger community of learning.
Online learning and finding a community of common souls allows technology to bring us together.