Master plan to Differ and fix higher education

Updated version of the Differ master plan

Tell me and I forget, 
teach me and I may remember, 
involve me and I learn.

Heard it before? 
Reading this master plan, I’m pretty sure you have. It’s said to be the famous words of Benjamin Franklin. The likely origin is Xunzi (Xun Kuang), a Chinese Confucian philosopher:

Not having heard something is not as good as having heard it; 
having heard it is not as good as having seen it; 
having seen it is not as good as knowing it; 
knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice.

In short: Learning is about collaboration and learn from experience.

But students in higher educational institutions are passive receivers of information instead of active creators of new knowledge. Most seem to agree this should and will change, but the change is happening very slowly.

Our master plan to fix this and at the same time change higher education is:

  1. Give all students a learning community custom-made for collaboration
  2. Ignite the collaboration with learning community managers
  3. Automate the shit out of it with chatbots and artificial intelligence.

Part 1 — Develop 📱💻

In the most simple form, students go to school to buy a certificate to prove that they know a certain topic. Universities provide access to a knowledge bank and judge students in how good they are at reproducing a given part of that bank.

To be able to differentiate how good students reproduce, most schools use a grade system with standard deviation distribution. In reality that means students fight each other for the best grades.

As a result, we have an educational system where students are neither rewarded for helping their peers nor for exploring new ways of solving problems. Yes, yes, I know the old term of helping others will make you learn more yourself. But in reality, every single student knows perfectly well the better the others are doing, the more they have to work themselves.

Education as we know it was built for a world where knowledge was little accessible. Today, information is a commodity. With the right motivation, everyone can find anything at anytime.

“The support for collaboration must be a lead design goal, not an afterthought”, an important Educause report states. It says current technology is “(..)designed on the transmission model of education (…) time must be given to collaboration, a true learning dimension.”

We could not agree more.

We have done three years of student behaviour research. 
The key take-aways are:

  • Students are afraid of looking studing among their peers. As a result, they prefer talking in smaller groups
  • Most students are followers. They do as instructed or what the crowd is doing.
  • The fear of missing out is dominant among the students.

We have built Differ, a chat app for higher education custom-made for collaboration among teachers and students to address these issues.

Part 2 —Ignite 💥

Software is built to help you do a set of given activities. If you need software to support well-known activities in well-known situations, there are tons of solutions to choose from. For example, if you want to treat the students as passive receivers of information, just pick one of the 1.500 Learning Management Systems available.

It seems like most schools believe a good strategy is to buy the correct Learning Management System.

We don’t agree. Software itself, including Differ, brings little value. The real value is in how software is used.

In order to change an educational system, we need to create a movement among teachers and students in how they create and collaborate in their online learning communities.

So how is that done, you might ask? 
When in doubt, always watch the Dancing Guy video, I answer.

Learn from the dancing guy

The change from passive to active learning must be ignited. It does not happen by itself with random software someone sold you based on a long list of 3 year old requirements.

We ignite student collaboration in higher education courses by providing on-time community management inside the live learning communities.

When the learning community is active, teachers can give and get help from other pedagogs and teachers in the Differ community.

Part 3 — Automate 🤖

Personalisation and adaptive learning have been buzzwords in education for a while. For a reason, I would argue. We are all individuals. We are driven by different things, thrive in different scenarios and see different solutions to challenges.

There is an obvious need for personalised content for every student. But there is an equal, and less talked about, obvious need for personalised ignitation, running and continious improving of learning communities.

Being a teacher can be compared to having children. As all parents know, it’s a full-time job to raise just a single kid to be a postive contribution to the society. We can not expect teachers to be able to follow-up tens, hundreds or even thousands of students all by themselves. We need to do a big time collective effort if we are to motivate all students to collaborate and learn from each other.

We need a collective brain.

Differ use pedagogical chatbots with artificial intelligence to be that brain.

The chatbots learn from activity in all courses and help all teachers in higher education to motivate, guide and trigger student collaboration. And even stimulate student-organised collaboration.

The master plan

To sum it up, we want to make all students knowledge creators.

We are doing it by

  1. Building Differ and giving all students a learning community custom-made for collaboration. 📱💻
  2. Have learning community managers train teachers to ignite their learning communities. 💥
  3. Automate the shit out of it with chatbots and artificial intelligence. 🤖

Wow, you read it all. Thanks. I’m honored 🙏

May I ask you for a small advice in the end?

Do you know the most engaging teacher in the world? Yeah? Who is it?
I want to learn from the best

Thanks. I owe you one!

/Geir