10 ‘tyrannies of time’ in learning
In learning, time is tragically tyrannical.
1. Agricultural timetable
Schools, colleges and universities work to a pre-industrial, agricultural calendar, resulting in one long summer holiday (period of forgetting) and several other long holidays, all suited to the needs of (harvest and fruit-picking) and now timetabled holidays for teachers. Most educational buildings are therefore empty most of the time.
2. Hour of learning
One hour lectures and e-learning bought by ‘hour of learning’ metric. Yet there’s nothing in the psychology of learning that says this is right. We have hours simply because they’re easy to timetable. Even worse, consider the fact that we only have hours because the Babylonians had a base-60 number system. It’s a pathetic learning period.
3. Fixed length courses
In my kids’ school we have fluent, first-language French and Spanish speakers in French and Spanish GCSE courses for years on end! Many courses are too long, some too short, and of you want to go into further education in October, you’ll have to wait for nearly a year to start your course.
4. Tyranny of timed talk
Timetabled talks – lectures - are the mainstay of higher education. But having to sit and listen to someone (ofte a poor presenter) talk at you (for an hour) is hard going and educationally inefficient. The ‘chalk and talk’ model has being going on for so long that we’ve simply forgotten that it doesn’t wash.
5. No recording and distribution
Preventing learners from access to learning content when they want is criminal. Why don’t we record lectures to be reviewed when students want, and to allow them to stop, rewind, reflect, take notes etc? Novelists, journalists, movie makers, bloggers, wiki contributors and almost everyone else on the planet distribute material to be available to audiences – all, apart from learning professionals!
6. Course v action
The timing of courses is often dislocated from the opportunity to put what you’ve learnt into practice. Induction courses that start weeks after you’ve joined, IT courses long before the software is available and so on. The time of a course is often not immediately before its practical application, introducing a period of forgetting or skills decay.
7. No spaced practice
The ‘sheep-dip’ experience, is standard in the vast majority of courses. It completely ignores the need for spaced-practice over time, denying reinforcement and retention. To be blunt - it simply means we forget most of what is taught on courses.
8. Attention and learning
Psychological attention is a necessary condition for most meaningful learning. By tying learning to specific times it is unlikely to be congruent with periods of optimal attention. Chinese schoolchildren have a nap after lunch to combat this problem. We heavily timetable ineffective, post-prandial periods of learning.
9. Time to attend
Courses and lectures demand ‘attendance’, thus wasting huge amounts of time, money and effort in just getting there. A ridiculous amount of time and money is spent on simply getting to the starting point and getting back – this can be up to 50% of a give training budget.
10. Time wasted
Within a course, people are always dropping out, cognitively. Classroom studies in the
Time is truly tyrannical in learning. Timeshift is the answer.