A Permaculture of Online Learning

I’ve been trying to identify a ‘natural’ approach to the design and facilitation of online learning. That is, how does learning most naturally take place in real world and how would this look within the emerging sophistication of the web? The stumbling block is that we have barely been able to answer this question pre-web anyway as we have learned (or not) to our cost.

I recently stumbled upon David Holmgren’s Essence of Permaculture and was grabbed by how well his twelve Permaculture Principles can be used to help formulate a framework of intent for online learning.

Here is a very initial brainstorm around each of the 12 principles and I see this as a living document. There is a collaborative google doc here if you would like to add, question, challenge and share.

1 Observing and interacting

Making time to stand back and watch, or listening to those who do. Interaction is fluid and ongoing, never fixed. Change comes through independent, heretical and long-term thinking. All conclusions are subjective and contextual. Discerning what is natural from what is simply present.

2 Catching and Storing Energy

Increasing the velocity of content by amplifying peer moderation and input. Making archives of peer and mentor input channels that flow from course to course. Embedding cognitive strategies to enhance the impact and memorability of input Integrating learning with parallel commitments to action.

3 Obtaining a Yield

Embedding rewards that encourage and motivate and create positive feedback loops. Ensuring the rewards have real, lasting and recognized value.

4 Applying Self Regulation and Accepting Feedback

Clearly stating boundaries and expectations. Encouraging, and responding to, honesty. Observing, interacting and listening. Continually simplifying the learning environment. Continually increasing intuitiveness of the program. Continually maintaining the relevance of the program.

5 Using and Valuing Renewable Resources and Services

Making learning, action, accountability and connectivity a core focus of, and not an addition to, time spent online. Maximizing the impact of this time through cognitive reinforcement strategies. Designing online learning for inclusion not exclusion.

6 Producing No Waste

Maximizing of intuitive and connected design to direct learner to topic and task. Avoidance of cognitive overload. Keeping of topics and tasks relevant and requiring the minimum.

7 Designing from Pattern to Details

Questioning of  ‘ADDIE’ approach. Exploring of shared needs. Designing platforms that embed a universal, natural approach to learning design. Fitting of content to platforms more than vice-vera.

8 Integrating rather than Segregate

Embedding of all that is needed within the minimum possible pages. Minimization of need to leave the site or window. Embedding of note fields and discussions within tasks not elsewhere. Enabling of access to insights of students and mentors is parallel courses. Archiving and access to insights of students and mentors in prior courses. Archiving and access to insights of students and mentors in future courses.

9 Using Small and Slow Solutions

Agile design and education business models. Designing platforms for growth and adaptation. Increasing universality of platforms for allow more time and focus for content creation.

10 Using and Value Diversity

Employing and engaging with the array of learning styles and intelligence types. Enshrining Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. Peer negotiation and moderation of course content. Having peer observation, analysis and creativity at the heart of the program. Assessment elements based on contribution and sharing.

11 Using Edges and Value the Marginal

Allowing for recognition of nonconformity and daring within the learning process. Expectation of the trainer to be challenged. Develop and encourage overlap with and borrowing from other courses/subject areas when assessing learner responses. Encourage application of course to action.

12 Creatively Using and Responding to Change

Seeing things as they will be. Seeing that the agility and adaptability that allows for small-scale change ensures greater higher-order system stability. Making time to stand back and watch, or listening to those who do.  

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