Welcome to LATRLAB, an experiment in thinking about the future of learning. The conditions for human development on scales ranging from the personal to the global are shifting more rapidly than ever before. These evolving conditions present both opportunities and obstacles for the extension of learning opportunities to all of humanity. LATRLAB offers a gathering spot for thinking about the possibilities and problems confronting us all.

Opportunities to learn and grow are essential to the development of individuals, collectives, and the species. But such opportunities are not equally distributed. A variety of forces together influence the extension of learning opportunities, and understanding those forces is the first step in efforts to extend learning broadly.

This is the beginning of an experiment in creating an online venue to think about the future of learning. I hope to incorporate a number of themes that I have been developing over the past decade and to evolve a new genre of online work that incorporates both formal and less formal elements. Moreover, I hope to try some new approaches to integrating ideas and delivery strategies. Stay tuned to see what happens!

Countering The Degradation of Teaching

One of my long-standing concerns about the development of online learning is that those forms that are institutionally based, as opposed to networked, tend to diminish and decompose the role and ultimately the person of the instructor by subjecting teaching to bureaucratic forms and structures that appear efficient from an institutional perspective. In contemporary colleges and universities this typically takes the form of dividing the tasks involved in teaching among multiple, lightly related individuals and pushing the resulting instruction through the sieve of learning management systems, increasingly developed by a few external platforms providers. All of this diminishes the teacher.

The role of the teacher is an important consideration in its own right as we seek to attract talent to the task. Moreover, the role of the teacher is directly related to the effectiveness of instruction because a major motivational basis for student engagement is the relation between the teacher and the student. Institutional strategies that aggregate teachers and then decompose the tasks of teaching in the name of efficiency thus ultimately undermine the educational process.

My inclination is to position the Latrlab model in contradistinction to this trend by disaggregating and ultimately networking teachers while simultaneously creating a full representation of the teacher in ways unique to each individual. Not only is this approach likely to contribute to student engagement and motivation to learn, but it also ultimately can permit and support the reformation of the college as an assembly of teacher-scholars.

De-Centering the Course and the Class

The course is an organizational construct that evolved in the context of formal campus-based learning. The class is the group of students assembled in a course. While a course is a small subset of all the knowledge represented in the college or university, the class is a small subset of all the students currently enrolled at the institution.

The course functions in several ways. First, the course is a way through a body of content as signified in the syllabus and related resources and instructions. The course is the way through a body of content as constructed by an instructor. Second, the course is a way to structure and, in fact, ration the time for interaction between instructors and students.

June 2019 – Latrlab site launched

July 2019 – LearnDash LMS plugin added to allow course offerings