Don’t teach – create the conditions for learning

I suspect that 99% of Einstein quotes are fake, so I never use them. But I’m making an exception, just this once:

  • “I do not teach anyone, I only provide the environment in which they can learn” 

If you’re creating an online course in order to teach, then you might decide that video lectures will do the job.

But learning isn’t a passive process where we’re taught things. We need to construct knowledge in our own brains and develop skills through practice over time. No-one else can do that for us. It’s like expecting a personal trainer to get fit on your behalf. If you want to learn, then it’s you that has to do the work.

So when we design a learning experience, the goal is to create the best possible conditions for learning. That can include a syllabus, video lectures, practice exercises… and sadly, that’s where many online courses stop.

There’s much more we can do:

  • Establish a clear and compelling purpose for learning;
  • Develop learning goals directly related to learners’ motivations, so they feel invested in the process;
  • Find out what people already know and build on that;
  • Make the learning process transparent, so people are always clear on why they’re doing what they’re doing;
  • Show people to see the progress they’re making, in order to keep motivation going;
  • Build in mechanisms for accountability;
  • Provide opportunities for people to learn together;
  • Actively seek out and remove barriers to learning.

None of these are ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’, but without them you’ve got just another course, when you could be creating a powerful learning experience.