12.0539 flattening of the learning curve

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 8 Apr 1999 20:19:12 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 539.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Thu, 08 Apr 1999 20:06:00 +0100
From: "Price, Dan" <dprice@tui.edu>
Subject: RE: 12.0533 recognising (good) work

I am struck by one section of Wendell's response to Willard and the
"problem" of recognizing good work. The response concerns the development
of the Phoenician traders.
"The genius of what those traders did is not that they
figured signs could stand for sounds. (I think that had been done before.)
It was that they invented an encoding that was easy to learn, yet flexible.
It was straightforward and could be learned in a few hours, and yet it could
transcribe other languages than their own. To use current business-speak,
they flattened the learning curve for literacy, and thus lowered the
barriers to entry."

In some sense, this "flattening of the learning curve" is also going on now
in our adjustment to the computer revolution. More than once, I have had
the experience of communicating with someone by e-mail about something in
regards to formatting or style or postings or resources--only to discover
that the person on the "other end." was a teen-ager or younger.

The learning curve here has been flattened. We professional academics are
struggling, in a way, to find our way in this strange new world where, at
times anyway, we are as much a novice (or to put it more positively) the
young are as much informed and able as the older, more experienced.

Often, we encounter the objection that CMC is only a fad or merely a
secondary innovation, similar to the use of film strips in the '60s or
xeroxed articles in the '70s. The objection denies that CMC has the
potential to fundamentally transform both the delivery and the understanding
of education.

In the 1500s, print likewise "flattened the learning curve" be enabling many
more to become literate than previously. How did the universities, the
academics, respond then? My general impression is that they continued to
talk to themselves and ignored the general reading public. There was
little, if any attempt, to approach the new readers. Certainly in the 17th
and 18th centuries the universities fade in importance to the broader
learning community.

This new learning curve is simply one more example of what is fundamentally
"new territory" for all of us. Nothing in our academic training has
prepared us for this. We too then are experiencing a "flattened learning
curve" and need to first recognize it and then adapt to it.

Dan Price, Ph.D.
Professor, Center for Distance Learning
The Union Institute (800) 486 3116 ext.1222
440 E McMillan St. (513) 861 6400 ext.1222
Cincinnati OH 45206 FAX 513 861 9026