eSchoolNews recently posted a great article on the theory of “Mass Customized Learning” (MCL). Seemingly an oxymoron, in Mass Customized Learning “learning is tailored to each student’s needs and interests.”

Quoting Julie Mathesen from Technology & Innovation in Education at a meeting of the American Association of School Administrators, eSchoolNews wrote,

 “The current Industrial Age system of education is working perfectly,” she said, “if you’re looking for 25 percent skilled and 75 percent unskilled students—[or] if you’re looking to have around one million students fail to graduate high school every year. We need to completely revamp the system.”

It’s true that today’s education system is outdated and outmoded. For today’s kids to compete in a global economy, they need more than what they’re getting. For example, consider the job opportunities available to the almost 15,000 students who dropped out of school in Washington during the 2009-10 school year alone–and the tens of thousands more who will graduate similarly unprepared to compete.

But how do we customize learning for every student?

Using technology, we can customize education not only within the system, district, and school, but right down to the classroom and individual student.

The beauty is that there isn’t just one way to implement Mass Customization. By using any number of blended or flex models, schools can harness technology to give students both the structure and flexibility to learn at their own pace and be accountable for their results. All of this happens with the support of a teacher who is constantly updated on their progress. Carpe Diem, KIPP Empower Academy, School of One, and Rocketship are just a few examples of where blended learning is achieving fantastic results for kids.

In addition to blended learning, “flipped learning” is another approach to Mass Customization. A flipped classroom is one where the instruction takes place at home, and application happens in school. For example, the teacher may assign an online video for students to watch at home that will present the new material. Flipping the classroom allows students to customize their learning experience by pausing or rewatching the lesson. They can also review past lessons or even advance to upcoming content based on their mastery.

In the classroom, students work on applying their knowledge through exercises—what would normally be considered “homework.” The advantage is that rather than reinforce misunderstandings by repeating mistakes, the teacher can immediately engage with struggling students. In the meantime, students who don’t need additional help can assist their classmates or advance to new content.

With the educational content available online (such as iTunes U, Khan Academy, and many others), flipping a classroom is not as tricky as it might seem. In fact, many teachers are choosing to use existing resources and flip their classrooms on their own.

For more on flipped learning, including a great video, read eSchoolNews article “A first-hand look inside a flipped classroom.”

Mass Customized Learning is possible—today. So what’s stopping us?


[Reprinted from the iLearn Project blog]