The Floating University

The Floating University

A Secret University for Women?

Some say we have come a long way, some say we have a long way to go.  But picture this The Flying University was a clandestine school that frequently changed locations because it was illegal for women to attain any higher education in German and Russian occupied Poland, at the the time.

Women, however, like the imminent scientist Marie Curie were not to be deterred and found more creative ways of educating themselves.  The first Flying University began in Warsaw in 1882, when women began inviting other women into their homes for secret classes.  Curie was one of the first to join the University along with her sister prior to earning degrees in France.  Women scholars initiated a brave underground movement where anything from philosophy or arts to science were taught.

The classes floated between private homes for years because their organisation was illegal, hence the name the Flying (or Floating) University.  Here, the women did not just exercise their intellect, but they also celebrated their native heritage free of influence from the controlling political parties at the time. 

Gone are the days when higher education and lifelong learning is reserved for a fraction of the population – either the absolute best and brightest or wealthiest – or indeed based on your body parts.

And the question now being asked is how can education be delivered more creatively to everyone.  Of course, the idea of creating a more authentic and fun learning experience is gaining momentum.  Authentic learning engages all the senses and allows students to create a meaningful, useful, shared outcome where the content collected is organised into their unique portfolio. 

We are in the early days of online learning.  And the possibilities are limitless.   You can now take practically every MIT course on iTunes University should you so desire. We now have easy access to top quality lecturers online and in many cases even being able to interact with those lecturers in real time through two-way video connections.

The aptly named Floating University, an online educational initiative that debuted in Harvard in 2011, is seeking to upset the status quo, evolve the structure of higher education and democratise access to the world’s best thinkers.  No fees, no sign-ups, with unfettered access to the original e-learning platform.  Just pure unadulterated learning.  Oh Yes!  I do believe we have come a long way…..

What is Lifelong Learning?

What is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong learning’  is defined as the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated”  pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, rather than competitiveness and employability.

The concept of Lifelong Learning was introduced in Denmark as early as in 1971.

The term recognises that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations.

During the last fifty years, constant scientific and technological innovation and has had a profound effect on learning needs and styles. Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school!) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace!).

Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an ongoing basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. It can take the form of formal learning or informal learning, or self-directed learning.

The concept of lifelong learning has become of vital importance with the emergence of new technologies that change how we receive and gather information, collaborate with others, and communicate.

The emergence of Web 2.0 technologies has great potential to support lifelong learning endeavours, allowing for informal, just-in-time, day-to-day learning.  In order to survive and thrive, organisations and individuals must be able to adjust, and enhance their knowledge and skills to meet evolving needs. This means the most important thing someone can learn is how to learn.

In India and elsewhere, the “University of the Third Age” (U3A) provides an example of the almost spontaneous emergence of autonomous learning groups accessing the expertise of their own members in the pursuit of knowledge and shared experience. No prior qualifications and no subsequent certificates feature in this approach to learning for its own sake and, as participants testify, engagement in this type of learning in later life can indeed ‘prolong active life’.

In Sweden the successful concept of study circles, an idea launched almost a century ago, still represents a large portion of the adult education provision. A study circle is one of the most democratic forms of a learning environment that has been created. There are no teachers and the group decides on what content will be covered, scope will be used, as well as a delivery method.

The learner in this system is not restricted by time, space or age. A learner can think and learn at his own will, at his own place and at any time whenever he/she feels free to learn.