Mass Customization of Education by an Institution of HE: What Can We Learn from Industry?

Robert Schuwer, Rob Kusters, Web Courseworks, May 05, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

So this seems like a good time to restate a distinction I've been using for some time now:

  • personalized - a common product is adapted for use by an individual
  • personal - a unique produced is created for and possibly by the individual

A similar distinction appears with similar terms. So, for example, a custom car is one that was built especially for you, while a customized car is a production-line car with features adjusted to your specification. And so on. That's why I say I am working on 'personal learning' rather than 'personalized learning'.

Why is this important? Because if you're not careful you'll fall into the error made by the authors of this paper as they try to create personal learning in the mould of mass customization (as, they say, it has been practised in other industries for years). So we get a picture of 'customized' learning where you, the learner, are essentially creating a learning design by picking from a menu of customization options. That's fine if you basically wanted to learn the same way as everyone else. But what if you wanted to improvise? Sorry, no options for that.


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