ALS Topic 55 -  Could You Be A Surprising Success as an Online Learner?

Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, ALS 55
Saturday, February 29 2020 11 am to 1:30 PM (end time flexible)

Venue: The Rose - 31 East Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000 (Upstairs. Maximum 12 people. Please buy a drink or something. We are 'renting' the chairs in this small business)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.

Focus Questions

Preparatory query: Does a diploma or a procedural skill mean that you are educated in a field? [My response, an analogy: What"s the difference between a dentist and a dental assistant? It's not a diploma, and it's not a manual skill. The dental assistant knows how to pull or repair a tooth. She's seen and helped with that a thousand times. But the dentist knows WHY he's treating the tooth, the history of such treatments, and what the options are. An immigrant dentist wishing to practice must “re-learn” for an Australian diploma, but unlike the dental assistant, he already has the background knowledge of what a dentist really is. Now what background knowledge can you bring to bear on something you would like formal recognition for in a course?]

1. What can you actually learn online, and what can't you learn?

2. What might you want to learn online?

3. What do you think you could teach online? How would you go about it? Who would you target as learners?

4. Would you want formal recognition of your online learning? Why?

5. Who typically succeeds as an online learner?

6. What do you think might handicap you as on online learner?

7. What is the learning difference between enrolling in a structured online course, and creating your own online course?

8. In some places, people form study circles, physical or virtual, to encourage each other in their online learning. What kind of study circle do you think might be useful for you?

9. Many university students have the option of accessing online recordings of lectures instead of attending lectures personally. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of taking this online option?

10. What do you think the upsides & downsides for learning might be when every home is fitted with '3D surround vision' for continuous virtual communication? 5G Internet holds a promise of instant multiway video communication for individuals and groups. Organizations already have conference calls with expensive equipment, and free links with apps like Skype are already popular. But it is quite likely that we can have 'virtual houses' with rooms, friends and colleagues always 'here' but scattered around the world.

11. Native speakers of English are hopeless learners of other languages (only 2% to 5% ever learn to hold any kind of conversation - yet all kinds of immigrants learn English). What kind of 'virtual communities' would need to exist in non-English speaking countries to incentivize these monolingual English speakers to really learn other languages?


Extra Reading, Comments and Links

Kyle Pearce (April 15, 2019) “Diy Education: 100+ Self-Education Resources For Learning Online.” DIY Genius website @  [Thor, comment: Highly recommended ]

Thor's Aphorisms - (19 December 2016) "Whatever you try in life, there are always some people who do it better, and usually zillions of people who do it worse. Sometimes there are zillions of people who do it better and a few who do it worse. You can shift these positions a bit, but advancing on your own abilities is far more important." @ 

Thor's Aphorisms  - (29 December 2015) "The only course, diploma, degree .. worth doing is one where you walk away wanting to know more, and equipped with questions that will lead you further. A system which "produces graduates" who are now certified as "education completed" has failed utterly to produce anything but production line robots. Institutions where tick-box "competency curriculums" and compliance checklist teaching rule are incubators of incompetence."

Bryn Williams -
I think UniSa while focussing on the 'professional' did expect the ongoing would related to self questioning too -  Quote :

Graduate Qualities (2011) A graduate of UniSA:
GQ1. operates effectively with and upon a body of knowledge of sufficient depth to begin professional practice
GQ2. is prepared for life-long learning in pursuit of personal development and excellence in professional practice
GQ3. is an effective problem solver, capable of applying logical, critical, and creative thinking to a range of problems
GQ4. can work both autonomously and collaboratively as a professional
GQ5. is committed to ethical action and social responsibility as a professional and citizen
GQ6. communicates effectively in professional practice and as a member of the community
GQ7. demonstrates international perspectives as a professional and as a citizen

Thor's Aphorisms - (10 June 2013) "Art is not a part of things until we make it a part. An artist is someone with the skill of helping others to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. She finds a symphony in nature where others have heard only noise. The beauty of science, or mathematics is not in making new truths. They were there waiting to be found, and an extraordinary person has shown us where to look. The gift of teaching is not in repeating words from books, but in surprising students with the sudden knowledge of their own power to understand. "..Then words half formed, obscurely muttered, became perfect and were clearly uttered..". [Odin's song, the Icelandic Edda]" @

Ellie Batchiyska (Dec 19, 2018) "Success is for the Self-Taught". Addicted-to-Success website @ 

Natalie Wexler (April 13, 2018) "Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years - Schools usually focus on teaching comprehension skills instead of general knowledge —even though education researchers know better". The Atlantic @ 

Thor's Aphorisms - (20 May 2013) The Limits of Education - ""Education does not make us educable. It is our awareness of being unfinished that makes us educable." [Paulo Freire, 'Pedagogy of Freedom']. How much time have you invested in education? How much value has your education given you? How would you measure the value? I hung around universities and schools in the hope of growing my ideas. It took me way too long to realize that schools and universities were not there for that. In fact, most of the people who went to these places, and most of the people who taught in them, were not interested in growing ideas. They wanted dollars and respectability. Their aim was to become "finished", and sure enough a diploma nearly always finished them. Their curiosity died. As finished people they could get jobs, have babies and grow fat. Some of them (like doctors) took a long time to get their diplomas, but somehow this didn't make any difference. In the end, maybe 80% of them scraped by rather badly in their jobs from day to day, maybe 10% were so hopeless that they were a menace to everyone in the neighbourhood, and maybe the top 10% were ace mechanics, lawyers, salesmen, or whatever. Me, I've successfully remained unfinished, unemployable, curious, poor, and boring to all of the finished people around me". @

Thor's Aphorisms (Fri 15-Feb-2013) "'You Want Me to Explain? You must be kidding' - There is an explanation for everything. You know that's true because somebody always has an explanation. The world was surely created in seven days because somebody important wrote that in a book. Last week a young woman of twenty was burned to death as a witch in Papua New Guinea because a child in a nearby hospital died. In PNG villagers are taught by elders from childhood that death and sickness is always caused by sorcery: . From the 1929s to the 1959s American medical doctors endorsed advertisements saying that smoking was good for you:  . Who was my father to question medical doctors? In 2013 doctors are saying that LDL cholesterol causes plaque which causes heart attacks. This information comes from very important establishment sources like the American Heart Foundation, which happens to be packed with shills for large chemical companies which flog statins. The doctors duly peddle the expensive statins to patients who believe their respectable doctors. Actually there isn't a shred of experimental evidence to show that LDL cholesterol causes plaque, and the statins raise, not lower, the death rate. Cracking that racket is about equivalent to taking on the armaments industry:  . But the underlying pattern has never and will never change. Remember, in 1633 Galileo was almost put on a bonfire by a supremely authoritative Catholic Church for denying the sun went around the earth. It is all your fault. You demand explanations. Yet you are not really interested in genuine evidence. You are interested in what important, respectable people say is true, because they can give you jobs and make you respectable too. Even if you die from smoking, like my father did at fifty-seven". @ 

Thor's Aphorisms - (30 September 2010) "'Learning, Vanity and Making a Dollar' - Learning, we can probably agree, is a good thing. That is a huge problem. People will not pay for good things. They will pay a king's ransom for vice. Thus, to promote learning we have to dress it up in vanity and greed. No group in society is more vain, as a group, than academics (except perhaps the military), and no houses of learning are more enthusiastically received than those that are marketed with all the spin of the drug company cartels.The man or woman who is to spend their life researching the age rings in fish's earbones or the use of modal verbs in medieval English may have much to contribute to the weft of civilization, but it is a contribution hidden to all but the initiated. To sustain their lonely and often mocked preoccupations they may have to persuade a small group of followers that they are indeed special, and wrap their public faces in deep, or should we say, pompous mystique. Once this temple of mystique is built, of course it attracts swarms of wannabes, refugees from cubicle slavery, who have neither the curiosity of a true scientist, nor the cunning of a street merchant. They simply want a comfortable and respected life, which is an expensive wish. They therefore hire the marketeers. Meet modern education." @ 

Thor's Aphorisms (17 October 2009) - "' Innovation is not Problem Solving - Innovation is the habit, or the knack, or finding new premises. It is problem questing rather than problem solving. Our best schools and universities hone problem solvers of a certain kind. Give the finest graduates of these places a problem with well-defined premises and they are awesomely efficient at finding a solution that fits the premises. In fact, their education is largely a matter of fitting their brains out with a list of acceptable premises. They are clever twits. Historically universities have been holding pens for clever twits, but the high paying habitats of corporations and government departments have attracted them in increasing numbers. Witness Wall Street's financial whizz kids for a recent consequence. Most human problems have long been familiar, especially the social and economic kind. That is, their premises have been defined, typically by culture and tradition. In each culture, the local clever twits enforce their solutions based on accepted premises. Yet the human social and technical matrix, mixing and whirling ever faster, also crashes repeatedly. Injustice is rife, incompetence endemic, happiness elusive. When things fail utterly, the clever twits in desperation seize, in the most amateurish way, upon any stray proposition thrown into the ring, In such unstable environments the clever twits frequently have neither a moral compass, nor a skeptic's trained eye, nor the eccentric habits of innovators who can cast old premises through a new prism, and find the hidden catalyst in an unsuspected premise, the key to unlock those old problems that we thought we knew so well". @ 

Thor's Aphorisms (24 January 2009) "'Human Decorations' - Men want to be admired vegetables and women want to be desired vegetables. For a brief time as young plants they grow legs and arms and brains. The evolutionary purpose of these appendages is to find a good garden plot. Once safely located, all mechanisms for movement and and thinking are shed". @ 

Wikipedia (2020) "List of Autodidacts" @  [Thor, comment: Have a look. It's a long and impressive list of people who educated themselves]

Christopher Pierznik (Mar 16, 2018) "The One Key to Success - Never stop learning. Regardless of how much formal schooling successful people received, their quest for learning never stops — meaning they’re all autodidacts in some form". Medium website @ 

Carlin Flora (February 4, 2019) "The Golden Age of Teaching Yourself Anything - It's never been easier, or more important, to grow your own knowledge base. Here's what the science of self-directed learning can teach you." Psychology Today @
=> Bryn Williams - Thor, your opening topic focus relates to being 'educated' . As you are someone who has spent their life in that area, what is your definition of 'educated' ??

=> Thor May - Once, in my 20s, when I had asked some annoying questions, a snooty literature tutor asked me if I thought I was an educated man. An hour later I thought of the correct reply (smart answers always come too late). I should have asked her if she knew how to tune the dual barrel carburettor on my Triumph motorbike. 'Educated', like so many fancy words, is a virtue signal in search of a meaning until it is attached to something it qualifies. Educated to do what? But in general I'm with Christopher Hitchens on the difference between a naive know-all and someone who has been civilized a bit by noticing how complicated the world is.

Andrew Norton (October 15 2019) "The popularity of online self-education". Andrew Norton website @  [Quote: "... for already-employed people additional formal qualifications are not necessarily very attractive. Employers can often directly observe whether their employees have the necessary skills or not. They don’t need third-party authentication, such as formal qualifications. From both the employer and employee perspective, qualifications bundle up a range of subjects that may or may not be useful, inflating their time and money costs. This may also be true, although to a much lesser extent, with non-credentialed training courses. With online modules students can consume only as much education as they think they need.... For people trying to change careers or get promotions, who may have no opportunity to demonstrate their skills, a credential is likely be valuable. ... But for currently-employed people upskilling in their current job course-based education is probably losing ground to online self-education ... "]

Open Universities Australia (n.d.) "Study courses online - Follow your heart and study what you’re passionate about, or choose a course that leads to your dream career". @  [Open Universities Australia is a consortium of Australian universities. This site lists courses that they offer online]

>> Thor (comment) - Independent for-profit online course providers -- Australia (and the world) now has many of these. Some are legitimate and offer value for money. Some are dubious, and some are outright scams, degree mills. Buyer beware! In Australia, the TAFE system was "given competition" by neo-Liberal governments in the name of improving outcomes. Many of the private providers who took this on offered (and offer) very inferior training (online and on campuses), and a number have gone bankrupt after massive scandals and frauds. The Australian TAFE system has been seriously undermined, especially apprenticeship trade courses [TAFE = technical and further education].

H.R. Block (2016) "Claiming Self-Education Expenses - Self-education expenses are [tax] deductible [in Australia] when the course you undertake leads to a formal qualification and meets [certain] conditions". H.R. Block Tax Tips @ 

Carla Quesada-Pallarès1*, Angelina Sánchez-Martí2, Anna Ciraso-Calí2,3 and Pilar Pineda-Herrero2 (19 December 2019) "Online vs. Classroom Learning: Examining Motivational and Self-Regulated Learning Strategies Among Vocational Education and Training Students" Frontiers in Psychology @  [Academic article]

Dirk Morrison & Jessica McCutheon (22 August 2019) "Empowering older adults’ informal, self-directed learning: harnessing the potential of online personal learning networks". Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning volume 14, Article number: 10 (2019) @  [Academic article]

Thor May (2014) "So we had a few failures. Was that the end of university?" Passionate Skeptic website @ 

Thor May (2014) "The Purpose of Education - a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy? - Is education most commonly treated purely as an instrumental tool (e.g. to get a job), or as a path to self-development, or both? How can a balance between objectives be achieved in public education?" The Passionate Skeptic website @ 

Rebecca Carmody (25 February 2020) "Homeschooling is on the rise and for children like Ayla Staer it has helped end a 'vicious cycle'". ABC News @  [Quote: "When Ayla Staer was 15 months old, she grabbed a book and started reciting the numbers in it up to 10. Within weeks, she was counting up to 100, then learning to skip count, add and subtract. After mastering the basics of maths she moved on to the alphabet and was quickly spelling words. All of a sudden, at around two years of age, Ayla was reading fluently.

Key points:

* Around 20,000 students in Australia are registered for homeschooling

* Ayla Staer's mother decided to try it after school proved "really difficult"

* Researchers say schools are failing children "different to their peers""


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar

Index of past discussion topics & questions:

Convenor : Thor May Personal website (legacy)
Articles  (.. about 147 articles by Thor)


Could You Be A Surprising Success as an Online Learner?  (c) Thor May 2020 return to Ddiscussion