LEARNING DISPENSARY: Learning Redefined

What Is It?
Perhaps taking a cue from the world of medical practitioners,
the Internet gurus have come up with the idea of a Learning
Dispensary. Yes! The Dr Teacher is here to help you cure of any
learning disability that you might have been suffering from–just
the way a medical practitioner would do if you were suffering
from a physical ailment. The basic idea remains the same. You
get diagnosed through some tests; get certain medication; go for
a follow up; and, if some more medication is required, you take
that till you are fit as a fiddle.

Let us take an example.
You are learning, say, Microsoft Word and have problems with
your confidence. You go to the site running a Learning
Dispensary and register yourself as a learning patient. A
specialist doctor calls you within minutes and you explain to
him your problem. Alternatively, you can get online with the
doctor via Internet. You answer doctor’s questions and go
through learning sickness tests and the doctor diagnoses the
symptoms. Based on symptoms, he prescribes a learning capsule
that is available at the same site. You pick up and apply the
learning capsule on yourself as detailed by the doctor. (Taking
the drugs only per the prescription could also be automated by
controlling your behavior based on the symptoms. For example,
per the diagnosis, if your problem is that you need to have a
firsthand practice of the software, you will be warned and
restricted from going through conceptual information on the
subject). Once you have applied the learning capsule, you will
again go through an automatic or manual check up as it suits
you. You will then be given a fitness certificate on proficiency
in that area. Thus, you go through the entire cycle of curing
the learning sickness in only a matter of few hours, sitting at
home no matter what part of the world you are located in.

But, Is It
Scientific?

You can be sure of that. The Learning Dispensary can handle both
aspects of learning disability viz. contextual disability and
psychometric disability. Contextual disability can be very
easily handled by giving an absolute piece of learning in terms
of a learning nugget or capsule to cure a certain kind of
learning deficiency. But it is often found that the learners
have psychometric disability that hinders their learning and
becomes chronic when the systems keep trying context-specific
solutions that are detrimental to the learner’s ability to
learn. Such learners have difficulty in learning not because
they do not have the interface with contextual input, but due to
the way the learning is delivered. Their problem is not the
acute shortage of knowledge or information but the chronic
disability to respond to a specific system that offers the
learning.

To deal with this type of
learning disability, the dispensary service will be able to
establish if the symptomatic analysis shows a particular
instructional methodology being the cause of learning
disability. For example, if the symptoms are that the learner
could not learn because of mammoth theoretical information being
thrown at him or her though the learner wanted to learn by
doing, it will offer an entire medical course that teaches the
same unit with an instructional methodology that suits the
learner most–hands-on practice in this case.What Is So
Special?

Though there are some apprehensions from some quarters, the
Learning Dispensary offers many specific advantages over the
traditional approach to learning. Such learning nuggets make
education and training self-paced. In their pursuit for
“anytime anywhere learning” people are drifting away
from colleges and universities. Then there is the urgent need
for people at every level in every profession to upgrade their
existing knowledge and skill-sets.

Until now, the use of
technology was limited to classroom and people had to take
sabbaticals to be able to upgrade themselves with the latest.
Today’s executives do not have that kind of time. They cover
multiple time zones physically and work with a number of people
spread over various geographies electronically ending up with
little time to explore and attend long training sessions.

The other advantage with
Learning Dispensary system is that you do not go through a pile
of junk to acquire a small portion that is to be learned. The Dr
Teacher does not bother you with too much of information. Dr
Teacher hits the specific virus causing the learning deficiency
and that is it.

This mode of teaching and
learning will help as diligently an individual as an
organization with a big setup. Industry, specially the software
and telecom segments, is finding it difficult to handle the ever
changing need to train the mobile staff and upgrade them with
the latest. Now they do not need to worry too much. They just
need to hire an agency running a Learning Dispensary just as
they have medical facilities for their employees.What Is the
Future Like?

So far so good! But what does it take in terms of technological
requirements? How much does it cost? What are future prospects?

Interestingly, the
systemic requirements to run this kind of a setup are not very
complex or costly for teachers or the students. All that one
needs is a PC with Internet access and a telephone. This level
of technology has become a necessity among the average masses in
most of the developed world and the developing economies are
also not lagging behind. And with technology becoming more
viable, this is going to increase phenomenally. Although the use
of existing technology of Internet and telephony will be enough
to handle this kind of a setup, there are technologies such as
PC-Plus from Microsoft that will give it additional teeth. This
technology is in the pipeline and all set to take the world of
connectivity by storm.

Providers will also not
face much difficulty in terms of technology. Providers can
further leverage the technology by having virtual Dr Teachers
who can continue with whatever they are doing as their mainline
work. For example, a hardware engineer placed in Virginia is at
the same time doubling as a Dr Teacher and gets a call by the
system to work with a learner with certain kind of learning
disability.

With learning through
electronic media already reaching its zenith (if growth of
Computer Based Training (CBT), Web Based Training (WBT), and
online universities are any indication), learning dispensaries
are going to be the future models of education and training. It
will be a giant leap and real educational challenge to determine
and exploit the computer, the Internet, and the inherent
potentialities of the technologies to the advantage of learners
and teachers.

There are people who argue
that learning takes place only through a cognitive dissonance.
Learning happens when what happens during an interaction causes
the learner to question or reflect on what they know and then
revise it. But we can bring in objectivity here as well.
Moreover, often these discourses end up in taking the learning
experience to an altogether different tangent, achieving very
little and sometimes negative results. With the Learning
Dispensary type of scenario, the interaction between the Dr
Teacher and the suffering learners would result in determining
the learning sickness and then the absolute piece of learning
will be delivered.

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