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Clubhouse: this is what online learning should look like

Incredible access to incredible people. If you are lucky enough to have an invitation to the world’s most exclusive new social media platform Clubhouse, you could be glimpsing the university of the future.

Photo: Unsplash

Clubhouse demonstrates the huge potential for group learning online

Clubhouse offers real-time audio discussion ‘rooms’ where people from all sorts of industries and walks-of-life discuss topics with an audience.

“The magic ingredient is what we’ve all been missing – shared experience”

The experience is like listening to a podcast – happening live – where you can raise your hand and join in. Yet it is nothing more technical than a group phone call.

With a world in lockdown and millions of people starved of social interaction, the timing of Clubhouse’s release couldn’t be better.

The magic ingredient is what we’ve all been missing – shared experience – participating with something happening together as a group, in the moment. Live entertainment. Real debate.

Clubhouse is like a festival of MOOCs all in one place. With the best teacher-headliners you could wish for. Like Elon Musk for example, who sent the app into meltdown for appearing for an impromptu Q&A.

Communal learning online: Isn’t that what we’ve been searching for?

What interests me most about Clubhouse is that it demonstrates the huge potential for group learning online.

With so many universities, schools and colleges struggling to adapt to online learning, this app has managed to achieve what so many edtech solutions fail to deliver – communal learning and shared experience.

As director of OK Student, one of the biggest criticisms I hear of online learning is that it feels like a solitary process, that students are learning alone.

This is in total contrast to their previous classroom-based experience. Universities often want to focus on the curriculum being delivered direct to the consumer like a product, but I believe that the university community itself is often the real educator.

Communities are self-fulfilling learning spaces. Students help each other along – we explain, we discuss, we copy, we share and we inspire in communal learning and Clubhouse seems to capture those basic elements online. Lively discussion where people educate each other as a group.

It is important to note that there are many concerns about moderation, misinformation and freedom of speech on the platform. However, from what I’ve seen so far there is so much value here for people who want to learn.

So what content is on Clubhouse and how can students benefit?

The media hype is about celebrities on the platform but the real value is access to the people behind the success. The execs, the mentors, the industry insiders, the investors, the techies.

These are the people at the cutting edge of so many of our digital industries. They are not talking about what they did in the past, they are talking about what they are doing right now.

It is well documented that students need to develop better networks and networking skills to boost their employability. Any engagement with real industry is always a massive boost towards their entry into a highly competitive jobs market.

Never before have I seen such easy, unregulated access to influential people.

As an example, the regular Clubhouse room Tech News After Party at 11pm is moderated by Rushi Shah, product manager for Tesla (ex-NASA); Simal Adenwala, senior UX researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank; Jonathan Tien, product manager at Reddit; Alok Gupta, engineer at Snap (ex-Facebook); Avichal Garg, Electric Capital (ex-Facebook, ex-Google, Angel Investor).

“If universities could recreate this user experience in their own online provision it would be a game-changer”

These are the gatekeepers of dream tech jobs openly networking and sharing their thoughts. All you have to do is raise your virtual hand to be on stage with them.

Giving millions of graduates an audience with this level of industry knowledge and expertise, usually only reserved for students of Stanford Universityshould be the goalIf universities could recreate this user experience in their own online provision it would be a game-changer.

But they had better do it fast. In the wake of Covid-19 I have no doubt Silicon Valley will be eyeing-up the global education industry as prime digital real estate. Facebook University anyone?

Having experienced Clubhouse, I can see now how it could actually work.

About the author:

Nicholas Cuthbert is Director of OK Student. Nicholas promotes British universities and provides opportunities for talented students to study and work in the UK. Comments and connections are always welcome – n.cuthbert@okstudent.co.uk

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