A comparison of two events, and two communities, within the digital learning ecosystem.

August 5, 2020

How might we understand our digital learning community?

Who are our members? What are our roles? Where do we work? What do we believe?

Last week, I took a shot at creating an ideological map of our digital learning community’s beliefs. Today, I’d like to compare and contrast two groups -- and two gatherings -- within our digital learning community: the Digital Pedagogy Lab (DPL) and P3-EDU.

Much of the progressive wing of digital learning gathered online last week for Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020. The co-founder of DPL, Sean Michael Morris, describes the gathering and the community as:

primarily concerned with the facility of online and digital learning, and especially with the ways that educational technology and instructional design make space for -- or do not make space for -- student agency and liberative pedagogies. As the Lab has continued to grow, its focus has widened to include issues of access, disability, equity, student rights, teacher agency, and the representation of unheard and silenced voices in education.

P3-EDU will take place, also online, in October. The event describes itself as,

an invitation-only event bringing together a select group of university leaders and a handful of private company CEOs to network and share best practices around public-private partnerships in higher education.

Is there any overlap between attendees at DPL and P3-EDU?

What would a mash-up of DPL and P3-EDU look like?

My hypothesis is that while these two groups likely do not share many (if any) common members (I’d love to be wrong), I think that there could be some common ground. Maybe not much common ground, but some.

First, the differences. The DPL community is highly critical of the for-profit ed-tech industry. Academic attendees of P3-EDU may be skeptical of the claims of ed tech, but they are likely not ideologically opposed to nonprofit schools partnering with for-profit ed-tech companies.

I also think it likely that the people who participate in DPL and P3-EDU occupy different roles within academia. The DPL community comprises educational developers, educators, learning theorists, learning designers, scholars and activists. DPL is a community that seeks to empower people, ideas and groups that are often marginalized within higher education. P3-EDU gathers senior people from across the postsecondary ecosystem, inclusive of universities, foundations and companies.

Where is the common ground?

I think that there may be a surprising degree of alignment between DPL and P3-EDU attendees on some significant issues. Both groups, I suspect, are highly invested in catalyzing change around access and costs.

Neither group, I suspect, would defend the existing postsecondary status quo.

These are all people, I believe, who believe in and work toward a reform agenda across higher education. Ideas around the means of reform, however, differ sharply across these communities.

How much good intent the P3-EDU and the DPL communities assign to one another is an open question.

The extent to which people who attend P3-EDU and DPL are aware of and think about each other’s community is also unknown.

While DPL and P3-EDU may perhaps represent opposite ends of the ideological spectrum in our digital learning community, higher education is more vibrant and more resilient for having both of these groups.

Can we imagine a scenario where P3-EDU and DPL actively trade a few participants in 2021? Where a couple of people who have attended a few of the events swap places and then share what they know and what they have learned?

Is this an idea that Gates or Lumina or some other foundation might think about funding?


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