What is Scholar?

What is Scholar?
Scholar is a highly-efficient digital learning environment that models effective learning and knowledge development in complex settings. The Scholar Partnership is the conjunction of the Geneva Learning Foundation, the University of Illinois College of Education and Learning Strategies International (LSi).

What are the limitations of existing forms of e-learning?
Many of the online learning technologies of the recent past have been modeled after top-down, legacy training systems. They are heavily weighted to the transmission of centralized knowledge from the center (headquarters, the capital city) to the periphery (the community, village, or clinic). Their effectiveness is limited because transmitted knowledge is often abstract and decontextualized, while the value of existing local knowledge, practices and understanding is not recognized or incorporated into the learning experience.

How is Scholar different?
Rather than focus on the transmission of information, in Scholar people focus on co-constructing knowledge (by solving problems, building a case study, developing an implementation plan) that is relevant and applicable to their work. Learners take individual responsibility for their work, but are then asked to give and receive feedback from their peers, modeling real world problem-solving, collaboration, and leadership. Experts, teachers and facilitators can fully focus their energy to provide both formative and summative feedback and evaluation, with course administrative and management tasks minimized.

Scholar’s unique pedagogical pattern
Learners continuously learn through informal dialogue as a community, taking responsibility for their own learning while sharing feedback with their peers. Writing, feedback, and revision are guided by a structured but flexible rubric (a coherent set of instructions and criteria that describe what the learner needs to do), providing constant formative feedback. Completing a course is rewarded not just with a certificate or a badge, but by being able to share work produced with the community.

Scholar knowledge co-construction pedagogical pattern
Scholar knowledge co-construction pedagogical pattern

What is needed to build a Scholar course?
With Scholar, the front-loaded investment needed to tailor a course is minimal. There is no need for costly investment in curriculum development, expensive videos or other materials, or tutors to grade papers. The significant investment is in developing the pedagogical rubric and the learning design that will support learners toward achievement of specific outcomes or behaviors (competencies).

Potential uses for Scholar

  • Scale up capacity building: You have an existing face-to-face training program, but want to train more people (scale up). With Scholar, you can scale up at low cost, without losing personalization. Individual participants work in quads of four learners that form a peer group, connected to the larger group through the community space.
  • Foster collaboration and implementation across silos: You have a strategy, but individuals in their silos think the way they already do things is just fine. Scholar can facilitate collaboration across silos and borders, with colleagues peer-reviewing each other’s implementation plans based on the same strategy.
  • Accelerate reporting and analysis: Returning field staff can be coerced into analyzing their experience, but nobody has time to read reports, least of all outgoing staff. Scholar can be configured to rapidly develop, process, and analyze reporting data, with returning and outgoing team members working together and connected throughout a project.
  • Rapidly develop case studies: You need to develop case studies, but a consultant will find it difficult to access tacit knowledge and experience. Scholar can be used to convene staff to document and peer review their individual and group work, rapidly producing high-quality knowledge inaccessible by other means. Discover how emergency responders from 110 countries co-developed over 700 pages of high-quality case studies in four weeks
  • Ignite communities of practice: You want to build a self-organizing community of practice. Scholar includes a built-in community component that lowers the barriers to rapid communication and information sharing. Furthermore, community bonds are strengthened by the experience of developing knowledge (case studies, implementation plans, reports, etc.) together.
  • Bring static knowledge to life: You have a new publication, and would like its contents to be taken up and applied by countries. Scholar can support the development of country-specific plans for preparedness and operational planning aligned to a global strategy, with country representatives peer reviewing each other’s plans. You can then engage actors into reflective exercises on what worked and why (lessons learned) and what this means for future efforts.