Mass customisation (and education) (and the ELC)

First there was the Model T Ford. According to wikipedia: Ford wrote in his autobiography that he told his management team in 1909 that in the future “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”.

But people wanted choice. So, the car manufacturers started giving them more choices. More colours, and more add ons such as radios and CDs and so on. And the car manufacturers still went bankrupt.

Now, “customers don’t want a choice; they want exactly what they want”. Joe Pine, Mass Customisation

And we have companies such as Burberry, which now have Burberry Bespoke – see The Operations Room for more information.

or another example is the iPhone or any other smartphone. Out of the box they all look the same, but then people start customising them. they add on different gadgets and widgets and apps. So, you end up with millions of smartphones,with each one being slightly different from another. That’s mass customisation.

So, how about education?

A critic of present day education would say that schools (and universities) are like a factory.  The raw material (the student) goes in at one end, and the finished product (the graduate) comes out the other. In the process, they have been educated. Does this work? Could there be a better method? Could Mass Customisation work with education?

A couple of things to read / listen to:

Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

Doug Johnson: Mass customization in education

So, it seems like a good idea. And how to get it to work in practice? And specifically, how can it work with the ELC?

We have the data. We have the results from the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE); we will have the The Diagnostic English Language Tracking Assessment (DELTA). So, what do we do with the data?

At the moment, students have some choice. The weaker ones do the ELEPs, and can choose which ones to do. They have the programmes in CILL to choose from. Also, as a teacher, I can cater for different needs – for example creating an easier worksheet for weaker students, a standard one for the middle ranking ones, and a more difficult one for the stronger students. But that is not really customisation. And even if I give an individual worksheet to each students, is that customisation, let alone workable? But is the present situation workable – teaching a class of 20 about referencing with 2 of the class being near native speakers, another 2 being at pre-intermediate level, and having every level in between.

Any solutions? I like the idea of Mass Customisation – the idea that the student makes a choice,  rather than the teacher making the choice for them. This links in with autonomy and self directed learning. But how can it work in practice. Can technology help here?

Some Reading / Listening:

BBC Global Business: The Experience Economy

Downloaded version


Joe Pine, Mass Customisation

Ken Robinson: Schools kill creativity

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! (now a Sir!)

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3 thoughts on “Mass customisation (and education) (and the ELC)

  1. Pingback: MOOCs and Mass Customisation | Adam D Forrester

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