Education Architecture: Built on Sand or Solid Ground?

I bet a school building jumped into your mind when you read the phrase, “education architecture.”  And, yes, architecture focused on brick and mortar buildings used for educational purposes can be considered “education architecture.”  Design, development, and construction of buildings for learning traditionally hold places of high regard.

The architecture of education, however, is the design, development, and delivery of learning opportunities.  As with any architecture, there are multiple components in education that must be planned and constructed according to specifications.  When the architecture is weak or even non-existent, the result can be a house of cards rather than a solid, sustainable structure of lifelong learning.

In organizations, i.e., public or private schools, higher education, or associations, education can be hit or miss not by design but by lack thereof.   If continuing education, for example, actually is a series of conferences, meetings, seminars, webinars, online courses or other events, the architecture is designed primarily by the respective program committees and speakers.  This type of learning can be interesting even informative but does it sustain the profession?  Will such architecture stand the test of time?

In education architecture, there are four basic components:

Curriculum — Curriculum forms the foundation for education experiences:  f2f, e-learning, and m-learning.  The curriculum foundation must be based on best practices, components, competencies, legal and regulatory requirements.  The foundation should be strong yet flexible to allow for continuous improvement and maintenance as the discipline, industry or profession changes.

Content – Content flows from the curriculum.  The content includes course goals, objectives, materials, and resources.  To promote and sustain professional improvement and lifelong learning, content should be defined, written, and published with access across platforms.

Processes – Processes refer to the systems of delivering the learning experiences.  Learner-centered opportunities provide the student with choices for experiencing the content:  F2F, e-learning, and m-learning.  The education architecture (see Education on Demand) must be designed to accommodate diverse delivery systems.

Products – Products include the results of learning, in particular, student application or implementation of the learning.  For career professionals, successful learning is most apparent when training is implemented on the job.  Products may be in the form of performance rather than tangible items.  Thus, the education architecture should address product expectations.

For sustained, student-centered learning, education architecture is required:  curriculum, content, processes, and products.  My mentor and friend, Irving S. Sato, promoted content, processes, and products as non-negotiable facets of curriculum design.  Organizations that take the short rather than the long view of learning, take shortcuts in education, e.g., forgetting about the architecture.  Such limited views create the perfect storm for learning that is no more than the roll of the dice.

How does your organization handle education architecture?  Is it built on sand or solid ground?