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Posts Tagged ‘unbundling

 
Three years ago, I reflected on how I learnt to unbundle my work — I offer very specific and limited educational services to people and organisations even though I can do much more.

Such a practice has required me to be adaptable and to keep learning. That is how I have had to change.

However, I find one thing that has not changed since I was a university professor — I still work work a lot on weekends. I do this out of necessity.

For example, I might be given classes that submit assignments on Thursday or Friday, and they need the feedback by the following week. Instead of losing two days over the weekend, I make use of them.

I might also have to do this because some people I work with only understand administrative requirements and do not operate on human ones. When they do so, they operate at their convenience or pace, push deadlines back, and leave me to compress preparation to a small window.

That said, I do not always mind working on weekends given that 1) I used to do it before, 2) I can go out on weekdays, and 3) I am exceptionally productive when time is tight.

It would be an understatement if I said my last week was a tiring one. I balanced classes in the evening and evaluations of novice facilitators in the day.

I was glad that I had the flexibility to arrange the evening classes early in the week and negotiate evaluations later the same week.

When I was a young faculty member, I was treated like a number on a schedule. I recall having to leave home at 6am to get from one end of the island to the other to set up for early morning classes. Sometimes this was on the back of a class the evening before or I had a string of tutorials throughout the day. It was not that much better with seniority because the timetable was king.

Now I get to choose what to be involved in as a consultant and only because I relate to the causes of those I collaborate with. But this does not mean that the work is any less strenuous.

My evening classes are typically from 6.30-9.30pm in a central location. I leave home at 4.30pm to take into account time for travel, an early dinner, and setting up the classroom. After clearing up and chatting with people who stay behind, I might leave the venue at around 10pm and am lucky if I am home at 11pm.

This is a sacrifice that no amount of renumeration compensates for: This takes away from family time. This week was exceptionally painful because it coincided with a week-long school vacation that I could not enjoy with my wife and son.

I make sure that the sacrifice is worth it. I keep the sessions as lively as possible and refrain from lecturing. The entire three hours of each class is driven by learner-centred activities, technology-mediated strategies, and individual reflection.

Jigsaw method of peer learning and instruction.

The photo above might look static, but it is actually a snapshot of groups hard at work during a jigsaw of peer instruction. It is a joy to see energy levels high and questioning minds active even at the end of the session. Sometimes I feel bad that we cannot do more or because I have to stop discussions in order to move on to other important activities and topics.

The evening classes are particularly draining because the body and mind want rest after a day of work. But my learners and I keep our energies up and I employ active learning strategies to help in this regard.

An equally draining activity is evaluating novice facilitators. I do this as part of a cumulative assignment that future faculty develop over approximately two months. They plan and implement a self-contained 10-minute lesson that showcases their ability to be learner-centred.

Evaluating microteaching at NTU.

I am always encouraged by those who make the effort to teach in ways that they were not taught when they were undergraduates.

The other facilitators and I have the unenviable task of changing or shifting mindsets over a very short period. The reception and abilities of our learners spans the spectrum of the militantly resistant to the devoutly willing. Yet we have to help all of them manage their expectations and coax performances that meet the high standards we set for them.

All this makes for taxing, but fulfilling work. Even though I am technically paid to be with these learners three hours at a time, I do my usual early start and late end. The latter is often a result of staying back to discuss ideas, overcome stumbling blocks, or debate philosophical differences.

A while ago, a contact of mine asked me what I did. I described my teaching and facilitating work in less detail than I did above. However, he was sharp enough to label what I did “unbundling”. I understood what he meant immediately.

I had dropped the unnecessary meetings and the regular interruptions. I was able to offer specific services to my clients and collaborators that I was well-versed in as a professor and was also able to focus on these tasks exclusively instead of being torn in different directions.

I have always made time to read and write (I started this blog when I had less bandwidth than I have now) and the unbundling now affords me more. In hindsight, I wish I knew then what I know now about unbundling. It would have given me something to look forward to.

Recently I met someone who asked me what I did for work. After I told him, he concluded that I had learnt to “unbundle” my services. I had never thought of my work like that before.

I offer to partners and clients what they need from me. I can be a consultant only, an evaluator only, a facilitator only, a speaker only, and so on. They do not have to buy a consultant, evaluator, and facilitator when they only need a speaker.

The future of work might involve unbundling one’s services, just like other systemic trends linked to technology.
 

 

Software applications have unbundled so that each mobile app now offers a smaller subset of features of what used to be a larger application.

The music industry was disrupted when people could buy and download individual audio files instead of entire albums. This gave people what they wanted and helped them save money in the process. The music industry had (and still has) to adjust to this change.

The same thing is happening to the traditional publishing industry, which is reeling from the wide availability of information online. It is being challenged not only by multimodal and open resources, but also by consumers wanting only parts of their publications.

Schools and institutes of higher education offer prepackaged do-it-all and just-in-case curricula or programmes. These institutions cannot move fast enough to offer timely and relevant material. Learners seem to have little choice but to be part of this outdated system.

It might take a while, but the same unbundling is already happening in the educational arena.

Home-schoolers are unbundling aspects of traditional schooling and rebundling them with online, local community, and other resources. Private tuition, be it for enrichment or for remediation, is unbundled schooling in that the coaching, personalized teaching, and tailored strategies are offered to those who seek them.

I can imagine an extreme where one educational agency provides content, another coaches, another grades practice, and still another implements exams. We already have elements of these in modern educational contexts, so the idea is not far-fetched.

Unbundling meets the needs of stakeholders. Unbundlers constantly reinvent themselves and move faster than bundlers. The time of the niche market is now and long may it last.


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