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The popUp Curriculum

Just in time learning and re-usable pedagogy.

Photo of Dan Ryan
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There are a lot of nuggets of learning buried in any given course, many of which would be interesting and useful or even really important to people who will never take that course.

And there are, in the course of one's organized education and work, questions we have right now, today, this hour, for which "go take a course on X" is NOT a realistic answer.

I know a music professor who does an incredible piece on improvisation that would be pure gold for my public policy students. When my rapid prototyping students ask why some 3d printer filament melts at a higher temperature, I could say, "Well, that's polymer chemistry. You can take chem 1 and then chem 2 and then organic 1 and 2 and at the end of organic 2 you get to polymers…." But nobody's going to do that. Alternatively, I can call up my colleague in the chemistry department and arrange for a one hour basic introduction to plastics and polymers for tomorrow afternoon.

The popUp curriculum consists of short, independent learning sessions that are scheduled opportunistically. Most commonly they'll be 2 to 3 hour workshops, but sometimes they'll be a series of meetings over a few days or weeks. They can happen because a workshop leader happens to be in town or because an instructor has identified a "right now" skill need. Or we manage to identify segments of existing courses that would be awesome to open to the whole college or community and so we create the infrastructure to make that easy.  Or they may occur when a few instructors realize their courses have an overlap that can be "popped out" and shared. Or faculty have identified ancillary skills that make sense at a particular point in a cohort's developmental trajectory but that s/he hasn't been able to fit into an existing course. Or pedagogical auxiliaries such as career services can offer a training that gets extra bang when it can be "co-branded" with the popUp series. Or a field trip opportunity that doesn't fall under just one course presents itself. Or we want to take advantage of non-traditional teaching resources - such as the facilities person who is a master wood worker - that would not fit into the conventions of course-based learning.

Examples from our catalog

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See Also

  1. Modlettes: A just in time (JIT) peer-to-peer eLearning content creation and consumption tool


Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A group brainstorm

Tell us about your work experience:

I teach and Mills College in Oakland, CA and "direct" the InnovationLab@Mills.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

The "course" may be the standard unit in which higher education and degrees are delivered, but it is not the only unit in which valuable learning can be delivered. Sometimes we need a small package that comes with same-day-delivery. Sometimes our courses have components that could be packaged for wider dissemination. The popUp (and the related popOut) curriculum is all about making that easy to do.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lucy Chen

Hi Dan Ryan !

a great idea!
I am wondering how might we connect this with a Quora for teaching nuggets?

As a student, if I run into the question "why the printer gets hot", I may research online for quora or stackflow for more procedural knowledge. Otehrwise, I would not bother doing it.

I am also wondering how students can act as the connector for building this network. Making connections is one of the deep learning technique that we can have students practice in drawing connections between different classes to form higher level analogies.

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