Hyperlink: A Vision for Learning Futures

By Brendan | 2020-11-23

What does Hyperlink look like, say, 10 or 20 years into the future?

Here's a sketch of our long term vision, informed by our core beliefs about how learning should work.

A Home for Lifelong Learning

Learning is increasingly distributed across space, time, and personal context. The future is constant contextual learning, not concentrated full time degrees.

Hyperlink aims to improve the experience of learners, and unlock the distributed expertise and curiosity of millions of people. Even beyond that, we want to support modular learning, where learners can assemble their own long-term curriculum based on their individual goals, desired skills, and the communities they're a part of.

Great learning is inherently context specific, and those contexts are always shifting: learning aligned with hobbies, career skills, personal projects, and more. There's no single generic format that works best, and we should have flexible structures and communities that support all the ways we learn.

We want learners to have learning environments for any context — and to have a place to return to, whether the next month or the next year, to feel a sense of continuity with their learning.

A Space for Meaningful Social Experiences

A course or workshop should function as a sort of "magic circle", a sacred and intimate space where participants come together for a powerful, transformative experience.

We're interested in learning technology that supports this kind of learning — less about big data and institutional-scale course management, and more about learner agency and strong social engagement.

We're interested in learning that's not defined by institutional boundaries or driven by celebrity expertise, but rather emerges from niche obsessions and existing micro-communities. We're not building a traditional LMS, prioritizing content delivery. Instead we're concerned with enabling peer-to-peer learning, community interaction both within courses, and between them.

To this end, we want to build flexible tools specifically suited to these types of community-driven courses — a space we expect will be vastly more varied than your typical semester-length college course or skill-focused video sequence.

An R&D Lab for Internet Pedagogy

We're also making it a large part of our mission to ourselves do research and experimentation, and provide facilitators with support.

It's common for large research universities to have a "center for teaching and learning"; this doesn't really exist in a meaningful sense for independent internet learning, but it needs to!

We consider Hyperlink to be not only an internet platform, but an internet school, and a community of practice for ambitious and experimental educators in this new paradigm.

Our approach is highly experimental, aimed at rapid feedback and iteration to develop modular learning infrastructure that can be used by entire networks of courses.

We envision developing a portfolio of tools for various independent courses and schools to use, in different combinations and at different scales. This may include microservices or APIs for things like assessment and credentialing, standardized ways of sharing learning artifacts and portfolios of work, templates and automations for facilitators, and more.

We will share what we learn as openly as possible, to improve the entire ecosystem.

A Engine for the Creator Economy

There's an enormous amount of latent knowledge and curiosity that can be productively channeled into facilitating learning, with the right incentives and help getting started.

Often, learning platforms focus just on famous experts…or go the other way and claim that anyone can make a course, but don't offer much training or motivation. We're investing in early stage course creators, working with strong candidates to develop ideas together, resulting in higher quality courses and stronger relationships between them, Hyperlink, and communities of learners.

It's remarkable how many enthusiastic and knowledgeable peers we're able to connect with when we extend the invitation to collaborate — friends with interests in all kinds of fascinating topics; a wider network brimming with great projects and passions others can learn from.

As we grow, we expect to scale with more courses more so than with massive courses. We believe creator-driven, networked, social learning is a billion dollar market, and in its extremely early stages.

We want to empower people to monetize their knowledge, curiosity, and reputation by teaching with their communities, without necessarily pivoting to becoming full-time course creators.

We're starting by recruiting course creators around niche internet topics, who are already plugged into their own networks around these topics. As we grow, we expect to gradually see more of a network effect between courses, and growth both in new courses and connections between courses.

A Rhizomatic Learning Network

Learning should be not only social, but interconnected in networks of different scales — whether ad hoc projects, small research groups, structured courses or other forms of collaborative inquiry.

We're encouraged by the proliferation of learning platforms and educational technology, and success of ambitious online courses, as well as the shift away from massive social platforms to more private, focused community spaces. A lot of ad-hoc online learning is already happening in such spaces, and we understand this is just the very beginning!

Hyperlink aims to blur the lines between teachers, learners, schools, and institutions. We're creating not only a network of courses, but a network of micro-schools, interdependent learning communities. As this broader ecosystem takes shape, there's a lot of powerful emergent behavior that can make learning more powerful.

On the one hand, we can build tools that are both useful to individual learners and meaningfully connect to a wider network — things like learning logs, learner portfolios, and peer feedback mechanisms.

And on the other hand, we can support the formation of larger communities made up of many smaller courses, that work together in service of broader learning goals over longer periods of time — for example course sequences and alternative degree programs.

Hyperlink's scale will come not from massive courses, but denser and more valuable connections.