If It's Good Enough for Brain Surgery, It's Good Enough for Your Profession Too

It is not the strongest that survives, 
nor the most intelligent, but the one 
most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin


A Clash of Beliefs

This post is essentially about one man's view why fashion design cannot be taught online and one woman's view why it can! 

For anyone interested in understanding the potential for online learning in their profession or business this post will give you confidence that learning outside of the classroom has finally reached a point where it's recognised as being an effective tool.

The post came about through the work we are doing with online learning platforms weteachfashion.com and thefashionstudenthub.com

I had an exchange of comments on LinkedIn by someone describing themselves as a 'Creative Catalyst' who vehemently held a belief that there was no place for teaching fashion design online.

His view was that it is impossible to teach fashion design online and that anyone or any organisation that was adopting this approach was ripping off gullible students clamoring to become successful.

His view was in my mind narrow, misinformed, and outdated. Truly part of a limited mindset.

I do agree that there are aspects of design that require time in a studio. Mixing with tutors, and fellow students to benefit from the creative process involved and to practice a skill brings its own benefits.

However to write off online learning per se as if it has no place in helping students learn is profoundly misguided. Or indeed that teaching should only be provided by official academic institutions. Which is...well..absurd to say the least.

My critic stated that it's impossible to become a fashion designer by learning online and that fashion can only be taught in a classroom. It seems from reading his comments that he believes that you can't teach someone effectively unless they are with you, hands on. And therefore you can't learn to design unless you are taught in a classroom.

There are numerous professions where the same could theoretically be true.

The Challenge He Set Me

To support his argument he challenged me by asking whether I would allow myself to be operated upon by a brain surgeon who had learned online?

His point was that there are some skills that can only be taught in a classroom.

I think it would be more accurate to say there are some things that are better accomplished in a classroom.

But to refuse to accept that online learning has its place in fashion design (however tightly you define the term) does a disservice to students and professionals alike that benefit from this medium. I believe the same is true of every profession and line of work.

Whether you are a brain surgeon or a fashion designer skills can be learned by watching others, whether face to face four feet away or across the Internet thousands of miles from home.

Brain Surgery v Fashion Design

So let's look at his analogy and see how strong it is. Maybe he has a valid point?

According to Study.com the route to becoming a brain surgeon looks something like this:

  1. Earn a Batchelor's Degree
  2. Earn a Medical Degree
  3. Complete a Seven Residency
  4. Complete a Fellowship
  5. Obtain a Medical License
  6. Become Board Certified
  7. Earn Continuing Education Credits
  8. Ongoing Professional Development


Ongoing Professional Development

Surgeons must continue to learn of new techniques, new equipment, drugs and approaches to patient care. Much of this knowledge will be obtained through attending seminars and courses either in person or online. 

For example in London, July 2018,  at the SEVENTH ANNUAL WORLD COURSE IN ADVANCED BRAIN TUMOUR SURGERY surgeons could attend an international training seminar and watch live surgery being broadcast to the conference auditorium from 10 different operating theatres.

This is a perfect example of how surgeons can learn by watching others without actually being there in the operating theatre themselves. For those that can not attend, recorded replays can be viewed online.

In principle, this is no different a process than a fashion expert streaming a Facebook Live lecture, or demonstrating a technique such as draping a sleeve during a live webinar and then allowing students who weren't able to attend the live version to watch a replay later online.

If the world's neurosurgeons can learn new approaches to surgery by watching other experts demonstrate techniques then surely a fashion student can learn in a similar way? Or a vehicle technician or a customer service rep?

Is fashion design really so complicated that it's impossible to teach someone how to drape a sleeve, or how to create a gathered skirt or drape a wrap skirt from a lecturer's online video?

Back to that London event...

This annual event was a coming together of 20 of the world's greatest surgeons. Each was a Master in their own field and their involvement allowed them to discuss their personal operative techniques, caveats, and surgical nuances.

Debates and discussions were included with active participation from delegates. This enhanced the learning experience for attendees. Surgeons could bring their own challenging cases and ask the Masters on their approach and opinions. A great example of blended learning!

Which reminds me of the live online chat discussions within webinars that many online tutors are already using.

Do Surgeons Get Taught Online?

The short answer is yes!

And e-learning is increasingly being used as an effective medium.

If it's good enough for teaching elements of brain surgery, every profession including fashion should take note.

To prove the point here are a few examples of what's currently on offer to surgeons:

  • A two-year, part-time masters programme is taught entirely onlineoffered jointly by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh.
  • An Introduction to Cataract Surgery by the University of Michigan is taught online via Coursera.  The course will give you the fundamental knowledge needed to begin performing cataract surgery by phacoemulsification and extracapsular removal. Each step from preoperative evaluation to postoperative care will be covered to help prepare you for the operating room.
  • The University of British Columbia Faculty Of Medicine, Vancouver, Canada has been providing Medicine and Dentistry Integrated Curriculum Online (MEDICOL) programme using a variety of online resources in their medical and dental undergraduate curriculum. 
  • For surgical trainees needing help with membership examinations of the Royal College of Surgeons there are online progams.
  • And if you need more examples here's a list of courses taught online by the University of Pittsburgh by their Department of Neurological Surgery faculty.

And according to Raghuraj Hegde, an Ophthalmic Plastic Surgeon when asked how does he continue to develop himself, he said;

"A few months ago I learnt a very good and less complicated way to perform a lower lid blepharoplasty from a LA surgeon’s online videos. I used it with successful results."

Is Online Learning Effective?

There's evidence that online learning within medicine can be more effective than traditional teaching methods so we should be taking note about how to integrate online learning in its various forms within all business sectors too. See this report.

And the future looks even more impressive with developments in immersive technology, virtual reality glasses, and body navigation software all on the horizon for surgeons. Here's a fascinating article that explains what's coming.

Having a Growth Mindset

As Darwin said

"It is not the strongest that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one 
most responsive to change."

I can only conclude that my critical commentator who ironically calls himself a Creative Catalyst, is something akin to a dinosaur, afraid to change and destined to become extinct.

Perhaps it's because he's demonised by a 'not invented here syndrome'?

Or maybe he feels his part-time classroom gig is threatened by the progressive march of online learning?

Or worse still may be his criticism is based at me because I'm a woman!!

As technology increasingly overlaps every business, and as each industry needs to find new ways to integrate technology into the life cycle and re-cycle life of everything it produces, approaches to business education must also take a radical shift.

In a report by Deloitte, the digital transformation of the fashion industry is its biggest challenge. The limited mindset of any educators will not help if they try and block the rise of new approaches to learning. 

The skills gap must be plugged.

And online learning can and must play a key part, just as it does with surgeons.

The following video helps to explain this further.

Managing Expectations

Where I do agree with the Creative Catalyst's opinion is that encouraging youngsters on the back of celebrity hype and reality TV fashion shows does nothing to inform a realistic perspective of the fashion industry.

That's why through our work with tutors and fashion experts wanting to share their own knowledge online, we encourage a real, from-the-studio sharing of genuine, real-world fashion industry expertise.

There is a danger that when describing the benefits of any learning intervention whether online or offline, proponents of the respective methods can be over-enthusiastic about their claims of what their teaching will achieve.

This danger has existed throughout history as educational institutions or private educational businesses, trainers, coaches, and consultants compete for students. Everyone must play their part in managing realistic expectations.

But as with so many areas in the online economy, education will become democratised, accessible and open and those that genuinely offer great value for money with meaningful results from their expertise will flourish.

So let's look for a moment at where this expertise can come from....

The Meaning of the Term 'Expert'

What defines an expert? 

It's a person who is very knowledgeable about or skillful in a particular area.

Now think about all the experts who exist around the world, working in fashion within every step of the product life-cycle.

At every step, there is someone who is an expert.

Now if you teach these individuals how to enter the growing 'knowledge commerce industry' and how to create and sell their own online courses you can rapidly change the educational model.

This opens up the whole world of online education.

From a user perspective, today's technology has become so simple that individual subject experts can now rapidly create their own courses, sell them online, share their expertise and reach a global audience.

But it takes a growth mindset.

I hope I never need brain surgery.

One thing is for sure though....

I shall not be stopping to ask my surgeon whether or not they learned some of their skills online.

I will expect it!

And what of the catalyst's mindset?

Well, there's a danger to catalysts - they can be poisoned and lose their effectiveness in creating the very change they are used for. Like running your car on leaded fuel and ruining the catalytic converters in the exhaust system as the catalyst gets poisoned by the lead.

So beware of poisoning yourself with a limiting mindset too!

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