Story by Tricia Edgar
My father was the original internet. Stuck on a question for a class project, I could either go to the library or go to him. I chose the shorter commute.
From its beginnings, the internet has been a place to share what’s in your brain. First, there were bulletin boards and chat rooms. Remember those? Very groovy. News moved online, and people began to blog, sharing their thoughts with…well, everyone who cared to listen. Sharing became more social, and with the advent of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and many other social networking sites, social sharing of tidbits of information or thoughts gleaned from our day has become mainstream.
These days, the web is bringing people together to share what they know in a different way. Fusing expertise, education, and social networking, sharing economy sites are creating venues for formal and informal education in everything from web design to homesteading skills. These sharing sites are all about the human connection, digitally arranged, and they break down some of the barriers to learning that make it a challenge to grow your skills.
1. Who Knows?
Sharing sites thrive because we don’t know our neighbors, but we’d like to know them. In particular, we’d like to know those neighbors who can show us how to can our overabundant harvest of apples and make them into sauce. Sharing sites like Skillshare features courses in different communities, connecting you with skilled folks in your area. It’s also a venue for online courses as well. While many online courses are in topics such as web design, you can also learn how to do all sorts of practical skills, such as becoming a pickling master.
2. Who Has the Time, Anyway?
Don’t have the time to learn a new skill? That’s no excuse. Sharing sites like Chicago startup Dabble connect teachers with one-time students who come to learn the basics of a skill like knitting. These low commitment classes only last for a few hours and provide a venue for intrigued dabblers to try on a new skill.
3. Money, Money
Traditional venues for higher learning are rich in learning opportunities, but they are also expensive. Sharing economy sites try to break down these financial barriers. Organizations like Trade School offers local classes for barter, while MentorMob allows learners and educators to create customized learning playlists, sharing the best that the web has to offer.
4. Where, Oh Where?
If you live far from an urban center or you find that your area just doesn’t have that many people who have the skills you’d like to learn, what are you to do? Of course, you could move somewhere else in the world or commute for a few hours to attend that cheesemaking course, but online learning has its advantage too. The commute’s pretty good, too. Social learning site Udemy is an online academy for academics and for more practical skills, like sewing children’s clothes.
The web connects people across space, but it also connects us within our own communities. Social learning sites help people find others in their community or in the world community who hold the sustainable skills that they’d like to learn. This wave of sharing isn’t only changing the way economies work. It’s also changing the way we learn many traditional skills. So let’s get together and learn together.