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Related Projects

Is “Learning Offer” a good term for a modern form of what once was called a “course”?

This is a blog post from Stackechange (English language usage). MobileBE coordinator Christian Geiselmann asked for better ways to express what in MobileBE we so far called a "method". 

"I am in search of an adequate term for something in the area of education. Dictionaries and various online resources have not helped so far. Here is the thing I need a word for:

Context: In adult education there are various forms to organise teaching or respectively learning. Traditionally, adult education providers have "courses" or "classes". However, modern pedagogy (or andragogy) tries to avoid terms like "teacher" and "teaching", because there is a general tendency in the field to reduce the role of the "teacher" and to give as much emphasis as possible to the role of the "learner". The "teacher" in that context is seen rather as a facilitator to help others (i.e. the learners) to engage in a learning process (ideally with each other), e.g. by providing a favourable environment (place, time, materials, atmosphere, etc.)

Accordingly, traditional terms such as "course" or "class" are not suitable anymore. More appropriate seem to be expressions such as "learning offer", "learning arrangement", "learning setup" or "learning format". (In German the terms Lernangebot and Lernarrangement or Lernformat are common amongst adult education professionals, although not really amongst the wider public).

My concrete problem: I need a way to speak of such "learning offers" to my international (European) adult education colleagues in an multinational project we are carrying out at the moment. The project is about developing new - yes - "learning offers", "learning formats", or how ever you want to call it. "Classes" or "courses" would be too much implying traditional forms of teaching, and our project is exactly about the opposite thing: helping people to engage in learning activities themselves and actively.

So I could easily use "learning offer" as a very general term. But on the other hand I do not want to coin terms myself; rather I would like to use a term that is established in the English speaking world (amongst professionals) without sounding too weird to the general public. So, the term should be both acceptable for experts, and self-explanatory for those who see it the first time.

A sample sentence would be:

As everybody in our team is currently preparing their two pilot projects to test new learning offers, please find included a list of all new learning offers we so far have created.

What do you recommend?

So far I have been calling these things methods, but methods is such an unspecific notion (that can mean everything) that I always run into problems with it."

For answers by native speakers of English see the article in Stackexchange (where it was eventually closed because people found the issue "predominantly opinion based", but via this link it is still accessible)

Answers by native speakers in the forum:

1) ScottM writes:

That's news to me. My wife is an associate professor at a US university, and she still calls them "courses". Is this perhaps a regional thing? – ScottM Jul 2 '18 at 20:45

@ScottM In a university context I find the term "courses" still adequate because the form of doing it (with an dominant role of the teacher, or professor, who will e.g. be responsible for giving input) is usually relatively "traditional". - But still you may be right. The concepts I laid out above are common in Europe, but anyway predominantly with adult education professionals; at university, they would not be so present in Europe either. – Christian Geiselmann Jul 2 '18 at 20:52

2) Hot Licks writes:

"Learning offer" sounds like a scam to me. If you want a generic term I'd use "educational opportunity". – Hot Licks Jul 2 '18 at 21:15

@HotLicks - Yes, exactly such opinions of native speakers I was looking for. "Educational opportunity" is a term I will seriously consider. Problem perhaps, for practical purposes it is bit long... a shorter term would be better. – Christian Geiselmann Jul 2 '18 at 21:33

3) Jason Bassford writes:

Unless somebody actually has a glossary of "modern pedagogy" terminology, there is no definitive answer than anybody can give. I would say refer to the same sources that told you not to use the word "teacher." If that source doesn't say to not to use "course," then you're making a false assumption. – Jason Bassford Jul 2 '18 at 22:43

@JasonBassford Unfortunately there is no particular source that tells me to not use the word "teacher" for that kind of "learning facilitator". It is common understanding in my profession. Modern adult education uses a lot of other tools than only gathering people in a room and telling them something they then write down in notebooks. There are learning situations where no "teacher" is present at all. People learn in a self-organised way. Such a situation can hardly be called a "course" (or can it?). I am looking for term that covers all situations but is still is self-explanatory. – Christian Geiselmann Jul 3 '18 at 10:48

4) Robbie Goodwin writes:

Christian Geiselmann, and you seem to be giving a lot of credence to people who for some reason want to re-invent the wheel. When you see a difference between "Learning Offers" and "courses' can you explain it… or why you want capital "L… O…"? Of course there's a different between "teachers" and "learning facilitators" and don't you think, for instance, "tutors" covers both? Of course everything you describe, and much more, can be part of "a course…" that's largely the meaning and history of the term "course" as opposed to "class" or "lecture", or what have you. I hope you stick with the wheel – Robbie Goodwin Jul 3 '18 at 22:44

@RobbieGoodwin Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it. In my explanations I was trying to outline the state of use of terminology, in my European/German environment in the admittedly somewhat peculiar area of adult education theory. I can ensure you that "teacher" and "tutor" are terms generally avoided when referring to that specific type of activity. - As for my "learning offers" (capital or small letters, I don't care) I see that you recommend taking "course" anyway. Which might be a solution indeed. I will consider it. – Christian Geiselmann Jul 4 '18 at 12:26

5) Robbie Goodwin writes:

Christian, please first accept that your English is many times better than my schrecklich Deutsch. That doesn’t justify any of what you ask about. If you want anyone to believe you, can you provide some justification in English or German or any other language, please? – Robbie Goodwin Jul 4 '18 at 22:28

@RobbieGoodwin Okay, I will accept the challenge. Just to understand what you actually want to see: Is it proof (by way of academic quotation) that "teacher/Lehrer" and "course/Kurs" are terms that in the context of academic discours on methods of adult education recently tend to be avoided, at least in German, or perhaps also in English? – Christian Geiselmann Jul 5 '18 at 15:42

6) Robbie Goodwin writes:

@Christian Geiselmann That almost sounds fun but it would mean extended discussion, which you’d have to take to Chat… Doesn’t the universality of this page’s disbelief show you that the topic might belong on a specialist site dedicated to either English-German or restricted educational jargon, but not to normal English Language Usage? If it helps, I first came across the idea of reducing the role of the "teacher" to emphasise that of the "learner" in 1971 when already, its exponents had dug themselves so far into a specialised hole, they couldn’t see over the rim. – Robbie Goodwin Jul 5 '18 at 17:56

@RobbieGoodwin You are right in thinking that this question would better be asked in an expert forum of educationalists. I simply have not found such a forum. It must anyway be also a forum of native speakers of English, because the inconsistent, erratic, bound to traditions in other languages use of notions in trans-European communication (using bad English as lingua franca) is where my question actually started. – Christian Geiselmann Jul 8 '18 at 19:13

7) Robbie Goodwin writes:

@Christian Geiselmann, please accept two things. There is no possibility of any native speaker failing to understand you but equally, you will not be mistaken for a native speaker. If you really can't find a specialist education forum then how can you also maintain anything about specialist educational practice? – Robbie Goodwin Jul 9 '18 at 0:49


0 #1 Ulrich Sattler 2019-02-18 16:55
In the Erasmus+ Programme Guide, English version, of 2019, I recently found: "training provision" used.

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Pilot projects presented briefly

Piloting in Västerås (Sweden)

Jazmin Petersson, Västerås folkhögskola, Sweden

Piloting in Vienna (Austria)

Herbert Depner, Die Wiener Volkshochschulen (Austria)

Piloting in Cherbourg (France)

Sébastien Dubost, INFREP, Cherbourg, France (Institut National de Formation et de Recherche sur…

Piloting in Göttingen (Germany)

Gundula Laudin, Volkshochschule Göttingen Osterode

Piloting in Loveč (Bulgaria)

Svilen Andreev, Združenie “Znanie”, Loveč

Piloting in Torino (Italy)

Claudia Ducange, Fondacione Casa di Carità, Torino

Piloting in Cariñena (Spain)

Saray Baquedano, Centro Público de Educación de Adultos, Cariñena/Zaragoza

Piloting in Hannover (Germany)

Christian Geiselmann, Volkshochschule Hannover (Germany)

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