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Preparation of a Tutoring Option for System Dynamics I have sent email message proposals about a tutorial option for the Guided Study Program in System Dynamics that was once offered by MIT. I have also written a short email message to Jay W. Forrester, with a much reduced version of that option. I have written email messages to ask about permission to use published materials for the Guided Study Program. This has been in the form of queries, not direct requests (until I get responses), so I’ve been careful about wording, not to create an impression that this is a large scale endeavor. The initial queries are to be followed by more detailed requests. As the idea progresses into action, I will create a web site. The title for this web site may be The Dynamicist, a short but attractive name that’s easy to remember. Initial searches indicate that name and domain availability is open and hasn’t yet been taken. Development of the web site will focus on short, concise presentations for different information areas that would be of interest for people who are first becoming exposed to system dynamics and systems thinking. Content development areas are:A- background history, B-an introduction to system dynamics, C-computer simulation modeling tutorials, D-documents and readings, E-guided study program in system dynamics, F-important links, G-open Internet education, and H-systems thinking. I have collected documentation for the content areas I want to develop for my web site. This is arranged in folders I can easily move documents to, which are available for later use and sharing. Once I establish a web presence, I will create links to the most important sites (and publishers) people might be interested in, and I will also ask to be included in some of those sites as a tutoring option. Although acceptance, permissions, and web site development are previous conditions for developing the tutoring option, I am creating an electronic resource system by gradually collecting digital documents and scanning some materials, so I will not be caught by a sudden backlog in my workload if my initial endeavors are successful. I am also writing new materials. I am investigating ecommerce merchant account options that are available through Banco Nacional de Costa Rica and determining how this relates to developing an Internet web site in this country (where I live). This includes conditions that will allow electronic transactions and transfers of money. My previous business contacts with the bank make this the best option. Before and after all, I recognize that my exploration of the feasibility for a personal virtual business venture involves the risk it won’t work. It may fail because it doesn’t generate enough interest, or because there’s something wrong with my strategy if I don’t receive support or permission to use materials, or if the mechanics involved won’t work. To be successful, I would at least need moral support, permission to use materials that are critical to completion of assignments, and I would have to develop the successful mechanics involved that would facilitate the success
of the guided study program through an online web presence and an active enrollment of candidates for a tutoring option. To do all of this, I would need to show that I am capable of delivering what I offer. That would include establishing an attractive online presence, being capable of providing adequate materials and feedback for Guided Study Program assignments, and managing whatever student load I might have in an effective and efficient manner as a tutor. Part of what I would have to do could only be demonstrated by actually carrying out the experiment of a tutored guided study option. There might be certain risks or inefficiencies involved, but these appear to be minimal compared to offering no option at all. The first step in this experiment is to proceed as though I am actually going to do it, and then to continue taking steps until it succeeds or there is an overwhelming reason to stop. The argument I am putting forward is that a guided study program option works better if there is personal feedback contact, even if it is not perfect. I would not be as qualified as an expert teacher or engineer, but that person’s time would be much more limited and valuable—and therefore unavailable. Someone who has had experience with the program and who has gone through the entire process of completing the assignments could be a useful resource in this case, especially if it were affordable. Unfortuantely, many study options for system dynamics—even though the Internet—are still quite expensive, and therefore limit its propagation. Open education as it is presently being offered can be useful, especially if it is directly facilitated by a teacher or trainer who already has some expertise and uses open educational resources to enhance his or her teaching. Although I’ve promoted system dynamics within educational environments where I worked as a high school teacher or principal, I came to realize I might establish a much larger presence virtually through the Internet that could reach more people and accomplish many of my personal objectives to promote system dynamics that previously had limited success. What I offer is the personal contact many people want during the learning process. My purpose is to increase people’s exposure to system dynamics and get them interested in studying through open education for this field. I would like to see system dynamics move into the mainstream, especially since today’s personal computers make modeling processes so much easier than before. More people from the next generation in this field would provide us with creative innovations that would allow system dynamics to become more a part of popular culture, and pass on certain lessons we have learned through the years to those who need to know them most. There’s a great future for open educational initiatives to help people who want to learn for themselves. System dynamics has been essential for this from the start. It’s important we continue to develop this for the future.
Michael McCurley is an alumnus of MIT’s Guided Study Program in System Dynamics who lives in Costa Rica.