An Evolution of Tools for the Modular Degree

TL:DR | A quick story overview of how the Modular Degree came to be, and the iterations I have gone through over the years developing it.

6 min read
An Evolution of Tools for the Modular Degree

Hello! I am Dustin Miller PolyInnovator, and I started this personal brand as a way to organize my learning into an "Output". A proof of learning if you will, and to share my concept of a do it yourself degree.

I called it a diy degree, but thanks to some trademarks I had to come up with a new name. The concept of modularity kept creeping into my mind, and it fit very well into my polymathic and skill tree based approach.

Thus the "Modular Degree" was born!

Modular Degree (DIY degree) | Personal PolyInnovation System
This is a page dedicated to the Modular Degree, an experimental Self-Education endeavor for changing how we approach online education! Get started on your own Modegree today!

A Start with Databases - Google Sheets

I was looking for a degree to suit my needs as a future innovator, and more importantly content creator.

However no matter where I looked in the world, there was no degree that fit me. Then I decided, screw it, I'm going to make my own!

As you can see it is sort of a mess...

I ended up collecting over FOUR-HUNDRED courses, and that wasn't even considering at the time articles, podcasts, or videos. Each line in that database was added BY HAND. I scrapped the title, url, price, subject, and more.

I managed to create a pretty well organized system, but there was no way to view the things I needed to. No way to prioritze or sort anything in this massive list.

Thus I did what any Google sheets user might do, I started making more sheets, one for each semester.

Grouping by Semester - Airtable

Eventually I came across Airtable, and while it wasn't the perfect solution (given how long this post is after all). It was certainly a huge upgrade.

Way easier to make tags, sort things, and the most crucial feature: Group by Tag. Not even Notion had this feature for the LONGEST time, and so I honestly (even after moving to Notion) thought this was the best solution.

While this screenshot is from Notion, I no longer have the old Airtable set up. Same idea though.

While Semesters are not the only taxonomy you could use in your Modegree, it is modular after all, there weren't many others I could conceptulize. Perhaps sprints, topics (if not too big databases), skill trees (bit complicated but could work), and that is about it.

I also was aiming for a more traditional degree structure, albeit just at more accelerated rate.

Other than this group by feature there wasn't much to Airtable that stood out.

Inbox, Database, Content Types -

I feel like the Modegree really took form in Notion, and a lot of the concepts I've built upon have been made IN NOTION.

The Notion Web Clipper was immensely helpful at collecting, and no longer did I have to scrape the website by hand anymore.

Inbox - Notion Web Clipper

While not perfect for articles, the links to various courses was really easy to add. Then you could just sort later.

I funneled everything into the "Master Database Table", and then from there you could organize into content types.

Content Types

This is something that I wish I had started sooner. There have been countless articles, podcasts, and videos that I have voraciously consumed over the past decade (let alone 5-6 years) that I have not tracked whatsoever.

I only decided to finally start keeping track of them when I made the TEMPLATE for the Modegree. Of which you can find here:

Dustin Miller - PolyInnovator - Modular Degree NOTION Template
Omnichannel Content Creator; Podcaster; and Fitness Coach!. Your access link will be on the next page!
This is a free Notion template that you can duplicate!

One thing to note is the "conversations" type there, that was an idea I stole from Maxine Cunningham from

A Second Brain in Obsidian is a note taking app, that with plugins, can be so much more.

One thing to note is that while the Modular Degree is an important topic for me, and I treat it as its own thing. It is however part of a more holistic solution system, the PolyInnovation Operating System. It acts as one of two "Input" functions of the PIOS. The other being an RSS inbox, that I use as a temporary hub until I sort the pages into the content type folders mention above.

While the Notion Web Clipper did the trick at saving links, and I could relatively painlessly switch from my "Resonance Inbox" (the generic link database), to my "Modegree" database. There was issues with it not saving articles when it was supposed to, and working in that big database somethings would lag/chug behind in Notion.

The web clipper only saved articles about 40% of the time!

I added a few more types as well here!

Inbox in Obsidian

I use the ReadItLater and Obsidian RSS plugins to control my input into my vault. They both funnel into the "INPUT - Inbox", then I manually sort into Modegree Input Folder.

I find that having this separation gives me time to look at each page, and adequately tag it, then sort to the right place. Sometimes it might save as an article, when it needs to be a video (i.e. when a blog post is only for hosting a video on the site). It gives you a greater amount of control, than just sorting automatically into the folders. Plus you really need to take advantage of the tagging, which is best done manually (perhaps with some help from AI).

The reason being is because of the knowledge graphs:

My current iteration, which is only a third of the way through tagging.

While not the prettiest just yet, I think you get the idea, the various connections are linking together topics. Each one of those dots is a note/page, and that includes your input AND output. So you can take your learnings from the Modular Degree, and use them in your output. Such as your bullet journal and content ecosystem.

This level of interconnectivity I think is crucial for skill tree based learning, and the future of the Modegree.

What about after Obsidian?

While I think the Notion and Obsidian implementations are the most powerful so far, perhaps even more so in the latter's department given the bidirectional linking in the note taking app.

However I do think that something else is going to take it's place at some point. I doubt a different PKM tool will get me to move, even Reflect or Capacities.

There may be a time where I am able to finally build out the Modegree platform as I imagined it. A social learning experience with peers, easy capturing and note taking, advanced AI to help you link together different ideas, and most importantly of all a MODULAR skill tree based approach.

I am shocked just at how close Obsidian is getting me towards that goal. With some of those AI plugins it has available, and the plugins I already have put in my vault. I plan on making a template there too for people to use for their own learning.

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