The challenges of learning networks

I’m attempting to write a paper for the CQU Lifelong Learning conference held in June this year on Learning networks and how current university ICT mechanisms restrict their development. Specifically I’m looking at the requirements of a learning network and how learning management systems are restricting innovations like learning networks in online education.

Lifelong Learning
According to Edwards et al (1998) the modern adult is subject to an ever-increasing explosion of information which in turn places a greater emphasis on learning, which is ongoing, rather than content, which will soon be out of date. More succinctly George Siemens (2004) states “know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where”.

Discipline Based Learning Networks
A method that is increasingly used to promote both lifelong learning and professional knowledge is learning networks. Learning Networks are self-organized online communities designed to facilitate lifelong learning (Berlanga et al 2007). According to Koeper & Sloep (2002) in these communities learners participate, actively creating and sharing activities, learning plans, resources, and experiences with peers and institutions.
Inhibitors to online learning networks
Most online learning mechanisms like learning management systems provide leaner-content interaction effectively (Siemens 2004) and there is some research like Ladyshewsky (2004) that indicates it may even be more effective than traditional methods like face to face. However due to the centralized, administrative approach that most learning management systems take, the tools to provide learner-teacher and learner-learner interactions are basic if they exist at all. George Siemens (2004) makes the observation that only recently and in limited ways have LMS vendors started extending tools and offerings beyond simple content sequencing and discussion forums. He goes on to say that while this is progress it’s still within a “locked-down, do-it-our-way” platform. Some of the limitations of LMSes I look at are:

  • Environment.
  • Organization and Instructor focus.
  • Innovation and approach
  • Informal learning.
  • Course based models.


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