Friday, October 21, 2005

learning 2.0

stephen, in elearn

the Web was shifting from being a medium, in which information was transmitted and consumed, into being a platform, in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along. And what people were doing with the Web was not merely reading books, listening to the radio or watching TV, but having a conversation, with a vocabulary consisting not just of words but of images, video, multimedia and whatever they could get their hands on. And this became, and looked like, and behaved like, a network.

What happens when online learning ceases to be like a medium, and becomes more like a platform? What happens when online learning software ceases to be a type of content-consumption tool, where learning is "delivered," and becomes more like a content-authoring tool, where learning is created? The model of e-learning as being a type of content, produced by publishers, organized and structured into courses, and consumed by students, is turned on its head. Insofar as there is content, it is used rather than read— and is, in any case, more likely to be produced by students than courseware authors. And insofar as there is structure, it is more likely to resemble a language or a conversation rather than a book or a manual.

The e-learning application, therefore, begins to look very much like a blogging tool. It represents one node in a web of content, connected to other nodes and content creation services used by other students. It becomes, not an institutional or corporate application, but a personal learning center, where content is reused and remixed according to the student's own needs and interests. It becomes, indeed, not a single application, but a collection of interoperating applications—an environment rather than a system.

It also begins to look like a personal portfolio tool [18]. The idea here is that students will have their own personal place to create and showcase their own work. Some e-portfolio applications, such as ELGG, have already been created. IMS Global as put together an e-portfolio specification [19]. "The portfolio can provide an opportunity to demonstrate one's ability to collect, organize, interpret and reflect on documents and sources of information. It is also a tool for continuing professional development, encouraging individuals to take responsibility for and demonstrate the results of their own learning" [20].

This approach to learning means that learning content is created and distributed in a very different manner. Rather than being composed, organized and packaged, e-learning content is syndicated, much like a blog post or podcast. It is aggregated by students, using their own personal RSS reader or some similar application. From there, it is remixed and repurposed with the student's own individual application in mind, the finished product being fed forward to become fodder for some other student's reading and use.

More formally, instead of using enterprise learning-management systems, educational institutions expect to use an interlocking set of open-source applications. Work on such a set of applications has begun in a number of quarters, with the E-Learning Framework defining a set of common applications and the newly formed e-Framework for Education and Research drawing on an international collaboration. While there is still an element of content delivery in these systems, there is also an increasing recognition that learning is becoming a creative activity and that the appropriate venue is a platform rather than an application.

In the future it will be more widely recognized that the learning comes not from the design of learning content but in how it is used. Most e-learning theorists are already there, and are exploring how learning content-whether professionally authored or created by students— can be used as the basis for learning activities rather than the conduit for learning content.

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