Online learning is nowhere near here, but is everywhere else instead

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Recently the DSC Academic Development Group asked the digital learning team to present examples and discussion points on successful online learning. Mark Smithers, Andrea McLagan and Leigh Blackall contributed. Their presentations were recorded on screen and with a room area microphone.
This is Leigh’s contribution – links to Andrea and Mark’s presentations forthcoming.


Here are the slides

Here is a text summary

In my experience (12 years full time, 7 tertiary institutions) I have not seen an educational institution (or external “partner”) develop or even conceive of a successful model for online learning.
The basis from which professional education discusses online learning is flawed. It is flawed in much the same way that other related industries are flawed. The publishing industry, TV, news, music, entertainment, politics and civic engagement, even representational democracy.. and more. All have not been able to reconcile how they relate to the world, post Internet.
Wholly online learning has succeeded, and the universities played no part in it.
The evidence for this is plentiful: Hacker culture, free software, open and crowd source, networked gift economies, radical transparency, open data, peer to peer file sharing, folksonomy and other keyword concepts. I like to bring them together under one word: Webism. While it may be true that many of these ideas and practices have come from within a university, it is fair to say that they do in spite of them, and exist largely outside, if not completely.
I think the foundation of Websim is in post modernism, specifically the critical theories and example practices of Michel Foucault, Jurgen Habermas, Ivan Illich, Noam Chomsky, Christopher Alexander, Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, and many others writing similar lines to popular fame in the later half of the 20th Century. Many agree that the connected ideas that these names carry are realised through the unbridled Internet – where successful and wholly online learning is observable and measurable.
We each experience disintermediated, informal online learning every day. But for various reasons we struggle to relate that experience into our daily professional practice and formal procedures. We each regularly ‘consume’ Wikipedia, but we don’t contribute. Youtube is over a decade old, but we still have policy that prevents us understanding it. We know that open access and free reuse of research is critical, but we have no ideas on how to realise it. And many other examples. Why is this? Part of the answer is that our basic premise of how learning happens prevents us from realising how it really happens.
The educational research that I have seen, pays informal online learning almost no mind. It focuses (by and large) on learning that “students” do, when enrolled in a “course”, using a “LMS” for “assigned” tasks. We conduct literature reviews and benchmarking exercises, in a risk averse setting that prevents us from thinking or doing more laterally.
Here are some examples of more lateral educational arrangements. They are by no means ideal examples, merely the beginnings of what might otherwise be.
  1. Student authored textbooks – Student as producer
  2. Wikimed
  3. History of Paralympics Australia
  4. Wikinews OUW
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