Researching Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning

Book CoverPublished on behalf of Dr Richard Walker.

Springer International has just published a book focusing on the design, experience and practice of networked learning to which University of York staff have contributed chapters. The chapters represent reworkings of papers first presented at the 2012 Networked Learning Conference, exploring the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in supporting connections between learners, learning communities and resources.

Networked learning research inquiry has focused on the affordances of Web 2.0 and social networking technologies to support interactive learning, opening up possibilities for innovative new designs in learning and teaching. Underpinning networked learning research is an acknowledgement that learning is social, takes place in communities and networks, is a shared practice, involves negotiation and requires collaborative dialogue (Hodgson, McConnell & Dirckinck-Holmfeld, 2012).

This new book seeks to extend our thinking about networked learning, exploring different approaches to the way we may think about, create and design networked learning spaces, which enable learners to participate effectively in meaningful learning activities. This may extend to the design of learning spaces which bridge the divide between formal study and the ‘practice context’ of work-based learning.

A key discussion point in the book is the degree to which targeted learning can be ‘designed in’ to modules through the use of ICT.  This relates to the power of instructional designers to influence the nature of the learning that takes places and the ensuing learning outcomes. To what extent can learning be directed through instructional design, as opposed to being truly emergent in response to the conditions that are made available to participants? Can we design in or for learning, through the medium of ICT? At the heart of these questions lies a discussion over power and control – the degree to which instructor or learners assemble and shape the learning process.

Linda Perriton from York Management School has co-authored a chapter with Michael Reynolds (Lancaster University) casting a critical eye on collaborative instructional designs based on peer learning, which ignore the complex social, cultural and interpersonal dynamics influencing group interactions online. The chapter makes a strong case for educators to acknowledge the “complex messiness” of collaborative engagements, providing closer attention to interpersonal dynamics in groups.

My own chapter on instructional design for a blended postgraduate PBL course in law explores how learners can be prepared to take ownership of networked learning tools and spaces through a transition from guided to unguided learning. Following a face-to-face PBL session where learners are presented with a new problem and brainstorm learning outcomes and tasks as a framework to solve it, wiki and blog tools are then employed to support discussion and sharing of research outside the classroom, leading to the production of a collaborative solution by the group. The chapter explores the necessary conditions for unguided learning to flourish in this online component of the course and examines the instructional responsibilities in facilitating this process.

The full paper is available here (docx) and a video case study has also been made available on the Inspiration tab of our vlesupport site to provide an overview of the PBL methodology and the structure of the course.

For further details of this publication, please see:

V. Hodgson, D. McConnell, M. de Laat & T. Ryberg (eds.) The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning.  Springer International Publishing: New York.

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