The 2015 Innovating Pedagogy report highlights ‘crossover learning’ as one of ten innovations that are on the brink of having a profound influence on education (Sharples et al., 2015). The concept of crossover learning refers to a comprehensive understanding of learning that bridges formal and informal learning settings. Over the next 2-5 years, the authors expect that traditional learning settings (school, university, professional development) will increasingly support learners in linking diverse learning events that connect the classroom with informal and incidental learning: “These connections work in both directions. Learning in schools and colleges can be enriched by experiences from everyday life; informal learning can be deepened by adding questions and knowledge from the classroom. These connected experiences spark further interest and motivation to learn”. (Sharples et al., 2015, p. 3).
As Curt Bonk phrased it ‘‘anyone can now learn anything from anyone at anytime’’ (Bonk, 2009, p. 13). A variety of openers such as e-learning, open courseware, web 2.0 tools and information sharing through online communities have substantially changed the education environment compared to 10 or 20 years ago: Learning is no longer confined to institutions, but instead happens in personal learning networks. As we connect we learn.
Mackey and Evans (2011) point out that a problem with institutional perspectives of socially constructed learning is that the zone of interaction is usually confined to the online course community: “There is little acknowledgement of the overlapping experiences of participants in communities of practice and other informal learning networks beyond the online course”.
As informal learning forms a significant part of our learning experience, learning occurs in a variety of ways, i.e., communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks. Learning and work related activities as well as learning and exchange in professional networks are no longer separate, but often the same (Siemens, 2014).
This idea of learning through exchange in networks is the centerpiece of the learning theory of connectivism, as it is postulated by George Siemens and other, mainly Canadian, educational technology researchers (Siemens, 2005; Verhagen, 2006; Kopp & Hill, 2008).
Connectivism conceptualizes knowledge as distributed across an information network and stored in a variety of (digital) formats. As a learning theory, it caters towards the characteristics of learning in digital environments and the network-structure of online interactions. In the digital age, learners need the ability to seek out current information, and the ability to filter secondary and extraneous information: “In connectivism, the starting point for learning occurs when knowledge is actuated through the process of a learner connecting to and feeding information into a learning community” (Kopp & Hill, 2008). Learning means to recognize patterns in your technology enhanced personal network.
Instructional design models generally assume a well-defined target group with presumed learning needs, and intrinsic as well as extrinsic incentives. Learning in open networks includes a multitude of potential learners with unknown learning needs and – in the case of informal learners – no extrinsic reward mechanism (Panke & Seufert, 2013).
According to Gerber & Lynch (2017) the question is no longer whether or not impactful informal learning is happening in online spaces, rather the question is how will we research learning and learners within and across online spaces in order to better understand the confluences of meaning making that are occurring in diverse social media spaces.
Here are some current, selected papers from the LearnTechLib collection that tackle these questions:
- Christensen, R., Knezek, G., Darby, D., Den Lepcha, S., Jiang, B., Kuo, A. & Wu, A. (2017). Outcomes from Technology Enhanced Informal Learning Activities: Total Solar Eclipse. In J. Johnston (Ed.),Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2017 (pp. 1064-1071). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
- Doering, A. & Henrickson, J. (2015). Fostering Creativity through Inquiry and Adventure in Informal Learning Environment Design. InProceedings of Global Learn 2015 (pp. 443-451). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
- Ferguson, R., Faulkner, D., Whitelock, D. & Sheehy, K. (2015). Pre-Teens’ Informal Learning with ICT and Web 2.0.Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 24(2), 247-265.
- Law, P. (2015). Digital Badging at The Open University: Recognition for Informal Learning.Open Learning, 30(3), 221-234.
- Ab Rashid, R., Yahaya, M., A Rahman, M. & Yunus, K. (2016). Teachers’ Informal Learning via Social Networking Technology.International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), 11(10), 76-79. Kassel, Germany: International Association of Online Engineering.
Bonk, C. J. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. John Wiley & Sons.
Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 9(3).
Mackey, J., & Evans, T. (2011). Interconnecting networks of practice for professional learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(3), 1-18.
Panke, S., & Seufert, T. (2013). What’s educational about open educational resources? Different theoretical lenses for conceptualizing learning with OER. E-Learning and Digital Media, 10(2), 116-134.
Sharples, M., Adams, A., Alozie, N., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Gaved, M. & Roschelle, J. (2015). Innovating Pedagogy 2015: Open University Innovation Report (4).
Siemens, G. (2014). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.
Verhagen, P. (2006). Connectivism: A new learning theory.