Personal Learning: A Set of Three Talks

Here are abstracts for three talks I have planned for July in London, UK.

For APT 2014 (8th July, Greenwich)

Beyond Free: Open Learning in a Networked World

As the concept of ‘open learning’ has grown it has posed an increasing challenge to educational institutions. First admissions were open, then educational resources were open and now whole courses are open. Proponents moreover are demanding not only that open learning be free of charge, but also that the resources and materials be open source – free for reuse by students and educators for their own purposes. This formed the basis for the original design of the Massive Open Online Course as a connected environment in which participants created and reused resources. In such a learning environment, the provision of education moves beyond the programmed delivery of instructional resources and tasks. Education is no longer ‘delivered’ (for free or otherwise) and instruction is no longer ‘designed’ in the traditional sense. Institutions are no longer at the centre of the ecosystem; their value propositions are challenged and new roles for professors and researchers must be found if they are to survive. In this talk Stephen Downes outlines the steps educational institutions must take to remain relevant: embracing the free and open sharing of knowledge and learning, underlining their key role as public institutions, and engagement in the lives and workplaces of people in the community.

For London School of Economics ( 9th July-Central London)
Beyond Institutions: Personal Learning in a Networked World

In a networked world people become less and less dependent on institutional learning begin to and begin to create their own learning. This creates challenges for institutions, but it also creates challenges for students. In the past, personal learning has been represented as a form of autodidacticism where students either read books at random in the library or at best studied programmed education texts and videos. Today personalized learning is supported using adaptive learning and interactive digital resources. Neither offers what we would call a complete learning experience, as we know there is a social and supportive dimension that must be included. The challenge is to design learning systems that are supportive without asserting control, providing access to a wide range of resources from multiple institutions, but in addition, scaffolding frameworks, access to social and professional networks and support though personal and mobile computing devices, devices and tools, and in workplace systems generally. In this talk Stephen Downes discusses developments in a personal learning infrastructure and outlines how professionals, as both teachers and learners, can take advantage of them.

For ePIC 2014 (11th July, Greenwich)  

Beyond Assessment: Recognizing Achievement in a Networked World

If formal learning can be thought of as supporting the acquisition of a body of knowledge, informal learning can be characterized as supporting the completion of a task or objective. Formal learning may be seen as ‘just in case’ while informal learning can be seen as ‘just in time’. From the perspective of the learner, the success of informal learning can be seen as immediate and manifest: it supports the completion of the task or objective. But how can informal learning be seen as supporting the first objective: the achievement, over time, of mastery over a field or domain of knowledge. Traditional formal learning employs exams and assignments to test achievement, and often includes process-based metrics, such as attendance time, to ensure a relevant base of experience has been obtained. And contemporary recognition of informal learning employs similar means, deploying testing and interviews to provide what is called ‘prior learning assessment’. Today, though, alternative metrics are being deployed. ePortfolios and Open Badges are only the first wave in what will emerge as a wider network-based form of assessment that makes tests and reviews unnecessary. In this talk Stephen Downes will talk about work being done in network-based automated competency development and recognition, the challenges it presents to traditional institutions, and the opportunities created for genuinely autonomous open learning.


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