Monday, 7 December 2009

Rich Learning Environments - Education 2.0 or 3.0?


I have been working on various applications of technologies for learning for many years now. Along the way, I've been developing an idea of what I mean by a rich learning environment.

Rich learning environments are dynamic spaces which bring together personalised information and perspectives across a core of resources which can support the learner in addressing their educational needs. Rich learning spaces exploit the technology affordances of their component parts, but provide added value by simplifying and customising the interface to a set of complex and diverse resources based on a learners context and education needs.

These needs might be categorised into four broad areas personal space; institutional space; support space; and 'good for learning' space

Personal Space:
A learner will already make use of their own preferred tools and applications which may be used either in addressing the demands of formal learning (for example using google docs to create a word processed document) or informal learning (using delicious to store and find information and resources on topics related to study). Each learner will have (most likely) their own machine(s) (laptop, desktop, mobile (?) and within that operating system will have selected and be familiar with a set of tools. Some parts of this (e.g. Skype, text messaging) may not be clearly linked or associated with learning tasks, but none the less may be of great importance to the student.

Institutional Space.
The institution which the learning is studying in, or at which the learner proposes to study, will have 'spaces' which have a role in informal or formal learning and learning support. It is possible that the set of spaces will change during the learners route through education with the institution.]sites/sources will be of verying importance at different times.
At southampton you may have a number of discrete spaces - e.g. UOS web, ECS web, ECS web behind the firewall, Sussed, blackboard challenges some of these are password protected, vpn protected etc

Support Space
dependi8ng on the context of the student, there will be external spaces which mught be of use/relevant to formal and informal learning - e.g. In Southampton the web site provides additional information and support, for international students it may be that their home country embassy site, or some home office sites may be of importance

'Good for learning'
Students may benefit from information and resources which are located outside their current personal space, and outside the institutional space. For example the National Union of Students offers support and advice related to study and examinations. There are other sources of information (appoaches to leawrning inventories, second language study).

Social Space
underpinning the environment there is an integrating layer provided by social space. This incorporates email, messaging, and social software. It acts as the glue for the environment.

If we consider student whose topic of study is technology based, it may be that we could identify a set of sources/resources which could enrich the users perspective, but which are not obvious;y initially related to learning. E.G. In computer science/web technologies, maybe Zdnet, Slashdot, british computer society, ACM digital library, IEEE digital library it may be that a set of resources could be identified which are relevant and helpful to the rich learning environment user, which could usefully be integrated into a customised environment.


Creating a rich learning environment presents a number of challenges

Integrating a set of resources to become an apparent coherent whole.

Offering personalisation and customisation of an environment so that it enables the user to retain use of their preferred tools, but also that it perform and educational function of supporting the learning

Providiung innovative and user friendly methods of accessing and overseeing (and perhaps organising/re-organising) complex information sources.

There is a challenge of how to customise the environment (at first use, during the course of use)