My (short) digital learning story
First, it seems important to define what I think of when I see the word « digital ». I take this to mean any learning experience with which I engage through electronic media – e-mail, social media, e-learning, MOOC.
In every case, successful learning has been based on good questions and topics (well-defined) and passionate participants. This applies to a newsletter written by a learning guru; to the better MOOCs I have taken; and to some of my better experiences on LinkedIn when I have tried to learn about topics that were important to me.
As always, the challenges are a reflection of the successes. Learning often works best when there is a facilitator to support and orient the discussion. So on MOOCs, the intervention of online teaching assistants and the use of structuring questions were important. On social media, I made it a point of honor to intervene regularly on the forums where I had asked a question to keep the debate going. Not everyone knows how to facilitate discussion, and not everyone knows how to contribute effectively in a written format – spoken language is so much more natural. So having enriching conversations is a challenge.
Time is important as well. Not having the requirement of being in a classroom at a certain time means it is easier to get distracted and to fall behind.
Moving from absorbing knowledge to creating knowledge is not always easy. It takes much more effort to create knowledge (identifying one’s own questions, shaping and testing answers) than it does to absorb and confirm knowledge provided by someone else.
Finally, the written format and the anonymity make it harder for me to bring my own, important topics to the group. And I have not yet found a technology that makes it really easy to systematically seek out like-minded individuals – one stumbles across them if one is lucky.
• Facilitation of any collective learning is critical
• Passion on the part of people intervening is important to bring the distance learning to life (even on a blog)
• Learning takes time, no matter what the technology behind it
• Deep learning takes an additional effort and a sense of support that typical technology does not always provide (today)
• Building the group is important, both online and off.
• Invest time up front in creating the learning group or groups
• Encourage learners to organize their time, and give them tools (time estimates, etc.) to help
• Find ways to support deep learning, if possible by taking into account learning styles.