I just finished a presentation at ADETA 2008 on my work with virtual communities in higher learning - I'm proposing that some enitity (eg. university) develop and maintain a community of learners (a social networking space w collaborative tools) for their students and graduates (at a program level).
I'm developing a series of these environments now. I see them fulfilling many roles - what I dub "evolutionary pedagogy or pedagogical multiplicy" - They can fulfill a formal learning role while the student is registered but become the informal learning network (and continued personal learning space) after graduation. I'm using Elgg as my example of the personal learning environment (or I coin Continuous learning Environment). After course/program completion students/teachers continue to be associated with the institution, their program, their teachers , their fellow graduates through this space. It is true continuous learning, and has capacity as a teaching space, a research space, a personal relective space, a resource repository of student work and an eportfolio for demonstration.
I dub it evolutionary pedagogy - example below:
Example evolutionary path – blended graduate program
1. Create informal network space and personal area
Students/teachers join the larger informal network
Post personal profile and use personal weblogs and resource repository
2. Creat bounded temporal space
Students/teacher join restricted class space((incl. groupware tools)
Course is taught within this temporal space (could link into LMS)
Continue to use personal space for reflection/e-portfolio/resources (life beyond LMS)
2. Students complete class
Temporal class activity ends - students, teachers continue within informal network space and personal space
3. Evolve into informal community development
Evolve into the continuous informal network space
In informal network social, informal learning; sharing, connecting, social capital development
Members document personal informal learning
4. Repeat 1-3 with next cohort
All within same online environment integrated with web based resources and internal/external RSS feeds.
Who should sponsor a space for a network of learners? Blackboard NG will offer a community space - but at what cost? Should a private entity like Blackboard (or Google, or Face book) be THE platform for your web based data?
I want a FREE personal learning environment, linking me to those who cross my learning path, linking me to my lifewide learning experiences - BUT I want it managed by an NGO or govt or educational institution.
Jesel Odedra of ECampusAlberta has put me onto ASN Alberta:
"Welcome to Learner Registry!
The Alberta Student Number (ASN) is the single unique identifier for all Alberta learners. Through the use of the ASN, Alberta Education and all educational institutions in Alberta will have better information to evaluate programming and emerging trends in student choices across the education system. This will lead to improved programs and services for students and improved administrative efficiency for Alberta Education."
This is a good start. With this approach we have a unique identifier, that moves with a student through informal and formal learning (theoretically) and can be used to ID a student in a social network/eportfolio for Alberta citizens.
I'm still working on the best premise for ownership of these spaces but want to see institutions maintaining some connection. I'm leaning towards smaller connected social networks, probably at the program level.School wide or province wide community - too big and without a 'focus of interest". (How to capture those not in formal learning? - aah another post.)
I am developing my PLEs at a program level - eg. family physicians rather than the medical faculty. Then it can remain small (relatively, be in control of the program area - use it for marketing, polling, keeping in touch with alumnae).
This is a concept whose time will come - it integrates so much of what is being talked about - authentic learning, documentation of learning and competence, skill management, meeting labour training goals, workforce migration,personal control of learning path and outcomes, prior learning, continouous learning, personal relfection, and more!