Thursday, February 02, 2006

Comparing Formal, Open and Self-directed Learning

Stephen linked to Terry Anderson's excellent paper this week: Comparing Formal, Open and Self-directed Learning. Although he downplays the originality of the essay, this strikes me as a very clear, smart delineation of the different types of learning we're somewhat familiar with. It's not easy to classify these things in any meaningful way, but I think this is a great start.

Like Stephen, I'd probably quibble with some of the individual scores assigned to the different types, but I think that may be part of the point -- to get people thinking about different paths to learning and how each might be optimized. I'd swap the scores for Self-Directed and Formal learning on the "Freedom of Relationships" -- in my experience, I've had a much richer network of contacts and relationships in my self-directed learning (represented by this blog) than I ever did throughout my "formal" coursework for my masters program. And I was free to choose them from a vast pool of professionals all over the world, rather than being thrown together in an arbitrary class grouping with 25 people I had nothing in common with.

His focus on Open Learning is most interesting to me. It helps me understand his desire to integrate personal learning environments at Athabasca and makes me wish I had tempered my tone on my "expecting a screwdriver to work as a hammer" comment. These are worthy goals:
"Of particular personal interest is the capacity for Open Learning systems to increase their acceptance and attraction to learners by providing opportunities for social connection –- even while retaining control over the pace, place and time of that learning (see Anderson, 2005)."
I have also been saving a post from Choice Learning that references Terry's work and outlines another interesting project at the University of Alberta: Personal Life Recorder, Elgg and Personal Learner Space. Michael sees promise, but is also recognizing the difficulty arising from institutions providing "personal" learning spaces for students:
"We hope this social overlay of Elgg will enhance their learning experience, assist them in building an interactive, sharing community, and allow the 'mobile continuity' of their learning. In practice Elgg space should be owned by the learner – it is a collation of their portfolio of work and reflections. The learner Elgg space should live past the course, and could be integrated into the next course of the program or wherever they continue their studies. However as long as it resides on our school server, whether a student who is no longer registered can use that space is open to question."

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