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If you want online learners to eat from your kitchen, then you have to know what their tastes are – and what experiences they find engaging online.  Next week I’m doing some work at CSU for staff pensive about the nature and value of ‘online’ learning. It was mentioned that I should make mention that pedagogy is more important than technology. I don’t really agree with binary arguements as a rule, I think it’s about humans – those who have been life-fortunate enough to have had adequate access and help at more moments when they needed it, than someone else – and most importantly acted on it.

So how to we know the people signing up for online courses are digital learners at all. For the most part, I don’t think they are. Most people didn’t have this luckyness in their education. So to me, University has an absolute responsibility – to ‘develop the person’ not simply bell-curve results based on tests – so using an LMS to teach isn’t going to address that – or create the kind of eco-system that we are seeing evolve around online communities. Develop the person cannot be done by people who are unable to develop the kind of cultural and social understanding needed to function, let alone claim to be the ‘expert’.

The digitally literate learner will display some behaviours that others won’t. Yes they are challenging, but if we want to seed innovation and signal innovation, it seems important to not only service them, but to create more of them. That is what is happening online anyway isn’t it?

The list of characteristics seems to include:

  • wants to be connected
  • wants to drive the agenda
  • is an information seeker and navigator
  • is empowered
  • understands they are part of a global community
  • is not restricted by classroom walls
  • demands content, teaching quality and resources that meet their own learning preferences
  • is hyper-critical and resilient to set-backs
  • works by switching focus from one application to another in order to optimise their solution
  • takes more risks when there is lower punitive consequences
  • constructs knowledge and is the chief architect of their own knowledge building
  • creates, modifies, edits
  • is a constant, connected communicator
  • is a technologist, comfortable in an information age
  • has an agile, analytical mind – probably fine tuned by game-theory over educational theory.
  • enjoys socio-experiential learning as a game
  • actively produces knowledge
  • creates, authors, publishes and distributes
  • is communal and tribal
  • expresses themselves through different modalities
  • seeks more autonomy
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