The Architecture of Open Learning Networks

While we worked on openness in learning during topic 2 I realized that this was something completely different than our still very classroom centered (and therefore teacher centered) and LMS-driven elearning environments. Open Network learning is open in many ways. While a classroom centered LMS is an image of a brick and mortar school, an open network finds rarely an exact material counterpart. Open networks just connect people and content in new ways. We discussed open or openness on a personal, an institutional, a legal and a technical level, but also on an architectural level, where the question is, how material and virtual space create a new hybrid space in wich we all move around constantly.

The hybrid space is a combination of material and virtual space, and we are already in the midst of it. We write an email on our very real computer and send it away to a server for the recipient to get it there. Of course he or she does not go there in person to knock an a door and ask for the email sent to him/her, we enter the virtual space to read what has been delivered. Who is not member of Whatsapp or Trello groups in order to manage day care for the children or manage a family? Who has been in the situation to buy a ticket for a concert and get a digital ticket on your smart phone to be scanned at the door? The situation are many and we all get it: virtual and hybrid space are real!

How does the fact that we are all the time in a hybrid space change our brick and mortar architecture of institutional buildings, or how should it change? Let’s try to have a look into the year 2028, ten years from now:

We don’t need no classrooms anymore where classes are all the same size and the same age, where all the students have to learn the same thing at the same time. Students get topic to work on sometimes with given tasks, sometimes with their own tasks and focuses. Lectures and introductions are in the net everyone knows what to read, watch or listen to to start with work. Team building is a part of students daily business. Whenever they feel the need they meet in open spaces to work on a topic. Then they organize their team work online, discuss rules and go home to work individually or catch up later online, share work in the cloud. The next day they don’t show up, they continue to work together online. When we feel the need of a meeting, they meet. If not, they don’t. Our teachers are our facilitators. We are able to contact them at any time. We trust them to answer our questions or help in other ways, as coaches, as mentors. Once a week we have a meeting online with our professors or mentors where we talk about our work and how to proceed.

In the future all those classroom buildings where spaces have exactly the same size will disappear. The floors of the buildings will be transformed, walls will be teared down. There will be are much smaller spaces for group work, even closed spaces for coaching or counseling with personal coaches and counselors. But there will also be large spaces with diverse subspaces with transition areas to the outside.

At the same time a Wifi access will be part of this new kind of space. The cloud you work in is permanently present and part of that space. But also other individuals are present, reachable, accessible: experts, your professors, mentors, tutors, coaches, counselors… your peers. We’re almost there, but it’s on you to build your own network, much more than ever before. This is what we have to learn at school though, yesterday, today. To be ready today, tomorrow.

The future is now.

More open learning architecture

Edinger, E.-C., Reimer, R. T. D., Thirdspace als hybride Lernumgebung. Die Kombination materieller und virtueller Lernräume. In: Erwachsenenbildung und Raum. Theoretische Perspektiven – professionelles Handeln – Rahmung des Lernens, Reihe: Theorie und Praxis der Erwachsenenbildung, Bielefeld: DIE. S. 205-2016.

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