3 challenges that come with the connected learning model

Connected learning is a model for education based very much around the demands of a digital world. A way of delivering learning so that it remains relevant to the world around us, adaptable to evolving technologies and engaging to the individual. A model rooted, in the words of Educause:

“In the active participation of students, instructors, advisors, and collaborators, offering the ability to connect courses, people, and resources to develop unique personalized learning pathways.”

Source: https://library.educause.edu/blog/2013/5/7-things-you-should-know-about-connected-learning

Personalised learning is based around personal interests, utilising the resources and information readily available to us through the internet and social media outlets. In essence, this is a method of education that’s reflective of modern society and twenty-first century interaction.

Nevertheless, in implementing a connected learning model into an educational environment, there remain a number of key challenges that need to be addressed and overcome.

Keeping Pace with Technology

At the heart of connected learning is the concept of education through the sharing of experience and knowledge. And it is through the proliferation of digital technology – drawing on the seemingly unlimited resources available online as well as the ability to share and collaborate through social media – that such a learning model becomes so accessible. Digital technology allows students to learn using methods that are relevant to their daily lives. For instance, this may be in the form of online searches or joining in discussions on forums or social media groups.

Which presents a challenge to educational establishments.

Technology advances quickly, and while students will likely keep pace with this progression in their personal lives, in an era of tightened budgets, for schools to do the same can place a burden on resources. The challenge being to find a solution robust enough to deliver the level of service required for this kind of digital learning, while remaining both secure and within budget.

Finding the relevant resources

If you’re opening the learning process up to new channels and means of research, then there is a challenge in finding the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Traditional learning methods are somewhat standardised, with students all studying from the same resources. Moving away from this standard approach opens the student learning experience up information and resources previously out of reach from the classroom.

And, while this clearly represents an opportunity, there’s a danger that the student may become swamped in such an abundance of information. The challenge for the teacher being able to guide the student towards the resources most trustworthy and relevant to the study.

Studying Traditional Subjects

With the nature of connected learning geared towards providing students with the tools through their education to operate competently in the wider world – calling upon internet search skills, digital communication and new media – is there a danger of dropping standards in those ‘traditional’ subject areas that are still deemed crucial to a rounded education?

Namely subjects such as English, Maths, Science and History.

Well, there seems no reason why connected learning should detract from these subjects per se. Literacy and numeracy still have a huge relevance to the day-to-day skillset of a digital age student and online resources only open up accessibility to research in both the sciences and humanities.

Where the challenge may lie in this regard, however, is in terms of assessment. Connected learning and the use of online resources and communication is taking students ever more along a path of personal learning, tailored to their own specific interests and requirements. Where this becomes the norm for an establishment, the ability to apply standardised testing could become ever more difficult.

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Tom Finnis

Tom Finnis is responsible for the delivery of IT support services and projects to help4IT's clients, as well as the development of the company's cloud infrastructure and related products. Tom has overseen the growth of the Help4IT technical department from 3 to 12 full-time staff, with additional contract workers, creating the systems and procedures to enable the efficient provision of the company's high level of support. More recently he has led the design and deployment of help4IT's multi-site cloud infrastructure.


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