Title: New communities -- new spaces and new ways for learning
Authors: ALA-MUTKA Kirsti Maria
Citation: Innovation in Learning Communities - Conference Proceedings
Publisher: European Distance and E-Learning Network
Publication Year: 2009
JRC N°: JRC51574
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC51574
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: European policies for education and training recognize that lifelong learning plays a crucial role in contemporary society where jobs and the required skills are changing. New ways to support, value and acknowledge learning are needed in order to provide high-quality learning opportunities for all to in order to foster skills for innovation and lifelong learning. Learning opportunities should be provided for people in their many learning and living settings, at home, school, work and community. Therefore, the increasing importance of online spaces and networks in people¿s lives should be considered, as they enable new ways for people to take part in emerging communities and to connect, share and create together. In view of this, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies launched a project with DG EAC to study the innovative approaches to learning that are emerging in these new ICT-enabled networking settings. A great variety of online networks and communities are emerging, which can be approached according to the major drivers for participation - i.e. a joint objective (task, product), a common interest/situation (topic, profession), and social connection. These drivers can be supported in an interconnected manner in different online collaborative settings. Some online communities are driven by an organizational setup (educational institution, workplace, associations), while others connect and invite members horizontally in an open manner. Though learning is not often mentioned as an explicit goal for participation in online collaborative activities, research shows that people do actually learn in these environments. The present study gathers that ICT-enabled communities offer: ¿ different ways to learn (through discovery, participation and doing, and new opportunities for reflection), ¿ a different social environment for learning (with active peer support, apprenticeship and situated learning with experts, social acknowledgement of learning, social knowledge management), and ¿ new ways to access and organize learning (by applying community models for courses, organizations, and linking external networks and communities to education in new ways). The study shows that online communities can facilitate the acquisition of all the key competences for lifelong learning. However, if people are to start participating in ICT-based social learning approaches, they must have the necessary interest, knowledge, tools and skills (both in terms of digital competence and skills for self-regulated learning), and these initital barriers constitute a major challenge. Students should be prepared for knowledge sharing and meaning making in online settings in order to be able to use of them for lifelong learning. Educational institutions could also benefit from linking with expert communities and learning from the approaches which motivate people to learn, and to learn efficiently. Professional communities for teachers could help them to change their role and develop new practices. Regarding policy objectives, it is suggested that ¿ Online networks have potential to be a key tool for the desired lifelong learning continuum, ¿ Online networks can be used for learning relevant knowledge, skills and competences for future jobs, ¿ Collective online spaces provide creative and innovative potential for learning by individuals and for the development of educational institutions, and ¿ Online learning opportunities provide new potential for equity but also the risk of increasing divides. It is important that educational institutions find ways to learn from these new learning approaches and settings in order to bring about their own transformation for the 21st century, becoming systems that support competence building for new jobs and personal development with a learner-centered and lifelong perspective.
JRC Directorate:Growth and Innovation

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