Networked learning is a process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another’s learning. The central term in this definition is connections. It takes a relational stance in which learning takes place both in relation to others and in relation to learning resources.
It has been suggested that networked learning offers educational institutions more functional efficiency, in that the curriculum can be more tightly managed centrally, or in the case of vocational learning, it can reduce costs to employers and tax payers. However, it is also argued that networked learning is too often considered within the presumption of institutionalised or educationalised learning, thereby omitting awareness of the benefits that networked learning has to informal or situated learning.
Network and networked learning theories can be traced back into the 19th Century, when commentators were considering the social implications of networked infrastructure such as the railways and the telegraph. More recently, networked learning has its roots in the 1970s, with the likes of Ivan Illich’s book, Deschooling Society, through to more recent commentary in the early 2000s, largely inspired by the Internet and social media.
In 1971, Ivan Illich envisioned ‘learning webs’ as a model for people to network the learning they needed:
- I will use the words “opportunity web” for “network” to designate specific ways to provide access to each of four sets of resources. “Network” is often used, unfortunately, to designate the channels reserved to material selected by others for indoctrination, instruction, and entertainment. But it can also be used for the telephone or the postal service, which are primarily accessible to individuals who want to send messages to one another. I wish we had another word to designate such reticular structures for mutual access, a word less evocative of entrapment, less degraded by current usage and more suggestive of the fact that any such arrangement includes legal, organizational, and technical aspects. Not having found such a term, I will try to redeem the one which is available, using it as a synonym of “educational web.” Ivan Illich, 1971
- includes Illich, Siemens, Downes, Cormier, Wiley, Caperton, …