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Yesterday, in an interview with someone asking about my expertise in online learning and Women’s empowerment, I found myself jumping from my online masters degree in eLearning (way back in 2003) to free online courses, way back when, before 2012, to connectivism and rhizomatic learning and Personal Learning Networks (PLN).
I recognize how difficult it is to explain to someone looking for something to pay attention to and invest in, to explain that the value of learning from open practices may be higher for adults than formal degrees. That many microcredential and MOOCs do not necessarily use the best pedagogy or nurture enough agency to be useful for learners in the ways that more open approaches to learning can. I am not saying the more open approaches work for everyone, but reminding us that the more structured approaches also don’t work for everyone and can be limiting.
The potential of online learning to promote access and to empower women is always going to be constrained by access to good internet/bandwidth/electricity, access to good dedicated devices (mobile or computer?), but also to digital literacies, ability to learn autonomously and manage time and balance online learning amid life’s more urgent responsibilities (esp for women with families).
Flexibility of online learning, something whose value is obvious versus in-person learning, is always going to be more for open learning experiences with less structure. They will have fewer deadlines, fewer restrictions on start and end times, so you can jump in when you can, where it interests you, and not be obliged to catch up or such. You can also focus where it matters and not waste time on what you already know or what you don’t personally need. As an adult, I do not want to slug through 4 weeks of content I don’t want or need, just because I want some stuff from weeks 2 and 3 of a course.
Connections and social capital. The emphasis on social connection and networking in more open learning experiences allows learners to build connections and emphasize relationships, all of which helps build digital social capital that can promote more learning in almost exponential ways. A structured learning experience starts and ends. Communities and relationships built in the open can last way longer than the moment they were created for originally. Many of my close virtual friends are people I met through a connectivist learning experience. Or on Twitter doing whatever! Or via Virtually Connecting.
Flipping Microcredentialing. So I never paid excessive attention to microcredentialing so I could be saying something others have been saying for years. But instead of focusing our attention on getting people to benefit from already existing opportunities for formal learning and giving those microcredentials, could we possibly consider offering microcredentials for informal learning experiences where people learn outside traditional boundaries.
This actually exists in higher education to an extent in places that recognize work experience for graduate credit for example. I guess that also portfolios can be used for assessment that allows someone to demonstrate learning itself, rather than certificates that formally attest to someone’s learning without really showcasing it, you know? I assume that ALT’s CMALT is one such thing, but I have never checked too closely.
Do you think it’s possible to convince folks that connectivist and community learning experiences, open and unstructured adult learning, should be recognized for work purposes? That the learning from them can be?