Imagine a world where students design their own curriculum. This world is not fanciful, particularly in digital spaces. For decades interest groups have replied on members to contribute knowledge and resources to online forums. Some Massive Open Online Courses have been designed around every learner also acting as a teacher and bringing knowledge to the network. #Phonar is an open photography course that is based on students and experts sharing knowledge and resources online (https://phonar.org/). The Jisc has already been working with UK universities to build ideas about how students partner with staff (see https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-successful-student-staff-partnerships). Now the Open University is redefining what it means to learn through creating and sharing resources.
The Open University in the UK is known for digital innovation. Some of our own research on how people learn in MOOCs has evidenced that many students who do not complete a MOOC or who drop out are often very satisfied with their learning, because they have achieved what they set out to do (Littlejohn, Hood, Milligan & Mustain, 2015; Littlejohn & Milligan, 2015). Non-completion, and sometimes non-engagement, does not signal non-success. Some students have been setting their own goals, planning how they will learn, learning and even reflecting on what they have learned. For them, ‘success’ is self-determined. So we need new ways to support students in planning, achieving and reflecting on their (self-determined) measures of success, rather than attainment measures tutors define for them in advance.
A number of colleagues, including Stewart Nixon, Liz Ellis and others are developing tools and spaces that allows student to co-create resources. This is based on a learning model that emphasizes the active creation of learning plans, knowledge artefacts and reflection on achievement. The model focuses on how students plan, learn, study, create and reflect/ assess. It is reminiscent of the ‘charting’ model developed through empirical research on how people learn in open networks (Littlejohn et al., 2012). This research identified four actions learners carried out around learning resources:
Consuming knowledge. Students discover knowledge they need within the course materials, from their self-study, through people they interact with, including other students, tutors and even people outside the course, including family, friends or colleagues.
Creating new knowledge, by authoring new resources and extending the resources provided. These new resources represent a dynamic, faithful and individually-focused view of students’ knowledge.
Connecting with people, including peers who share interests or goals or tutors, as well as linking with knowledge resources. Connections can be loose and serendipitous. They may be reciprocal or unidirectional.
Contributing new knowledge resources as formal reports and informally (as reflections, ideas, ratings and other content). These new resources can be used by other students and by tutors.
These four learning behaviours (consume, create, connect, and contribute) represent the ways in which each learner interacts with other members of their network to achieve their learning goals. All four behaviours are most effective when conducted in the open networks, since these networks extend reach and maximise the potential benefits each learner gains through interacting with others. Connections between learners in a network can be strengthened when people identify that they share a common learning goal and our work on ‘Charting’ (with Colin Milligan and Anoush Margaryan – see Littlejohn et al, 2012) through which students can connect via their own learning goals http://www.gcu.ac.uk/academy/charting/chartingtools/
These behavioural elements provide fragments of a complex picture of how people learn online. By focusing only on the behavioural characteristics (what learners do), we miss the feelings (affective characteristics) and thinking (cognitive characteristics). Theories of self-regulated learning (such as Zimmermann, 2000) provide a range of behavioral, affective and cognitive factors we can measure to gain a broader view of learning. We have already used these factors to examine how people learn in open, online spaces (see for example Littlejohn, Hood, Milligan & Mustain, 2015) and other settings (Littlejohn, Milligan, Fontana & Margaryan, 2016, which is currently in the top 5 top downloads of Vocations and Learning from the past decade tinyurl.com/ybfaxhqg ).
- Littlejohn, A., Milligan, C., & Fontana, R.P. & Margaryan, A. (2015) Professional learning through everyday work: How finance professionals self-regulate their learning, Vocations & Learning, 1-20 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12186-015-9144-1 [impact factor 1.559]
- Littlejohn, A., Milligan, C., and Margaryan, A. (2012) Charting collective knowledge: Supporting self-regulated learning in the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 24(3), 226-238. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?issn=1366-5626&volume=24&issue=3&articleid=17010279&show=abstract
- Littlejohn, A., Hood, N, Milligan, C. & Mustain, P. (2015) Learning in MOOCs: Motivations and Self-Regulated Learning in MOOCs, Internet and Higher Education http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.12.003 [impact factor 2.048]
- Littlejohn, A. & Hood, N. (2016) How Educators Build Knowledge and Expand their Practice: the case of open education resources, British Journal of Educational Technology [impact factor 2.098]
- Vince, David and Ellis, Elizabeth (2016). Students enabling TEL innovation: a pilot. The Open University.