What sorts of learning practices and literacies do learners need for collective learning?
Knowledge resources are the ‘lifeblood’ of social and collective learning. While learning in social systems, individuals connect with relevant knowledge resources and with other people who share a similar learning goal (Littlejohn, Margaryan & Milligan, 2009). ‘Clusters’ of learners within a network travel a learning pathway together, navigating and making sense of the available knowledge resources. People learn together through connecting and making sense of knowledge fragments within a large pool of collective knowledge (Siemens, 2005). As they learn people connect across the networks to bring together the knowledge and expertise they need (Siemens, 2004). Therefore learning is characterised by processes of discovery, sensemaking, synthesis and sharing of (previously fragmented) knowledge resources. Since each individual learner encounters a learning situation with a unique combination of knowledge, values and culture, they create unique, multiple learning pathways.
A key assumption underpinning collective learning, is that if a learning problem is open to a large number of people, the knowledge of ‘the many’ will afford greater diversity to help solve a given problem. In other words, learning may be more effective when large numbers of people draw upon and, at the same time, feed into the collective knowledge – the knowledge distributed across people, machines, networks and artefacts. However the assumption, that large groups of connected people are better able to solve problems than a limited group, still lacks evidence and is fiercely contested (Keen, 2005; Surowiecki, 2004).