It seems to me that we need to get back to learning – and use technology to provide rich learning resources that are free from the distractions of a constant online connection. Online is not where learning happens. Learning happens where the learners are.
An internet connection and the interactions it brings can be a distraction to learning. Facebook, twitter, multiple news feeds, are all crying for attention. It is not unusual for a learner to speak of the bliss of being out of range: offline for a while. They are not talking about not studying, in fact they are focusing on study. Being offline helps them focus on the learning material.
Looking back to the early days of online learning, the internet was not such a insistent voice. Many learners had slow connections so courses were designed around periodic connection for specific reasons. Learners received their course notes in hard copy, and as part of the programme of study engaged with other students online as required by the course. Online engagement was purposeful and aligned with learning outcomes
Now the internet connection is ever-present. Learners are expected to go online for learning material, discussions, to read content. Learning resources are usually a downloadable print format or multimedia available online. Online course discussions are constant, and although attempting to connect with learning outcomes, other forums compete, often with a social aspect. Furthermore, in an attempt to reproduce the face to face experience, higher education institution discussion forums can be overly dependent on technology and focus on the institutions’ needs of engagement.
Looking to the future, I imagine the learner being able to download the resources they need, only this time the experience is rich with multimedia and interactivity. This engaging and focussed learning material is not web-dependent, it revolves around a tactile touchscreen experience. The learner still has the option to engage with peers and with their tutors at any time they have an internet connection, and at times will be directed by the resource to go online for a learning outcome related reason.
Here the learner is empowered with rich and engaging learning material and processes, some of which may be online, but all of which are relevant to the learning outcomes of the course. This model holds pedagogy at its heart. Technology is used to provide specific material as well direct the student through the cloud of online distractions.