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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:
In 1977 Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King and Shlomo Angel wrote and published A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. In this seminal text, mostly referred to by architects, lists a "Network of Learning" as the 18th pattern, and cites Illich's earlier book as "the most penetrating analysis and proposal for an alternative framework for education.." Alexander et al. go on to advise builders and town planners interested in establishing learning networks with:
In the 1970s, The Institute For The Future at Menlo Park in California experimented with networked learning practices based on the Internet and computer conferencing. Soon after their reports were published two educational pioneers in the use of Internet technologies, Hiltz and Turoff, linked education directly with this pioneering work.
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
- "...work in piecemeal ways to decentralize the process of learning and enrich it through contact with many places and people all over the city: workshops, teachers at home or walking through the city, professionals willing to take on the young as helpers, older children teaching younger children, museums, youth groups travelling, scholarly seminars, industrial workshops, old people, and so on. Conceive of all these situations as forming the backbone of the learning process; survey all these situations, describe them, and publish them as the city's "curriculum"; then let students, children, their families and neighborhoods weave together for themselves the situations that comprise their "school" paying as they go with standard vouchers, raised by community tax. Build new educational facilities in a way which extends and enriches this network."
CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion – A 2006 course by Rebecca Nesson and co at Harvard Law School
Introduction to Open Education – 2007 course by David Wiley.
- – Run in 2008 by the The School of Art Education, University of Art and Design Helsinki.
- – 2008 course established by Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegarty for Otago Polytechnic, and has since run in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Connectivism – 2008 course run by George Siemens and Stephen Downes.
EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education, 2008, 2009, 2010 By Alec Couros
CCK09: Connectivism and Connective Knowledge – 2009 by George Siemens and Stephen Downes
DS106: Digital Storytelling – 2010/2011 by Jim Groom, took the MOOC concepts into new dimensions with people creating celebratory media for the course, and the course itself breaking course like structure.
Globaloria – Started in 2006 by Idit Harel Caperton and World Wide Workshop as the first and largest social learning network where students develop digital literacy, STEM and Computing knowledge and global citizenship through game design.
- Blackall, L. (Ed.)(2006). The Future of Learning in a Networked World.
- Carvalho, L. & Goodyear, P. (Eds.) (2014) The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.
- Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Hodgson, V., and McConnell, D. (2011) Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning. New York, NY: Springer.
- Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Jones, C., and Lindström, B. (2009) Analysing Networked Learning Practices in Higher Education and Continuing Professional Development. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, BV. Preview available 
- Downes, S. (2007). Emerging technologies for learning.
- Goodyear, P. Banks, S. Hodgson, V. and McConnell, D. eds (2004) Advances in Research on Networked Learning. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
- Hodgson, V., Laat, M. de, McConnell, D., and Ryberg, T. (2014). The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning. New York: Springer.
- Koper, R. (Ed.)(2009), Learning Network Services for Professional Development. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
- Steeples, C. and Jones, C. eds (2002) Networked Learning: Perspectives and Issues. London: Springer.
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