Sunday, May 16, 2010

The 'shape' of online learning resources

I have been thinking a bit lately about how online learning resources are changing - in terms of what and how these are provided. Some time ago, I explored 'distributed creativity' , that is, websites that are increasingly blurring boundaries between teaching and learning, and quite often shift easily backwards and forwards across virtual and material spaces (see sidebar for a list - other suggestions always welcome).

Now, I keep finding examples which are offering more specialist learning resources, centred around not just materials but also tools, networking and other services. The Urban Design London Learning Space , for example, offers "a basic introduction to the theories, tricks and tools you can use to help create well-designed places.
  • We'll explain the words we can use to define the qualities of well-designed places
  • We'll describe processes and tools you can use to achieve good design
  • We'll talk about the theories and policies you can use to deliver good design
  • We'll help you learn by using pictures, stories, examples and activities"
which you can also develop through face-to-face courses. I have also been asked to be participate in a series of parallel workshops across over 70 universities globally, organised by Madrid Design Net. This is part of plans to develop new ideas for the urban development of Madrid, by both importing and exporting suggestions from other cities. It is based on a set of themes, a designed 'kit' and a structured workshop programme, supported by a website for sharing possibilities worldwide.

These kinds of resources suggest an increasing maturity in well-thought out and managed materials and activities online. Both are much more than either putting lecture notes on the web, or just 'sharing' through a blog/social network. They are serious and well-designed resources. Interestingly, in both cases the developments don't come from a university setting alone, but from a partnership with (and sponsorship from) other private and public organisations.

What really matters, though, is to see if they can get over the problem - particularly in post-compulsory education - of take-up; that is, will such resources and tools actually get used by a big enough constituency to make the amount of development work worth while?

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