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Learner self-organization in complex knowledge settings

I’m a fan of dichotomies, recognizing very well the weaknesses they hold. A dichotomy is a way of pinning points of thought. Hopefully, once these points have been pinned, we can start to explore the nuances and gradients that exist between these positions.

Consider learning: it can be organized for us or we, as individuals, can organize ourselves. Of course, it’s not that black and white, but it does help to frame the discussion. In higher education, we have largely ignored the self-organizing aspect of learner activity. We’ve got the “how to try and control learners and curriculum” down pat. I think we’re uncomfortable, however, in recognizing that learner self-organization is a viable and reasonable approach to structuring knowledge growth (personally and collectively). I tackle that in the presentation below (btw, if you’re reading this live, the presentation is being streamed here):


  1. Rosa A. Ojeda Ayala wrote:

    Hello, George: I listened to your presentation and really enjoyed it.

    Have you published this research somewhere? I would love to see the details of the application of grounded theory to your analysis. You state that “We still need control…” and ask “How do you impose that control and in which points of the process…” This is of great interest to me. How to achieve this balance (assuming balance is needed)in open informal virtual learning environments? How and when to provide control when authentic settings for learning are disposed and still wish to stimulate for learners to be autonomous at the same time? Still have some other questionings, but need to express them in a “coherent” way!

    As usual, following questions tend to address other issues and not those presented, except for Fischer who came back to the idea of the relation of formal and informal learning. He stated that “…teaching and learning are not inherently linked…we learn a lot when we are not involved with educational institutions at all…” To which you answered “In order for teaching to be relevant it has to… move into some degree of ‘informalization’…” This whole issue of the role of Universities in learning demands much attention and discussion. Do you envision the disappearance of Universities in a near future? You talked about courses and other related concepts to be transitory, Am I right? So, how do you envision the future of higher education?

    Thanks, George. I will get back to you by e-mail soon.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
  2. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Rosa,

    thanks for the comments.

    I haven’t published, but will have something available in the next 4 months or so.

    In terms of the future of higher education – a huge question! I’ve tried to address that in various posts on this site over the past few years (recently about 2 weeks ago) and in a few publications and several presentations. Overall, I don’t think we really have a clear sense yet. More experimentation with various scenarios is needed…

    Monday, September 26, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink