I’d like to suggest that the institutional and connectivist models could flow in to each other, perhaps as part of a larger online learning ecosystem.
I do think that there are times when a more institutional model make sense. I think a more regimented, instructor-led experience is appropriate when the desired learning outcome is something like a clear set of knowledge, or a specific discrete mastery.
This approach probably works best when the main body of knowledge is not contentious – for example, learning basic mathematics – or when the body of knowledge is totally alien to the learner, and they don’t know how to begin approaching it.
A connectivist criticism would say that an institutional approach runs the risk of taking the learning out of learning. As the instructor takes the role of curating and guiding, the learner is more subservient.
But I do think that institutional pedagogy does have an important part to play: It can provide a starter pack of critical tools needed to engage in a community of knowledge. It can have a kind of springboard effect, and from there it’s not always certain where the learning will end up.
Perhaps we can think of institutional pedagogy as a sort of agar plate – a careful, nurturing
environment where the fundamentals of life can be absorbed, and an organism built up to adolescence. Once it’s matured enough to fend to itself, it’s time to grow and struggle in the realm of connective learning.
To my mind, an interesting question is how we support learners arriving in a new area of knowledge. Some of them will have most of the skills required to orient themselves as independent, connective learners in this new space; others will have very few. Certainly there are underlying learning competencies, but there will also be skills that are specific to different areas of knowledge. How do we develop both of these?
In other words, how can we make every learning community truly accessible?
This video was produced as part of the August 2012 #MOOCMOOC. I’ve posted it here with a transcription for accessibility. With apologies for any liberties I’ve taken over the theories involved.