Networked Learning Environment – Stepping Beyond Courses to a More Expansive Online Learning Experience

An Industry White Paper, By Matthew Pittinsky – Chairman Blackboard Inc. (October 1st, 2004)

A Networked Learning Environment in the Inter­net age applies new technology to a very old con-cept—that learning is much more than classes and grades. It is about the learning that takes place in a vibrant community of people and resources. The Internet has removed the limits of time and proxim­ity that once restricted this community. In a true Networked Learning Environment, any student, instructor or researcher can access any learning resource at anytime from anyplace.

Similar to the Internet, a Networked Learning En­vironment is really a network of networks—as simple as a lecturer and her class or as complex as a global web of instructors collaborating to de­velop a brand new curriculum. The power of the Networked Learning Environment today is that it creates unlimited possibilities for students and fac­ulty, far beyond the limitation of books, bricks and mortar.

While most institutions are evolving toward the Networked Learning Environment one step at a time, some are taking the leap all at once. This white paper describes the NLE and lays out Black­board’s vision for providing solutions that will help educational institutions realize their goals.

When Thomas Jefferson was planning the Univer­sity of Virginia, he wrote, “In fact a university should not be a house but a village.” His designs for the original campus would encourage interchange and relationships among professors and students in an open environment that still kept all the resources of learning in close proximity.

Jefferson’s “Academical Village” was one archi­tectural expression of something that has been true since the first universities of medieval Europe—that learning is a community function. It ranges from the dyad between teacher and pupil to the residential college and beyond. Throughout history we have created learning environments that were “net­worked” in some way in order to bring together books, labs, libraries, thinkers, teachers and stu­dents in pursuit of learning. In the past, however, networked learning environments were limited by time and distance. For community learning to be effective, resources had to be close together.

That was until the maturing of the Internet as a medium for communication. In today’s world of e-Learning, Jefferson’s “academical village” has grown in depth and breadth and is no longer re­stricted by time -students everywhere are benefit­ing.

Today, as part of the Internet2 project, for example, students might log on to hear noted authors in the United Kingdom, France and the United States discuss Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl. Afterward, they could join students from Philadelphia to Paris in discussion board conversations on favorite read­ings and search for critical reviews of Ginsberg’s works in digital repositories throughout the world.

As the limits of time and place continue to retreat, educational institutions now find themselves at an­other phase of this evolution in Learning Environ­ments. Equipped with the power of today’s digital networks and no longer content to remain within the boundaries of the classroom, institutions are setting a new course to Networked Learning Envi­ronments where the library on another continent is as close as the learning lab across campus.

Read the rest of the Networked Learning Environment White paper: networked_learning_environment