Social network. Network effects. Networking. Networked. Global network. The word network is ubiquitous. Despite the arguably overworked use of the term “network,” I was still struck by Anya Kamenetz’ idea of the Personal Learning Network:
“Learning online can be a solitary activity at times. But in the long run, no one learns alone. You need people to bounce ideas off, answer questions, and help you when you get stuck, and to give you ideas about where to go next in your learning. Your ‘Personal Learning Network’ or PLN is the group of people who feed your learning head. In a true PLN, you’re a contributor, not just a consumer.”
For my finali(ish) project(like), I would like to explore how to create a meaningful PLN for customers (ie: students) of a traditional higher education institution. Logically, the university seems like the one-stop shop to developing a PLN. Potential mentors, facilitators, experts, fellow explorers can all be found here, yet my hunch is that the current university model largely fails on delivering a workable PLN for students.
Students rarely venture outside their own close knit subset of peers. Faculty, when not consumed in their individual research, largely approach their teaching responsibilities as depositors of knowledge. In a current model of higher education, my hunch is that the user expectation is to consume rather than contribute to active learning. In this expectation, users have outsourced sense-making and assessment of individual learning to supposed authority figures. If all content becomes free, accreditation sorts itself out, how can facilitate the creation of a true PLN?