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Beyond the Ivory Tower: A Model for Nurturing Informal Learning and Development Communities through Open Educational Practices

Más allá de la torre de marfil: un modelo para potenciar las comunidades de aprendizaje informal y desarrollo mediante prácticas educativas abiertas

Abstract

Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices (OEP) are making an evergrowing impact on the field of adult learning, offering free high-quality education to increasing numbers of people. However, the top-down distribution of weighty university courses that typifies current provision is not necessarily suitable for contexts such as Continued Professional Development (CPD). This article proposes that a change of focus from a supplier-driven to a needs-led approach, grounded in theories of informal learning, could increase the positive impact of OER and OEP beyond the ivory towers of higher education.

To explore this approach, we focused on the requirements of a specific community outside higher education — trainers in the UK’s voluntary sector — in order to design a more broadly applicable model for a sustainable online learning community focused around OER and OEP. The model was informed by a recent survey of voluntary sector trainers establishing their need for high-quality free resources and their desire to develop more productive relationships with their peers, and by evaluation of successful online communities within and outside the voluntary sector.

Our proposed model gives equal attention to learning resources and group sociality. In it, academics and practitioners work together to adapt and create learning materials and to share each other’s knowledge and experiences through discussion forums and other collaborative activities. The model features an explicit up-skilling dimension based on Communities of Practice (CoP) theory and a system of reputation management to incentivise participation. The model is unique in building a pan-organisation community that is entirely open in terms of membership and resources. While the model offered in this article is focused on the voluntary sector, it could also be applied more widely, allowing practitioner communities the benefits of tailored resources and academic input, and collaborating universities the benefit of having their OER used and reused more widely for CPD through informal learning.

Resumen

Los recursos educativos abiertos (REA) y las prácticas educativas abiertas (PEA) tienen un impacto cada vez mayor en el aprendizaje para adultos, ya que proporcionan educación gratuita de alta calidad a un creciente número de personas. Sin embargo, la distribución vertical que caracteriza a los cursos universitarios disponibles en la actual oferta educativa no se adecua necesariamente a contextos como el desarrollo profesional continuo (DPC). Este artículo sostiene que un nuevo planteamiento que permita pasar de un enfoque centrado en el proveedor a otro que gravite alrededor de la necesidad, basado en las teorías del aprendizaje informal, podría incrementar el impacto positivo de los REA y las PEA más allá de la torre de marfil en qué está hoy situada la educación superior.

Para explorar este planteamiento, nos hemos centrado en los requisitos de una comunidad específica que no pertenece al ámbito de la educación superior -formadores del sector voluntario del Reino Unidopara diseñar un modelo que pueda aplicarse de forma amplia a una comunidad de aprendizaje sostenible y en línea centrada en REA y PEA. El modelo se basa en una encuesta reciente realizada a formadores voluntarios, que establecía su necesidad de disponer de recursos gratuitos de alta calidad y su deseo de entablar relaciones más productivas con sus colegas, así como en un informe sobre comunidades en línea pertenecientes o no al sector voluntario.

El modelo que proponemos presta la misma atención a los recursos de aprendizaje que a la sociabilidad del grupo. Para ello, los investigadores y los profesionales trabajan conjuntamente para adaptar y crear materiales de aprendizaje y poner en común conocimientos y experiencias a través de foros de discusión y otras actividades en colaboración. El modelo plantea una dimensión explícita de mejora de competencias basada en la teoría de las comunidades de práctica (CP) y un sistema de gestión de la reputación que incentiva la participación. Se trata de un modelo único para la creación de una comunidad pan-organizativa totalmente abierta en cuanto a recursos y posibilidad de afiliación. Si bien el modelo que se presenta en este artículo se centra básicamente en el sector voluntario, también podría aplicarse de forma más amplia a otros sectores, lo que permitiría que las comunidades de práctica se beneficiaran de recursos diseñados a medida y de contribuciones académicas, y que las universidades participantes vieran que sus REA se utilizan y reutilizan de forma más amplia para el DPC a través del aprendizaje informal.

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Correspondence to Tony Coughlan.

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Coughlan, T., Perryman, LA. Beyond the Ivory Tower: A Model for Nurturing Informal Learning and Development Communities through Open Educational Practices. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 10, 312–326 (2013). https://doi.org/10.7238/rusc.v10i1.1586

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Keywords

  • open educational practices
  • informal learning
  • open educational resources
  • continuing professional development
  • communities of practice
  • reputation management

Palabras clave

  • prácticas educativas abiertas
  • aprendizaje informal
  • recursos educativos abiertos
  • desarrollo profesional continuo
  • comunidades de práctica
  • gestión de la reputación