Submitted by Pei-Wei, Leah Bug, and Arjana Blazic
Many people think of learning as nothing more than classroom settings, interactions between students, the instructor and a structured curriculum. Learning is limited to studying in schools and doing school-related activities such as assignments and going on field trips. However, based upon Wenger’s ideas on learning as social participation, learning happens not only in academic settings but also in everyday activities including conversations, work and play. The process of learning and of knowing requires engagement in the community, and includes acquiring information, skills and knowledge that individuals can use when needed. Learning includes both conscious and unconscious behaviors that cause changes in performance persistently. Therefore, learning happens anytime and anywhere and there is no end and no start point.
According to learning theorists, behaviorists assumed that learning is a stimulus and response activity while cognitivists believed that learning is a developmental cognitive process. Based on their experimental results, they posited that learning is an individual process. Social learning theory added another element to learning in which learning is a social activity involving socio-cultural, interpersonal and community process instead of the idea that knowledge is an isolated development. Generally speaking, it is believed that the purpose of learning is to prepare students for the job market. However, what schools have been doing contradicts to how the society functions in the real world. For example, testing students to answer questions taken out of context in a limited time without providing them with resources would seem meaningless in a real working environment where workers are expected to collaborate in order to solve problems and accomplish tasks. Wenger (1998) argues that traditional institutions do not provide students with practical knowledge to be used immediately in the workplace. What students gain is theoretical knowledge, which is not enough to tackle the problems of the real life. In The Vignette, Wenger (1998) provided an example of learning that greatly depends on human interactions. Through experiences, practices, making mistakes, talking to others and reflection people learn how to succeed.
According to Christensen (2011), traditional higher education is failing to educate the workers needed for the workforce. Maybe one reason is that the society has experienced changes slowly and gradually in the past centuries. People have been able to adapt to changes or learn from jobs easily and eventually. However, with the advent of the internet and affordable technologies in which to access information, this rapidly changing world requires the ability to adapt more quickly to disruptive technologies. The old way of doing things are not able to keep up with changes and make improvements as expected. Shirky highlights the issue that brick and mortar institutions are often unable to create a genuine intellectual community in large lecture halls. Could the MOOC’s and other online learning environments do a better job? Even though the demand for some type of post high-school education is highly recognized nowadays, the affordable quality education has become an issue. In order to provide education to large scale of people, different platforms and strategies are offered to compete for the market. Undoubtedly, those who believe in change, take action and have a passion in providing effective learning environments, will embrace the disruption.