ALIA Schools Online Forum: Online learning – Day 2


ALIA Schools Online Forum: Online learning – Day 2

Today we ask participants to consider online learning vs learning online. Is there a difference and what is your understanding of the two?

Kelly Gardiner, Online Learning Manager at the State Library of Victoria, has provided the following statement to start the conversation.

We learn online every day.

Learning online is what we do when we Google a query, watch a chef cooking a new dish on YouTube, follow a blog or network with colleagues on social media, listen to a podcast, or read an article on archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean seabed (just me?) or the night sky or the latest book review.

We learn something new – we explore, we are curious – every day and so we now learn online as a natural part of our human experience.

Online learning is more intentional – either on the part of the learner, or the person creating the learning experience. Online learning is – or should be – carefully designed around specific learning outcomes to meet the learners’ needs and support them to complete any learning tasks, whether or not the learner realises that’s happening. It may stand alone or complement other delivery channels and learning experiences.

Kelly Gardiner, 2016

We now ask participants to post a comment responding to this statement or to perhaps propose their own definition.

We look forward to reading and engaging with you all in the comments section of this post.



12 thoughts on “ALIA Schools Online Forum: Online learning – Day 2

  1. Learning online is very passive whereas online learning is all about engagement, collaboration, noisy classrooms where the noise is exciting because the students are communicating.

  2. Kelly’s comments caused me to think about whether leaning online and online learning could be viewed as a continuum starting with the less structured learning online and progressing to the more structured or intentional online learning. Following on from this, what would be the position on the continuum of the scaffolds to online learning produced by library staff. Specifically, pathfinders or assignments created to support the online learning of students as they start to learn about the research process.

    I would be interested to see what others have to say about this.
    Sandra Ryan

  3. Using Kelly’s definition of learning online probably a less structured type of learning because it is based on a needs to know or for an immediate purpose. Most definitely I think that online learning would provide more of a structured learning continuum because its delivery, which is usually over a period of time, would or should build skill level, knowledge and understanding.

  4. Yes – I agree that online learning is more structured however I think it can still be self-directed. I also think that library produced scaffolds etc assist online learners to different extents depending on whether they are produced for a specific course / assignment or whether they are more general topic-based.

  5. Yes there is a big difference between Online learning and Learning online. I am doing my Librarianship via Learning online and have found this to be very useful. All the tools you need a there at your fingertips day or night. It is very structured and have a learning outcome that is expected of you. Online learning is usually something you do at your own past.

  6. According to Kelly Gardiner’s definitions learning online is an informal activity that anyone engages in to find out more about various topics of interest. Online learning is structured and more formal. As with connected learning, online learning is more effective when purposefully designed and moderated by teachers/teacher-librarians/librarians. The ALIA blog facilitates participatory online learning between like-minded educators. The online learning we are engaging in through this ALIA blog, however, would not be pedagogically worthwhile if there were no inquiry questions or scholarly research articles. When we intentionally contribute, engage, communicate and collaborate then learning takes place.

  7. I feel as though learning online can almost be done by ” osmosis” – you pick up information here and there via your travels through the internet; whereas online learning speaks to me as being something you do with intent. I would consider my degree study as having been online learning – as well as the MOOCs and other courses I have undertaken. I wonder, though, if it’s a relative concept!

  8. I would like to propose a slightly different understanding. Perhaps ‘learning online’ is what we ‘do’ and ‘online learning’ is how we do it. While I do agree that the terms may be interpreted as informal vs formal learning, and indeed this was my first response, after a little more reflection I think that perhaps as we become more used to using digital technologies for learning it may cease to be understood in this way.

    Much informal learning is very powerful, and the flexible and ‘just in time’ nature of informal learning means that this type of learning may in fact influence our practice even more than formally planned learning which is often structured by another, and handed down to the learner. It used to be that a lot of learning could only occur when we were in a classroom, or a library, or perhaps with a wisdom figure. Now, we hold so much opportunity for learning any time and any where right in our pocket, because of the digital connections our phones offer.

    Formal ‘online courses’ which are structured and provide specific learning opportunities will always be useful, however I think that as technology continues to imbue our lives in every aspect, we will cease to see ‘online learning’ as just these more formal opportunities, and come to embrace the informal creation of connections and the incidental and serendipitous learning which occurs through our online networks to be just as important. We will (perhaps) cease to think of learning as a single activity of life, and begin to think of it as an inseparable aspect of life. What I mean by this is that 50 years ago, it was possible to attend school and then never participate in any formal (or much informal) learning again.(I realise that this is a generalisation!!) Nowadays, we have both the opportunity and indeed almost the expectation that learning will continue throughout our lives; both formally and informally. If it stopped when we left school now, we just couldn’t cope!

    So I think that online learning will become such a part of our lives that we will cease to categorise it into the formal and informal opportunities, and think of any time we learn online as online learning; and just a natural part of everyday life.

    Just another perspective to consider. I love how there are no right answers, only ideas to mull over! 🙂

  9. I took part in a MOOC called Rhizomatic Learning (last 2 years) and although there were no specific learning outcomes and the writing/thinking prompts were open-ended, it was the richest learning experience I’ve had so far. Learning outcomes are great for a course but you can learn a helluva lot online where the community is the curriculum (which was the catchphrase of the course). In fact, the course designer/leader, Dave Cormier, encouraged us to play with the idea of ‘learning subjectives’ in place of objectives. It’s difficult to explain (like any experience) and I’m not sure how it would work in the secondary school context, but there’s a lot to be said for serendipitous learning online. Just saying.

    • I love Dave Cormier’s work, and I totally agree that open learning opportunities may sometimes be richer than formerly organised learning; particularly when there is supported freedom to pursue personal interests and choice in how learning is expressed.

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