How NGL can inform my role as a teacher?

Interestingly, my role as ‘teacher’ is being an online educational designer at a university. My participation in all the courses in the Graduate Certificate of Education: Digital Learning Environments have been done with an educational design perspective. The NGL course has provided the greatest difficulty in using this perspective as designed is definitely not what networked learning is. In fact, the organic, learner-centred, connected nature of networked learning does not lend itself to the commitment, purpose, hierarchies and structures of normal courses (Dron & Anderson, 2014).

Through my participation in the NGL course, and using my online educational designer lens, I have two ideas that could be implemented in my ‘as a teacher’ role which could lead to transformative change of how courses are taught at university. First, I would recommend that networked learning is ‘taught’ as an add-on instructional style to pedagogy of current courses (Ehlers, 2013). Second, Carvalho & Goodyear (2014) have examined networked learning in order to distinguish the activity, what people are actually doing and learning in the network, from the elements that can be ‘designed’. I would create and recommend the elements that are of use to networked learning such as the tools, resources, and social interactions in my role as educational designer.

Idea One: Networked learning as an add-on


Networked learning would be useful as an instructional add-on to any university course, rather than providing a separate course on networked learning. Networked learning principles could be added incrementally to all courses.

“The extension enables learners to create their own supporting network, which can act as their personal “learning attendant”. Therewith learners have the opportunity to learn in a self-directed way when- (what-) and wherever they want to, whereby they can draw on a worldwide resource-pool of knowledge and “peers” as learning attendants through whom (external) reflection and validation is given” (Ehlers, 2013: p.111).

Networked learning is already implicitly being done in universities, academics have their research networks and students have their social networks. This is why networked learning is so useful as an add-on to an academic’s current pedagogy as it uses authentic learning tools that people are already familiar with (Herrington et al., 2014). A crucial part of knowledge transfer occurs via the learning process that connects what, when and from whom to learn (Siemens, 2002; Ehlers, 2013).

“By designing instruction in which students actually use current tools to create information as an author does, as well as more skilfully consuming information in all formats, we enable students to understand both the process of evaluating and using these tools and the visceral differences between posting and discussing something publicly as opposed to handing it in to one person (the instructor)” (Bobish, 2011: p. 63).


  • Teaching academics networked learning (to recognise their own networked learning)
  • Learning new technologies
  • Time


Teacher & industry models of learning networks

Using authentic tools and scenarios that relate to people’s real life and future work life. Authentic activities are the ordinary practices of culture and what actual practitioners do, if used in teaching then this will allow for transfer of learning between different networks (Herrington et al., 2014).

Providing learner control over tools, content, their identity.

Learner control over tools, content and identity means that the student can decide what tools to use that will benefit them (Bonzo & Parchoma, 2010). The “technologies do not merely assist in everyday lives, they are also powerful forces acting to reshape human activities and their meanings” (Bijker in Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014: p.52). The internet and technology allows students to create their own personal learning network, facilitating knowledge creation, use, interaction and transfer (Monge & Frisicaro-Pawlowski, 2014).

Teach students to see the connections between content, tools, people.

The student is able to transfer networked learning to other courses, social and work life using the authentic models provided by the teacher (Herrington et al., 2014). Once students can relate different ideas transformative learning can occur.

“The more we relate things, the more creative we are because creativity is being aware of or seeing connections that others don’t. The more we relate things, the more we can transfer them because the ability to transfer is based on the ability to make connections between otherwise seemingly different domains.” (Cabrera & Colosi, 2012: p.86).


  • Technology – fast changing
  • Institutional limitations – requirement to use the learning management system
  • Analytics – difficult in a distributed environment
  • Privacy/identity complications

Idea Two: Design for networked learning


“We never educate directly, but indirectly by means of the environment. Whether we permit chance environments to do the work, or whether we design environments for the purpose makes a great difference” (Dewey in Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014: p.59)


“That there is no such thing as user error: while they can make mistakes and do weird stuff we never envisaged, it is our failure to design things right that is the problem” (Dron, 2016).

McLuhan (1964) explained that we learn differently depending on the media used in his seminal work The medium is the message. Thus the environment through which we learn has an impact on how we learn. Carvalho & Goodyear (2014) established that design elements such as the tasks, tools, resources and relationships can improve the way a network operates. Dron & Anderson (2014) recognise that design can also encourage participation, get people to remain in the network and should be designed for change. “As McLuhan said, we shape our tools and our tools shape us” (Dron, 2016).


  • Time to design
  • Technology required to create tools
  • Designers required not just teachers
  • Traditional teaching role lessened


Carvalho & Goodyear (2014) point out “the importance of (1) links between design and what people do and feel” and (2) the value of design and development methods that work by incremental improvement” (p.56). Three design elements were researched extensively by Carvalho & Goodyear (2014) in The architecture of productive learning networks and supported by case studies from around the world. These are epistemic, set and social design:

Epistemic design (tasks)

This design is about the knowledge-oriented elements/tasks that can bring about learner activity. Well designed task and support resources will focus thinking (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014). For example, scaffolds, navigational clues and legibility to reduced cognitive load.

Set design (physically situated)

A “logic that can connect place or tool to activity” (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014: p.63). Visual layout is simple and clear, focus on content. Every element has a well-justified purpose, avoid overload of textual, visual images or sound.

Social design (socially situated)

Interaction with others is enabled and as people are self-organising, roles are only suggested. A sense of community is created via the sharing and visualisation of experiences and ideas from students, teachers and professionals.


(Networked learning design elements, reproduced from Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014: p.59)


  • Technology – fast changing
  • Institutional limitations – requirement to use the learning management system
  • Not wholly networked learning as working within a course structure
  • Teacher willingness

Shift happens

Both ideas described would be possible for me to ‘teach’ depending on the willingness of the academics to shift from their traditional pedagogy to a more learner-centred, authentic connected approach. Regardless of academic willingness, I will model networked learning in my professional oeuvre so that I can illuminate its benefits.



Bobish, G. (2011). Participation and pedagogy: Connecting the social web to ACRL learning outcomes. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(1), 54–63.

Bonzo, J., & Parchoma, G. (2010). The Paradox of Social Media and Higher Education Institutions. Networked Learning: Seventh International Conference (pp. 912–918). Retrieved from

Carvalho, L., & Goodyear, P. (2014). The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Dron, J (2016). True costs of information technologies. Retrieved from

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds: Learning & Social Media. Edmonton: AU Press, Athabasca University.

Ehlers, U. D. (2013). Open learning cultures. A Guide to Quality, Evaluation, and Assessment for Future Learning. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Retrieved from

Herrington, J., Parker, J., & Boase-Jelinek, D. (2014). Connected authentic learning: Reflection and intentional learning. Australian Journal of Education, 58(1), 24–35.

Jones, D. (2016) Overview/intro to EDU8117 – Networked and Global Learning. Retrieved from

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. Retrieved from

McLuhan, M. (1964). The Medium is the Message. The Anthropology of Media: A Reader.

Monge, R., & Frisicaro-Pawlowski, E. (2014). Redefining Information Literacy to Prepare Students for the 21st Century Workforce. Innovative Higher Education, 39(1), 59–73.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from

2 thoughts on “How NGL can inform my role as a teacher?

  1. In terms of the discussion of the impact of media, have you looked at
    Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. Journal Article.


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