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Randy Bass and the Learning Ecosystem

Randy Bass  is a luminary in the world of educational technologies. He has been a thought leader from the earliest glimmer of interest in bringing new media technology into face-to-face classes, urging us to think about the teaching first, then finding the tools to support it. At the 2016 Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) conference, he returned to these themes, but emphasized the opportunity they present to focus on the whole student.

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He told the audience that we should use digital tools not as stand-alone objects, but as a way to integrate an entire learning ecosystem. We should stop focusing on how tools can disaggregate and disrupt, instead striving to focus on the whole student and the whole student experience, from the classroom to the dorm room to the extra-curriculars to the internship. Above all, he emphasized, the learning ecosystem should maximize the distinctive ability of colleges and universities to cultivate a certain kind of learner, one who learns for the sake of learning, who sees connections across disciplinary boundaries, who seeks out a variety of experiences as fundamental to building critical analytical skills.

The learning ecosystem should be:

  • learner-centered — it must really empower students to take ownership of their own learning
  • networked – maximize community and mentorship, understand porous boundaries between universities and outside. The network is where we live.
  • integrative – maximize connections and coherence, not silos. For students, it should focus on inquiry, global learning, and integration. For faculty, it should focus on engagement and support.
  • adaptive – the learning ecosystem should go beyond the concept of a collection of courses to focus instead on intentionally designed student experiences in which assessment is grounded in authentic work.

Building on Diana Oblinger’s call to create a digital learning environment that is seamless between the physical and virtual campus, that connects students and faculty, blending the best of both worlds, Bass shows us the way forward. image

  • Focus on the whole student.
  • Focus on intentionally designed student experiences.
  • Share data with faculty and students to cultivate the ability to learn about learning.
  • Look for ways to cross disciplinary boundaries, create community, and authentic experiences.

Then we will be on the path towards creating an integrative learning experience and our students will connect.