Dr. George Siemens on How We Learn in Open, Connected Digital Environments: National Advisory Board Conversation Series

The Civitas Learning National Advisory Board is comprised of researchers, association leaders, and executives whose expertise has influenced higher education policy and practice across the United States and around the world, and has guided our work from day one.

We continue this NAB Conversation Series — an opportunity to learn from these luminaries as we strive together to help more, and more diverse students learn well and finish strong — with Dr. George Siemens, Executive Director of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge (LINK) Research Lab, The University of Texas at Arlington.

Dr. Siemens discusses the origins and evolution of MOOCs, and what it has taught us about how students learn. While the original vision of MOOCs was not about the content, but rather an approach to learning and knowledge as a connected process, it is undeniable that online courses and platforms (i.e. EdX, Coursera) are providing the subject matter required to research and learn more about how we produce knowledge in open, connected digital environments. The analytics and data generated as large groups of learners view and create content online are teaching us more about how we can transition to the digital age, generate knowledge, and how we think together with our technology. Watch a snippet of the conversation below. Watch a snippet of this conversation below.


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We also discuss innovation within higher ed. If institutions are to be transformative agents within society, we need to understand what works, so that we can be effective in bringing about transformation. Key to doing that is using analytics to understand and support students in a proactive way — not just to flag students at risk — and by understanding the structure of institutions and of students’ journeys in order to operationalize transformative work. Only then can we meet students where they are, in a way that is sustainable for the institution and its business operations.

Dr. Siemens argues we are entering a post-learning era. That is, many of the things we are doing in our classrooms will be outperformed technologically.  How can institutions respond to that? He argues we should determine what machines can do better/faster than we can, and where humans and our experience are unmatched by technology — and where those two intersect to bolster our ability to better serve all students. 

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