Some things change, some things stay the same

Some things change, some things stay the same

The literature by Siemens is a familiar discourse within higher education. In fact, the questions posed on the NGL blog are the same questions Siemens asked a decade ago, and ones that continued to be asked today. It seems, with the advancement of technology, the higher education sector is in a race it can never finish, nor win – with the ultimate goal of fulfilling student needs within evolving, uncertain, and rather elusive learning environments.

What is the role of an educator?

I believe educators have two primary roles – the role of facilitators and the role of learning designers. Educators are people who facilitate connections, knowledge and conversation. They prompt engagement and new ways of thinking by encouraging creativity, innovation and reflection. Based on social constructivism, the role of an educator as a facilitator allows students to construct their own knowledge (Le Cornu & Peters, 2005). Additionally, I believe the needs of students will not be met until educators become designers of learning experiences (Lavoie et al, 2011), with an understanding for the unique needs of their students. This is also supported by Laurillard (2012) who advocates the concept of “design science,” which focuses on educational theories to attain student learning.

What is the role of the learner?

The role of the learner is to be a self-directed explorer of ideas, learning initiatives, and connections. Siemens (2008) states that “different learners have different needs,” thus, arguing that learners should be in control of their learning journey. Tobin (2000, p. 12) agrees by stating that “all learning is self-directed,” and that “real learning – the information that is retained and used beyond a course – can only be determined by the learner themselves.” As a learner, this is something that resonates with me. According to Siemens (2008), some students prefer high degree of social interaction, while others prefer a more individual approach. I have always had a self-directed mindset to my own learning, especially in finding the methods that are most effective and motivating for me. I believe this is important for other learners too. Looking at my fellow peers, this self-directedness is seen through each of our blogs and way we have tailored them in association with Chris’s facilitation skills, and the design of the main NGL blog page.

How would curriculum be created and share?

Curriculum needs to be created in a structured and relevant way. According to Siemens (2006), relevance is not just about the nature of content, but rather the process of ensuring currency for students. Siemens (2006, p. 43) acknowledges that content has a short lifespan and that “through the connectivist approach to learning, we create networks of knowledge to assist in replacing outdated content with current content,” in order to ensure curriculum worthiness.

In addition, the curriculum should allow for networking, communication and opportunities for students to connect knowledge to real life scenarios and practicalities. In Lauren and Mitch’s blogs, there has been a significant focus on technologies. This will drastically influence how curriculum is created and shared. As digital technologies are used within courses, information literacy must be embedded within the curriculum to ensure students will be able to use, find and share the information provided (Campbell, 2004). Digital literacies and information skills are paramount in the digital age (van Deursen & van Dijk, 2010). These skills include: computer literacy, information literacy, media literacy, network literacy, e-literacy, web literacy, game literacy and digital communication literacy (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008). This diversity means that digital literacy is often seen as a “framework for integrating other literacies and skillsets,” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008, p.4). From Siemen’s comment on currency, and my own experience as an educator within the information science field, I believe the curriculum needs to be created with digital literacy in mind.

How would research be conducted?

Research would be collaborative and methodological, qualitative and quantitative. Networks would be the core of research conduction. This would be achieved through task-based, practice-based and knowledge-based communities (Riel and Polin, 2004). Technology would also play a fundamental role in research management.

What would be the role of the university in society?

Universities are hubs of learning, knowledge and discovery. Despite the changing roles of educators and learners, the role of universities is rather static. By comparing ancient and contemporary universities throughout history, it is evident that despite technological progression the goals of universities have remained relatively the same. These goals include: learning and teaching, research and more recently entrepreneurship via networking. Although universities have a stagnant core, they must constantly evolve in a rapidly changing economy.

What would ‘education’ look like? How would we mark it? Accredit?

Education will be more student-centered, with an aim of creating independent and critical leaners. This will be achieved by focusing more on skill, rather than content. Education will be more flexible and integrative. There will be a favour of virtual environments over physical classrooms. As a result, there will be further exploration on the concept of “place” within education. This is also supported by Northcote (2008, p. 677) who emphasises the importance of “place,” in physical and virtual environments by stating that “a sense of place is often experienced more at the individual level than the community level.” That is not to say a student cannot create a “place to hangout” with others within their online learning environment, but rather, as determined by Siemens, the student is in control of their learning experience, rather than the teacher.

I think education will look more digital. To be truthful, as an educator, this scares me. In my previous post ‘Are you digitally included or a useless digit,’ I mentioned the rise of robots in the workforce. I anticipate education following a similar path with an emphasis on “self-service,” automation and artificial intelligence. However, despite the inevitability of technological advancements, I hope that humans remain the heart of education.

Accreditation and graduate attributes will continue to drive higher education. According to Siemens “universities better serve their role of accreditation…on sufficiency of learning when they look beyond formal classrooms.” I envisage this to be achieved through an emphasis on peer-to-peer learning (and graded participation) and stronger partnership between students and industry.


Campbell, S. (2004). Defining Information in the 21st Century. Paper presented at World Library and Information Congress: 70th IFLA General Conference and Council, Bueno Aires, Argentina. Retrieved from

Lankshear, C & Knobel, M. (2008). Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lavoie, D., Rosman, A., & Sharma, S. (2011). Information Literacy by Design: Recalibrating Graduate Professional Online Programs. In T. Mackey & T. Jacobson (Eds.). Teaching Information Literacy Online (pp. 133-152). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Le Cornu, R & Peters, J. (2005). Towards constructivist classrooms: the role of the reflective teacher. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 6(1).

Northcote, M. (2008). Sense of place in online learning environments. Paper presented at ASCILITE, Melbourne, Vic. Retrieved from

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 16–50). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved 24 August, from,

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Retrieved 24 August, from.

Tobin, D. (2000). All Learning is Self-Directed. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.

Van Deursen, A & Van Dijk, J. (2010). Internet skills and the digital divide. New Media and Society, 13(6), 893-911. doi: 10.1177/1461444810386774


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