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Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World

It has long been known that a combination of both formal and informal learning is an effective way of turning theory (explicit knowledge) into practice (tacit knowledge). This includes working and learning alongside more experienced people, both online and face-to-face.

The nature of learning is changing, and new learning technologies are proliferating. Additionally, there is compelling evidence that suggests many learners can benefit from alternative models and novel spaces for developing their skills and gaining further knowledge. Couple this with the increase in distance and virtual learning offerings—which offer little opportunity for face-to-face contact for both formal learning and networking—and a significant need for additional learner support begins to emerge.

This need is also being driven by our busy lifestyles: learners may not always have time to study at their chosen institution or study center; entrepreneurs and startups may need access to temporary experts and more formal learning opportunities; and learners and workers may need more than just online support from time to time. Sometimes learners want a place to study away from the distractions of home or work, or they may need an informal learning place to engage with peers and mentors.

Learning hubs” may be the solution. Learning hubs are technology-enabled, flexible, formal and informal learning spaces designed to support learners of all ages. As opposed to study centers or traditional classrooms, learning hubs:

  • Are purpose-built to accommodate more than just tutorial instructions and seminars 
  • Serve as a space for temporary or prearranged meetings and discussions with peers
  • Enable students to meet with experts and mentors virtually or to join a class remotely (from one or more hubs) via high-definition video-conferencing or telepresence facilities

Learning hubs can be located in Smart Work Centers, university and school campuses with spare real estate, community centers, and other places. Or, they can be “pop-up” hubs—physical spaces connected through high-end video-conferencing technology to enable city-to-city and multicity events—that meet specific, short-term needs. Dialogue Café is one example of a pop-up hub. Other types of hubs are shown in Figure 1.  

 Figure 1.  Potential Learning Hub Locations.

Learning Hubs

Source: Cisco IBSG, 2013

A more detailed perspective from Cisco IBSG on learning hubs—including existing hubs and those in development—is available for download at “Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World.”

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iPad Mini Launches – How will it and others impact education?

As we look seriously at connected learning, the influx of notebooks and mobile learning applications has been astounding. This week, in fact, Apple took over much of the news with the launch of its iPad Mini. In the previous weeks leading up to this launch, I heard and read discussions around education being a key target audience for this new iPad offering, which renewed my intrigue in the use of handheld devices & mobile learning.

Bloomberg discussed the rise in iPads being used in the classrooms due to its “cool factor” and ability to encourage students to learn by increasing engagement. More than 2,500 classrooms currently utilize iPads as learning tools, and this number is expected to increase with the continued growth of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Superintendent of the McAllen Independent School District in Texas was quoted saying, “We’re moving away from desktops and laptops. Ninety percent of the work is now being done on mobile devices.”

Think about that for a minute – ninety percent – wow. With mobile learning amongst Forbes recent list of Five Technologies to Watch, it is obviously only going to increase in momentum. In addition, the potential revolution in digital textbooks is primed to change the entire landscape. The jury is still out on when that revolution will take place, but it’s looking more and more like a reality.

Are you, or do you know, an educator who is formatting educational materials for mobile devices and planning learning activities that leverage multimedia, videoconferencing and other features of smart phones and tablets? Tell us your story! (and what you think of the new iPad mini)

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