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.
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.”