Abundance of choice – a challenge for learning

At the start of 2017 I thought it would be fun to think of any red threads that appear to be running through my recent work. Could they lead to interesting predictions or at least goals for the future? My current work in the fields of further education, open education and digitalisation, and on how young people choose to enter higher education and what study programme to pursue suggest one major topic: the need for new types of guidance and support structures for learners. Ask a young person how they formed their decision to go to higher education and what course to take and you will hear a lot about support provided by people in their closest personal network – family, friends and teachers.

If we are going to have more and diverse routes to learning experiences open to us, we will also need advice to simplify the abundance of choice and help evaluate the consequences of choice… and people to trust to give us this advice. Social networks could be helping us more here, but currently most of us appear to be relying on advice from people in our near proximity and learning opportunities encouraged by our local social context. The challenge is to provide advice, support and guidance structures in trust networks which include people we don’t know and haven’t yet met. (In one recent discussion on this we thought of trust and endorsement transactions based on the blockchain methodology.) New trust networks could help breakdown the virtual wall whereby opportunity and choices are partially determined by the socio-economic context of a person. Maybe new immersive software experiences providing virtual and augmented reality have a role here too?

I certainly think that we have now reached a consensus that new technology – digitalisation – should be harnessed to provide social innovations and not simply to offer new media experiences. Lets start 2017 looking for problems to solve in order to make the learning experience better and to support the personal development of as many learners as possible.


(Written Jan 7 2017, since then Erasmus+ proposal submitted on this topic)

(Maze photo by Adam Heath CC-BY-SA, Longleat Safari Park (from Flickr).


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