NJEDGE Presentation, November 18-20, 2015

In this presentation, we focus on defining informal learning spaces, outlining how we developed and implemented the virtual learning environment (VLE), and addressing ways to integrate tools and practices to build the informal learning space in the virtual environment.

What is the role of higher education in a digitally rich landscape? Digital and networked technologies have challenged the traditional university framework. Increasingly, we are embracing new designs for virtual learning spaces in a highly-connected age, an age in which the hierarchies and gatekeepers of the old world have been flattened. While visual analysis has informed educational theory and design, there remains a need to understand the interface of the digital and the pedagogical (Bayne, 2008).

In this digitally rich landscape, Stevens has made great steps to embark on new forms of scholarship in virtual learning spaces, hybrid course design, and learning analytics. The VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) was designed to help Stevens move to a BYOD (Bring your Own Device) environment allowing students to access the newest versions of their programs anytime and anywhere, which will prevent redundancy in managing the learning space. The VLE should also promote lifelong learning by providing a dedicated space for students to save coursework and projects. However, little has been done to design the informal learning space for a virtual environment.

Formal learning as defined by the OECD (2014) as always ‘organized and structured, and has learning objectives. From the learners’ standpoint, it is always intentional.” This type of learning tends to be built around ‘persistent technologies which foreground text-based communication’ (Philips, 2006). Whereas, informal learning are those events that occur outside the “classroom.” Another term for this type of learning is experiential learning, or “learning through reflection on doing” (Felicia, 2011).

Through our research, we seek to define the informal learning space and to answer questions such as: how do you design the informal space online? Where does learning happen? How do we design experiential learning? What are the values of an informal learning space?

This project would not have been possible without the work of our mobile computing technologist, Frank Filogamo, and Design Educator and Director, John Nastasi. We also rely on a faculty review team to assess tools for virtual informal learning. This research is still in an exploratory phase. We will have our data by early fall.​

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