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UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 8 | Aug. 3, 2006

Growth of Online Personal Learning

By Michelle Lamberson

The one thing constant about technology is change, so predicting the learning technology environment at UBC in five-10 years time is daunting. What makes UBC unique is not the technology itself, but how we, in the words of Trek 2010, “support innovative teaching and create new learning experiences through the application of leading-edge technology.”

Over the past 10 years we’ve seen the Internet expand from a network of silo-ed content sources to nurturing personal spaces (weblogs, electronic portfolios) where we maintain a social presence, and personalized content and communications are brought to us. The network is a part of daily life for students, faculty, and staff; expectations are higher than ever.

Students expect to find their course notes online, to interact with faculty and peers via course websites, e-mail, blogs and instant messaging. Faculty and staff expect the same of their interaction with the University and their colleagues worldwide. The web browser is increasingly the most used computer program as our work, collegial and social connections, finances and data sources are based online.

From the learning and teaching perspective, what this foreshadows is a shift in focus from course-specific websites and resources to the development of online personal learning environments and community spaces for students, faculty and staff. Network-based data and information sources and tools will integrate seamlessly into these environments, creating rich research and collaboration spaces.

This online environment will continue to extend UBC’s presence, connecting formal and informal learning experiences and present new opportunities for students to actively engage in knowledge creation as authors and peer reviewers.

We see the seeds of this learning-centred environment in the innovative work that is happening now at UBC. Through the podcasts of The Thunderbird (the School of Journalism’s online magazine), the next generation of journalists provides insightful commentary and demonstrates their professional expertise. Students in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems begin collecting and reflecting on their learning experiences in their first year by developing an e-portfolio that will remain with them throughout their UBC experience.

Team-based learning, characterized by peer review and collaborative decision-making and supported by technology, is preparing engineers for the high-tech workplace. With the Ancient Spaces project, students in the Faculty of Arts are re-creating the physical spaces and exploring historical cultures via an immersive gaming environment. Pharmacy students are accessing and running scientific instruments located outside Canada through the web.

Students of the SCI TEAM organize workshops and provide support to peers in the Faculty of Science. Through LEAP, the AMS is expanding tutoring online and helping increasingly time-challenged colleagues as they balance school and work experiences. The Faculty of Medicine is taking the online campus to the next level, creating a network of three universities and multiple clinical sites.

These projects are the tip of the iceberg of the learning technology environment at UBC. Over the next five to 10 years, we expect to see more as the talented students, faculty and staff of UBC take advantage of an increasing connected world to create a vibrant and dynamic scholarly community.

Some Suggested Links

Michelle Lamberson is Director of the UBC Office of Learning Technology.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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