Thinking out loud about Next Generation Learning Environments

You know that thing, where you start a conversation and write a blog post, then do a podcast and then a whole load of people discuss it and a very bright person (Sheila Macneill) writes a blog post that references your blog post which leads you off in another direction. Yep, that thing.

So I am still thinking out loud about “Next Generation Learning Environments” – this is something at work that we would describe as “pre discovery”, the stage where you are trying to frame the conversation starters rather than the conversation.

Sheila MacNeill’s blog, and a conversation with George Roberts and Mark Childs got me thinking about presence. George gave a presentation about the spaces we hold when teach, and tried to frame them in terms of visitor and resident. However, afterwards in discussion he started to articulate the role of presence in teaching and learning and I hope that he continues to pursue that and write it up. So that is what I have been thinking about.

Is presence one end of a continuum? Using the visitor and resident model, visitor might be the other end of an axis where presence replaces resident. George and others can discuss the truth and philosophy of the metaphor, but for the purpose of my thinking I want to apply the idea to “What is the role of presence in a virtual learning environment?”

Individual lecturers, teachers, in fact anyone who stands in front of others and interacts with someone is experiencing “presence” in their own way, we can identify with how they are present, be that small idiosyncrasies of their way of presenting an argument, or the way they stand when thinking, or any number of small acts when they are in that space.

If we were deconstructing the VLE and we wanted to identify the roles each of the constituent parts have, and we put it back together with the other things, technologies and behaviours that have emerged in the last few years. How would we do it to best represent or construct an environment that best gives a lecturer “presence” with their students? More than that, and building on Dave Cormier’s Connectivism and Rhizome work, what different forms of presence exist, and what does it do to the pedagogy?


Constructing and deconstructing
Constructing and deconstructing

As I said earlier, this is not even the start of a conversation, just the precursor. But with my colleague, James Clay, we are starting to ask some questions around the following:

  • How we can integrate Analytics and Adaptive Tech to create a more responsive set of tools and experiences;
  • Extending the environment into the alumni space and options for making it more porous;
  • And we are also deconstructing the existing tool sets around learning environments to identify the most appropriate, used and usable components that are applicable to current and emergent practices, looking at issues of scale, openness and engagement with, for example employers.

All of this is underpinned by taking a user centric perspective. (Focusing on user stories etc. and you can expect some ethnography in there too.)


  1. Thanks for the mention Lawrie and getting me thinking again. presence as one end of a continium? I hope not presence maybe a bit more and excuse the Star Wars ref here – but more inclusive, surrounding and yes binding us. When talking about environments need think more about us as learning environments ( ref Vermunt) and damn you Phipps I’m going to have to write another post


  • 💬 Bonnie Stewart

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