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e-Learning Ecologies

This course introduces innovative approaches to learning and teaching, with a focus on the use of e-learning and social web technologies.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

For more than 3 decades we have heard educators and technologists making a case for the transformative power of technology in learning. However, despite the rhetoric, in many sites and many ways education is still relatively untouched by technology. Even when technologies are introduced, the changes sometimes seem insignificant and the results seem disappointing. If the print textbook is replaced by an e-book, do the social relations of knowledge and learning necessarily change at all or for the better? If the pen-and-paper test is mechanized, does this change the nature of our assessment systems? Technology, in other words, need not necessarily bring significant change. Technology might not even represent a step forward in education.

This course explores 7 affordances of e-learning ecologies, which open up genuine possibilities for what we call New Learning—transformative, 21st century learning:

  1. Ubiquitous Learning
  2. Active Knowledge Making
  3. Multimodal Meaning
  4. Recursive Feedback
  5. Collaborative Intelligence
  6. Metacognition
  7. Differentiated Learning

These affordances, if recognized and harnessed, will prepare learners for success in a world that is increasingly dominated by digital information flows and tools for communication in the workplace, public spaces, and personal life. This course offers a wide variety of examples of learning technologies and technology implementations that, to varying degrees, demonstrate these affordances in action.

Course Syllabus

This course is broken up into 8 weekly modules covering the following topics:

Week 1: Conceptualizing Learning

Week 2: Spatio-Temporal Dimensions of Learning (Ubiquitous Learning)

Week 3: Epistemic Dimensions of Learning (Active Knowledge Making)

Week 4: Discursive Dimensions of Learning (Multimodal Meaning)

Week 5: Evaluative Dimensions of Learning (Recursive Feedback)

Week 6: Social Dimensions of Learning (Collaborative Intelligence)

Week 7: Cognitive Dimensions of Learning (Metacognition)

Week 8: Diversity Dimensions of Learning (Differentiated Learning)

Recommended Background

This course is designed for people interested in the future of education and the "learning society," including people who may wish to join education as a profession, practicing teachers interested in exploring future directions for a vocation that is currently undergoing transformation, and community and workplace leaders who regard their mission to be in part "educative."

Suggested Readings

If you want to know more about our theory of "New Learning," you may be interested in this book (though there is no need to purchase it for this course): New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education.

For more information about the research we do, visit our New Learning website. During the course you will be encouraged to explore and share with others your findings about a wide range of e-learning technologies and the ecologies they engender. You may also wish to join in our own e-learning research and development endeavor by participating in this course on the Scholar platform, developed with the support of funding from the Institute of Educational Sciences, the US Department of Education, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Course Format

This course supports 3 levels of participation:

  1. Overview (O): ~1 hour per week spent watching videos and participating in the forums
  2. Intermediate (I): ~3 hours per week spent watching videos and participating in the forums
  3. Advanced (A): ~8–10 hours per week spent watching videos, participating in the forums, and creating a peer-reviewed Case Study

Note: Only the Advanced (A) level will have the chance to qualify for a Verified Certificate.


What can I earn for completing this course?

You can earn a Verified Certificate by joining Signature Track and completing the Advanced (A) level of participation. If you decide not to join Signature Track, you can still participate in the complete course. Your final score will be noted on your course records page, and you will receive a separate badge from Illinois corresponding to the level of participation you demonstrated throughout the course.

What resources will I need for this class?

For this course, all you need is an Internet connection and the time to read, write, discuss, and enjoy exploring some exciting ideas about the nature of knowledge and learning in the context of new media and digital information and communications technologies.

See what others have to say about this course!

"You have provided an EXCELLENT framework to peruse, both for the initial stages, and how to scaffold, as students acquire new skills!" -P.B.
"I liked the material and concepts covered. I learnt a lot and hope to continue my learning on online teaching and pedagogy!" -S.R.
"[I] learned quite a lot and found the lectures engaging and insightful." -H.J.

Illinois is a world leader in research, teaching, and public engagement, distinguished by the breadth of our programs, broad academic excellence, and internationally renowned faculty.

Join the Illinois community for e-Learning Ecologies:

Images source: Flickr / algogenius