Emerging Frontiers of Learning Online: Digital Ecosystems, Blended Learning and Implications for Adult Learning

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Finger, G
Sun, PC
Jamieson-Proctor, R
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Terry T. Kidd & Jared Keengwe

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The potential for online education for adult learning have been well argued, and in recent times there have been eLearning initiatives to realise the potential offered by online education. Adult learning institutions, particularly Universities, have adopted and introduced infrastructure to support Learning Management Systems (LMS), Local Area Networks (LAN), Learning Management Content Systems (LMCS), and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE). Following discussion of those eLearning environments, this chapter will suggest that the limitations of those digital systems is leading to the next phase with the development of digital ecosystems conceptualised as learning platforms which keeps learning central, enables interoperability, and forms a base for building upon through use of new technologies and increased capabilities of educators to use information and communication technologies (ICT) for curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (Ingvarson & Gaffney, 2008). Digital ecosystems enable the integration of student administration, LAN (requiring teacher and student logins and passwords), VLE, content repository, community links, utilise Web 2.0 (social networking) technologies, and can have the adult learner as the central focus of the design of the platform and its functionalities. Subsequently, the chapter draws upon the findings of a research project (Sun, Tsai, Finger, Chen, & Yeh, 2007) which identified the critical functionalities for eLearner satisfaction to provide suggestions that the architecture and design of an eLearning system should be informed by the adult learners' perceived usefulness of the system (Pitnuch & Lee, 2006). More recently, the presentation of face to face teaching and online learning as alternatives has been superseded by conceptualisations of blended learning. Through presenting these learning environments in terms of their possibilities and limitations, and the emergence of blended learning, implications for adult learning will be synthesised.

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Adult Learning in the Digital Age: Perspectives on Online Technologies and Outcomes

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Educational technology and computing

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