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Learning by Sharing: a Model for Life-Long Learning
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by Thomas J.P. Thijssen, Rik Maes, Fons T.J. Vernooij
11 the future of Education & Learning
learning, learning model, learning by sharing, life-long learning, information and communication technology, business, management curriculum
The dawn of the information society has created a need for a successful combination of life-long learning, entrepreneurial behavior and self-development. Organizations will have to be redefined as generic learning environments for individuals. This emerging perspective calls for new learning models and new learning infrastructures, examples of which are being developed at the University of Amsterdam.
The model described in this article involves three types of participants in the learning process and three methods of learning. The integrating concept is called
Learning by Sharing
. The participants are: business individuals, teachers/researchers and students. The three methods of learning are: learning by experimenting, learning by investigating, and learning through practice.
The university as an institution is at a decisive moment in its history. It is confronted with numerous outside challenges: the demand as well as the supply of education is globalizing, the coming generation of students differs significantly from preceding ones, the need for life-long education is replacing the classical learning period between ages 18 and 23, and new technologies call for new learning models. If concepts like "learning organization" and "learning society" are valid, then the university should be a pioneer in this field.
However, despite the changes of the past 30 years, the (European) university system has not been altered fundamentally. Learning still precedes working. Professors teach students the outcomes of their research, or they teach what they have read before. Students attend lectures, read books and articles, and take exams. Most of the time, learning processes at the university still take place in the splendid isolation of the ivory tower.
One of the most disturbing aspects of universities is that learning continues to be viewed as
a passive process
. The teacher is perceived as the unquestioned dispenser of objective knowledge, and students as the uncritical receivers. Students can complete their study by sheer absorption and accumulation of knowledge. The actual learning process follows a predetermined route, that is, a fixed curriculum, even though universities tend to emphasize self-guidance on the part of students in carrying out learning tasks. The teacher's role is restricted to designing the curriculum, prescribing the learning path to be followed, and giving students feedback on the extent to which they have acquired the learning content. Moreover, most students work their way toward graduation in solitude.
In the past 20 years the Department of Information Management of the University of Amsterdam has experimented with alternative learning models, most of them incorporated in a successful postgraduate course in Information Management. The lessons learned from this ongoing experience have now been fully adopted by the Anton Dreesmann Institute for Infopreneurship. In this institute both entrepreneurship and ICT-based learning are at the core of all activities.
Past experience and new explanations both make clear that the traditional learning model must be replaced by a multi-dimensional learning model. The traditional model is basically one-dimensional (from teacher to student) and sequential (learning precedes working). At the Anton Dreesmann Institute this model has been replaced by the "Learning by Sharing" model. This article outlines the new learning model.
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