Footprints of emergence |The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning | Create, Innovate & Evaluate in Higher Education |

By Roy Trevor Williams (1), Jenny Mackness (2), and Simone Gumtau (1)
(1) University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom, (2) Independent Consultant, United Kingdom


It is ironic that the management of education has become more closed while learning has become more open, particularly over the past 10-20 years. The curriculum has become more instrumental, predictive, standardized, and micro-managed in the belief that this supports employability as well as the management of educational processes, resources, and value. Meanwhile, people have embraced interactive, participatory, collaborative, and innovative networks for living and learning. To respond to these challenges, we need to develop practical tools to help us describe these new forms of learning which are multivariate, self-organised, complex, adaptive, and unpredictable. We draw on complexity theory and our experience as researchers, designers, and participants in open and interactive learning to go beyond conventional approaches. We develop a 3D model of landscapes of learning for exploring the relationship between prescribed and emergent learning in any given curriculum. We do this by repeatedly testing our descriptive landscapes (or footprints) against theory, research, and practice across a range of case studies. By doing this, we have not only come up with a practical tool which can be used by curriculum designers, but also realised that the curriculum itself can usefully be treated as emergent, depending on the dynamics between prescribed and emergent learning and how the learning landscape is curated.