I participate in the open networked learning ONL201 course as an open learner. In this post I share my thoughts about the starting weeks.

One of the most common benefits told about online learning is, that learning is independent of place and time. However, what do we mean when we talk about online learning? And what about networked learning and learning in small groups? If you want to bring topics and people together, time and place matter. Let me go trough these two elements, that have guided my first two weeks.

Image: Wendeltreppe by Alexander Johmann under license CC-BY-SA


The first week ‘getting started’ was about exploring the “learning places”. The online course takes place at different digital places. The main entry point is the the public webpage holding most of the content and information about the course, and, providing  closed discussion spaces, one for all ONL participants, the community, and one for each PBL groups. Outside this central place a meeting room and a document repository is provided for each groups. In addition each participant is supposed to run his own personal space, the blog, to reflect on what has been learned and optionally participate on social media platforms such as Twitter. These learning spaces are represented by different platforms and tools, some are public, some not.

This raises the question, why would having multiple digital places be useful for learning? The course makers see the ideas of networked learning helpful to design PBL online. Moving between different places can help building connections, open up new perspectives and insights. Why should I learn within a small PBL group and a network on the same time? I’m not sure yet how to connect these three learning spaces network, group and individual and what my role will be in these different places. Hope to find answers during the upcoming weeks.


The second element, time, is key for learning in groups. We need an exact time to meet online, we need a time span to prepare, investigate and learn individually, we also need time to understand and maybe translate the readings, or time to think about other group members views and suggestions. Time does not only give structure to our learning process, is also essential for social interaction. Take the time to listen to others in the group or the network, to read posts or contribution of group members and to give feedback or suggestions. In contrast to presence time, such as during an online meeting, this time is invisible but, in my opinion, more valuable.

As experienced in the last two weeks, my learning activities so far were not independent of time and place at all. It is important that we rethink space and time when we, both as learner and teacher, try to move our learning or teaching online.

Finally, managing space and time for this course will be a challenge.

time and place matter in online networked learning