Let the Learners Take the Lead for Their Lifelong Learning Journey

Let the Learners Take the Lead for Their Lifelong Learning Journey

Ebba Ossiannilsson (International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), Norway & European Distance and e-Learning Network (EDEN), UK & Swedish Association for Distance Education (SADE), Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0892-2.ch009
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This chapter is centered on the importance of letting learners take the lead in their lifelong educational journey, meeting the challenges that they encounter. Additionally, the chapter focuses on new modes of learning in the digital era. The role transfers and professional development of managers, leaders, and academics are discussed, as well as the need for the development of digital academic scholarship. The chapter also highlights the inappropriateness of the traditional top-down approach in the educational system in favor of rhizomatic pathways. Further discussion is needed about what open education means in terms of equity, inclusiveness, and access, with particular regard to letting learners take the lead and orchestrate their own learning.
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In The Future We Want for All, UNESCO (2015) proposed the overarching importance of the accessibility of education for all. According to this report, the core pillars for building inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous societies are the concepts and the implementation of access, equitable, quality education, and lifelong learning for all. UNESCO argued for a holistic perspective that embraces lifelong learning. In their recommendations to educational organizations, they emphasized the need to increase and implement these core pillars and to make them visible and explicit in educational settings, organizations, and offers. The European Commission reiterates the importance of opening up education to boost innovation and digital skills in schools and universities in order to ensure international competitiveness both in education and in the labor market worldwide. They stated that it is not possible any longer to educate today’s students by using methods from the past century for an unknown future. In addition to discussing the agenda for the future development of education, the international discourse has emphasized the three core pillars of the vision, shape, and scope of post-2015 education. According to the discourse, the post-2015 approach emphasizes entrepreneurship, lifelong learning, and active learning, which is crucial to enhance meaningful student learning and teaching environments (Ossiannilsson, 2015). This chapter addresses the following main topics:

  • New modes of learning in a digital era,

  • Learners taking the lead,

  • Role transfers: the role of teachers and students,

  • The role of leadership in digital learning environments,

  • Digital scholarship,

  • Continuous digital professional development and quality requirements for academics,

  • The end of linear top-down education.



The global landscape of higher education is undergoing dramatic changes. Specifically, a considerable proportion of the global changes in education caused by changing demographics, increased globalization, and rapid internalization, widening recruitment, and emerging demands for sustainability (Bruce, 2015). In addition are the increased access to and use of the Internet and digital technology in all sectors of society. The improved measures through which students are reached also have driven the transformation of the educational landscape. Moreover, according to Witthaus et al. (2016) there are increased demands for the validation and recognition of not only prior learning but also learning in both formal and informal settings, which increasingly have merged. Consequently, the boundaries between them have blurred and become unbundled. In this respect, the current global challenges concern how, where and when students learn, how institutions structure programs and services, and how these are structured.

In the past 15 years, digital technology has altered or completely transformed several businesses. Such changes may accelerate in the future with the continuous rise in automation. Extensive technological changes have given rise to increased challenges not only for the labor market and work environments but also for the education sector. The education sector’s uptake of these innovations until now has been somewhat slow and has not gained a strong foothold. However, the educational landscape and learning environments have begun to shift toward enhanced personalization and openness as well as increased global collaboration and networking. Increased digitalization accompanied by greater potentials for global collaboration and networking, and the demands for change are increasingly urgent (Uvalic-Trumbic & Daniel, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Rhizomatic Learning: A term applied to a variety of pedagogical practices informed by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987) AU48: The in-text citation "Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. . the term identify methodology for net-enabled education. in contrast to goal-directed and hierarchical theories of learning, it posits that learning is most effective when it allows participants to react to evolving circumstances, preserving lines of flight that allow a fluid and continually evolving redefinition of the task at hand. in such a structure, “the community is the curriculum”, subverting traditional notions of instructional design where objectives pre-exist student involvement.

Hybrid Learning: Hybrid learning occurs both in the classroom (or other physical space) and online. In this respect, hybrid learning overlaps blended learning. These terms are distinguished as follows. Blended learning describes a process or practice, whereas hybrid pedagogy is a methodological approach that helps define a series of varied processes and practices.

Choice-Based Learning: Learners participate in their own learning process and in the manner by which such process is designed. Therefore, learners can make choices, take control, and orchestrate their own learning processes, with or without support from information and communication technologies.

Open Educational Resources: Open educational resources (OER) are those freely available. They often include a CC license.

Digital Scholarship: Digital scholarship involves more than using information and communication technologies to research, teach, and collaborate. It includes embracing the open values, ideology, and potential of technologies derived from peer-to-peer networking in order to benefit both the academy and the society.

Just for Me Learning: Learning just for me includes content, time, mode, space, purpose, and incentives, that is, individualization at all levels of the individuals’ terms and conditions.

Active Learning: Active learning engages students in two ways: 1) accomplishing tasks and 2) thinking about the tasks that they are accomplishing. The concept can also be described as doing, reflecting, learning, and applying.

Smart Learning: Smart learning is concerned with context-aware ubiquitous learning. Contexts include the interactions between learners and environments. Therefore, smart learning environments can be deemed technology-supported learning environments that implement adaptations and provide appropriate support in the right places and at the right time based on the needs of individual learners. These needs may be determined by examining learning behaviors, performance, and the online and real-world contexts in which learners are situated.

Open Educational Practice: Open educational practice pertains to the practice and culture that draws upon open technologies and high-quality OERs to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning. It may involve student participation in online peer production communities within activities intended to support learning, or more broadly, any context where access to educational opportunities through freely available online content and services is the norm.

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