MOOC guru on learning in an age of disruption

Professor George Siemens has joined UniSA from the University of Texas. HUMANITIES
Professor George Siemens has joined UniSA from the University of Texas.

> Conference looks at big data, AI, the Internet of Things and the future of learning

When experts say we need to be equipped for lifelong learning, it is sometimes hard to gauge just what that means. The thought of constantly taking on more studies in any formal capacity can seem a bit a daunting – there is an implicit pressure to perform.

But UniSA’s new Crossing the Horizon professor and a pioneer of the concept of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), George Siemens, believes the future of learning is synonymous with the future of living.

“There is nothing linear about the way we will continue to learn,” Prof Siemens says.

“We will move from learning, to working, to learning, across our lives and while some of that will be structured, much of it won’t be, we will learn through our myriad connections – through friends, clubs, workplaces – online and in communities,” he says.

How we adapt to the faster and faster expectations about what we need to know and how quickly we need to know it, is a focus for some of the research at the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning which he will lead at UniSA with Professor Shane Dawson.

“I am interested in how we equip people with the skills to navigate the complexity and uncertainty of an increasingly technological world – what that means for employment, for learning and importantly, for our sociological and psychological wellbeing,” Prof Siemens says.

“I’m also interested in how new technologies have disrupted our notions of teachers and learners. In a world where every tweet and every podcast is an opportunity to connect and learn, we need to reframe our traditional understanding of learning.

“Our ability to connect with others has never been easier and that amplifies our capacity for learning through those connections. When we learn transparently in these environments we also have the opportunity to teach.

“Universities and other institutions of learning will need to adjust to this new environment where networks and connections drive learning and where the lines between the teacher and the pupil are blurred.”

Based in the Teaching Innovation Unit, Prof Siemens will lead interdisciplinary research in formal and informal learning, learning analytics, and personalised and adaptive learning processes and results of that work will inform the development of UniSA programs and support services for students. The research will also broadly focus on networks, analytics, wellbeing, and open connected learning.

Professor Siemens has been the lead and co-lead researcher on grants totalling more than $15m, with funding from NSF, SSHRC (Canada), Intel, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Intel, and the Soros Foundation.  He has collaborated on a range of international research projects in the European Union, Australia, Senegal, Ghana, and the UK and has received numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from Universidad de San Martín de Porres and Fraser Valley University.

Conference looks at big data, AI, the Internet of Things and the future of learning

How we integrate learning into every part of our lives is a key focus for global experts at the 2018 Digital Learning Summit, hosted by UniSA this month.

The summit, concluding on Friday 16 March, features presentations from 19 key researchers from around the globe who are exploring how learning is being transformed by the digital world and how new technologies are impacting, not only where and when we learn, but also how we learn.

UniSA Crossing the Horizon, Professor George Siemens, who has joined UniSA from the University of Texas, says the influence of technology and new media on education, on organisations, and on wider society has been fundamental.

Prof Siemens has been joined at the Summit by an array of experts in the field including keynote speaker, Assistant Professor in the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore, Joseph Jay Williams, whose work with learning algorithms aims to underpin new personalised learning systems, which could be designed to adapt according to the users’ learning progress.

UniSA Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Professor Allan Evans says the Summit has brought together some of the world’s leading thinkers and innovators in online and digital learning.

“As a student and equity focused university, UniSA has always considered how we reach out to students -  considering their location, their life circumstances and their prior learning - in ways that will give them the best chance of success,” Prof Evans says.

“Now, in an age where connection is more possible and easier than it ever has been, we are keen to explore the next phase of learning, to find the best ways to deliver education that is relevant, personalised, and most of all, engaging for our students.

“I am delighted to welcome Prof Siemens to UniSA – as an international leader in this space – he will bring his curiosity, expertise and experience to the whole of the University, ensuring we are at the leading edge of digital learning.”