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Curriculum Framework Considerations for Introducing Networked Learning within a Career-Focused Higher Education Institution: A case study of the Polytechnic of Namibia.

Georgina Avard, Polytechnic of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia, Maria Zenios, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK

In this small-scale interpretive case study the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) curriculum framework (CF) is explored in relation to its openness to Networked Learning (NL) principles. The PoN is a career-focussed institute educating leaders for the new economy. At its core is a "Knowledge Economy" (KE), which supposes an educated and skilled population to ‘create, share, and use knowledge' and requiring lifelong learning due to rapid changes in the KE (World Bank, 2003, p. 2). Additionally, knowledge is increasingly being generated, developed, accessed, applied and transferred in innovative ways, with advancements in ICT enabling rapid expansion of knowledge networks. Innovation is a primary attribute of employees in contemporary workplaces and is requiring what Dovey (2006) calls a ‘new vocationalism', one that focuses on the ability to learn how to learn and communicate effectively with colleagues and managers. Thus, knowledge revolving around processes and know-how is valued over static propositional knowledge or know-what (Dovey, 2006).

NL is a pedagogical approach focusing on the connections between people and resources within ICT-enhanced networked settings (Jones, 2004a). Its concern is with meaning making and learning within social processes and within the social and organisational dynamics within which the processes take place (Jones, 2004a). NL is seen as being appropriate for the new economy because of its culture of connectivity and collaboration (Parchoma & Dykes, 2008), which in turn advances employability skills.

In this study, three top PoN managers completed an interview and questionnaire to get a sense of; the underlying ideas that underpin the CF and its flexibility, which were then balanced against NL principles. Although this small-scale research cannot offer definitive conclusions regarding the openness of the CF to NL principles, it highlighted several points of interest and further research possibilities. Tentative findings intimate the CF as being flexible regarding teaching, learning and assessment strategies however, because of its career-focused, industry-defined curriculum, the use of an adaptable, student-driven NL approach may prove challenging. Overall, what is needed at this stage are pilots of NL strategies involving multiple stakeholders to establish what works and what may still be problematic across all CF elements. Also, research may also focus on the question of how the PoN can move away from a more technicist e-learning approach to embrace NL practices.

Networked Learning, technical education, professional education, vocational education, curriculum framework, knowledge economy

Full Paper - .pdf



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