The Essence of Open Source Learning Networks

OSLL Conceptual Diagram 1

With this diagram, I attempted to capture the essence of open source learning networks by addressing a particularly relevant question posed by philosopher Ivan Illich: “What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?” The answer to this question is one that many would prefer not to hear—that is, it depends. Specifically, the kinds of things and people learners want to interact with depend on the scale and use of the space.

Using the Open Source Learning Academy’s Industrial Design area of study, I sought to apply this question to a cluster with spaces for 150 students, the upper limit for the number of meaningful social connections, according to anthropologist Robin Dunbar. Within this cluster of 150, there exist various scales of spaces that can be categorized as Individual, Interpersonal, Group, and Disciplinary Cohort settings. While each scale of space is conducive to learning, they best support different kinds of learning in their own ways. At the smaller scale, the spaces are defined traits that enhance their ability to facilitate discovery and the application of those discoveries through processes such as “thinkering” in a maker space.  At the larger scale, the spaces are defined by traits that encourage the discourse and sharing of ideas between a multitude of individuals at a greater intensity, as one would see in a forum or fishbowl-like setting.

Essentially, while these spaces can function effectively on their own, the potential for learning is greatest when individuals and groups can freely and organically utilize a combination of spatial types—when individuals can share their discoveries and gain insight from others in a group setting, for example. In the spirit of open source learning, the relationships between these spaces should not be strictly defined. Specifically, these relationships should not be linear or binary in nature, hence the free-flowing connections between each scale of space. Rather, as I move forward with the design of this school, I must start to look at how I can make these spaces accessible in themselves, as well as to one another, sensorially, programmatically, or otherwise.


Waylon Ng