The Learning Ecology Framework: Moving from Instructor Control to Learner Control

A brief look at the Learning Ecology framework and how it is being used by a local educator to continue the shift from a traditional teaching model to a more learner-driven and personalized model.


In a recent conversation with Myra Travin, Senior Learning Architect at UNIVentures, she explained that a learning ecology is comprised of four stages: instructor control, individual, relational, and social. The framework itself is a personalized and self-sustaining ecosystem for learning that includes concepts of choice and access, and moves the entire system forward. It is “An educational philosophy and self-supporting ecosystem in which individuals and groups are offered a collection of curated resources and tools that will support their growth and learning, and foster participation.”

Technology continues to play a huge role within the world of education, and the line is often blurred between accessing online resources for pleasure or purpose. This era’s explosion of learner choice has given the control to the learner, which may feel anarchistic for some instructors, but it’s happening with or without their agreement. The Internet is a prime example of an effective learning ecology; learners can discover immediate answers from a wide variety of sources, and educators can leverage this by providing curated collections of interactive resources that support the learners’ goals and interests.

Paul Hibbitts, an instructor for CMPT-363 User Interface Design at Simon Fraser University and subsequent contributor to the learning ecology framework, has utilized the learning ecology framework by implementing elements of individual, relational, and social learning for his students. One example is his use of a relational learning approach, through, a real-time modern communication tool, to assist learners requiring help or wanting to learn more about a topic of interest. This tool enables him to introduce external experts into the conversation. It’s not just an email thread; it’s anytime, anywhere access to an ongoing media enriched conversation – a partnership – between the experts and the learners, that provides an opportunity to create an embedded coaching/mentoring learning environment.

“The learning ecology framework can be used in many different ways at many different scales. Even at the smaller scale, such as an individual instructor like myself, the learning ecology framework takes my education experience and moves it forward,” shared Mr. Hibbitts. “The learner is in control, which can be challenging for some instructors, but it is 2015 and learners have access to a wealth of educational resources. As an instructor, it’s my responsibility to help my students leverage these excellent resources, wherever they are. That’s the beauty of the learning ecology framework, it gives a reference: a way to frame instruction and help students access all of the information available.”

What is the future of the learning ecology framework?

Moving forward, Ms. Travin and Mr. Hibbitts plan future iterations of the learning ecology framework to include other viewpoints. For example, an instructor’s viewpoint to better support a learning ecology for students, and a learner-centric viewpoint to help illustrate individual learner choices.

Notable Quotes

“A democratic philosophy is characterized by a concern for the development of persons, a deep conviction as to the worth of every individual, and faith that people will make the right decisions for themselves if given the necessary information and support. It gives precedence to the growth of people over the accomplishment of things when these two values are in conflict. It emphasizes the release of human potential over the control of human behavior. In a truly democratic organization there is a spirit of mutual trust, an openness of communications, a general attitude of helpfulness and cooperation, and a willingness to accept responsibility, in contrast to paternalism, regimentation, restriction of information, suspicion, and enforced dependency on authority.” ~Malcolm S. Knowles

“We no longer look into technology for answers, but we look through it to see and understand our world. “~ Myra Travin

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