Enhancing informal learning through videoconferencing and knowledge maps

Okada, Alexandra and Moreira, Paulo (2008). Enhancing informal learning through videoconferencing and knowledge maps. In: Eden 2008 Annual Conference: New Learning Cultures - How do we Learn? Where do we Learn?, 11-14 Apr 2008, Lisbon, Portugal.


The development of new technologies and the open content movement have been opening up new opportunities for online informal learning. The Internet, “as a new publishing medium”, is proving its users a considerable increase in access and circulation of knowledge and offering a new world of learning to those outside the academic realm (Willinsky, 2006:33). The free access to open educational resources, online libraries, public repositories, freeware tools and open communities allow people interact and learn together than ever before (Eisenstadt and Vincent,1998; Anderson, 2007).

However, the simple access to information does not necessarily results in acquisition of knowledge and development of skills (Rogers, 1995; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Salwen & Sacks, 1997). In order to learn effectively, students need to be engaged in higher order thinking which operates beyond mere exposure to factual or theoretical information (Jonassen, Beissner and Yacci, 1993).

This initial work presents the uses of knowledge maps and videoconferencing to enhance informal learning. We analyse the role of such maps created in Compendium and web videoconferencing through FlashMeeting for learning communities.

In this study, which is part of a research in development, we investigate the uses of two freeware tools offered by the OpenLearn Project (OU-UK), Compendium for knowledge mapping and FlashMeeting for videoconferencing (Okada et all, 2007). Our research questions focuses on how these tools can be used to enhance informal learning in online communities. How can knowledge maps and video web conference be used to support critical reflections and engage people in self-directed learning?
In the OpenLearn project developed by the Open University and launched in October 2006, we analyse the community COLEARN Comunidade de Pesquisadores da Lingua Portuguesa whose participants are professors, researchers and academic students. Based on qualitative analysis of their knowledge maps and video webconference we point out some applications of these technologies to facilitate informal learning.

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