If networked learning is the direction for the future of learning, then I believe that it must overcome the same problem that networking has struggled to shed. Networking events have dominated the business and science world as ways for professionals to cultivate productive relationships for future employment or business. Some of the problems of networking are a fear of rejection, uncomfortability, and the fact that people are unsure of how to start or continue these types of relationships. I see the same problems existing for networked learning. I confess that I have fallen victim to those problems in my own networking.
As a case study, take a MOOC as an example of networked learning, where participation is unlimited and all content is delivered through self-paced online modules. In this case, an undergraduate student with limited interactions with digital learning in their secondary education will not be able to perform at a high standard. Students may be unfamiliar with the learning interface, and the “instructor” or teaching assistants may be fielding hundreds of questions at a time. Many times a FAQs page exists to help students answer their own questions. This would leave a new student uncomfortable with their learning arrangement, and transform the learning into a chore, which is the opposite of the goal of high-impact learning strategies.
Therefore, without clouding my opinion any further, I do not believe that MOOCs are the form that networked learning must take in the 21st century. A fully online course eliminates the personal connection in learning that allows for students to become comfortable in asking questions to the instructor. But, in saying that, I am not advocating for totally face-to-face instruction either. A mixed mode environment where the course is based on face-to-face interactions, but replaces seat time with small online modules for content delivery or digital in-class activities that allow for small groups of students to interpret/teach higher order understanding. This environment does not address all of the problems that are associated with networking or networked learning, however I believe that the inclusion of face-to-face interactions will allow for the development of relationships that are beneficial to the learning that networked learning is aimed at accomplishing.