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UC Irvine Launches Research Hub for Connected Learning

A new Connected Learning Lab (CLL) at the University of California, Irvine will focus on equity-oriented, learner-centered innovation in education technology. Sponsored by UCI's Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, School of Education and School of Social Sciences, as well as the UC Humanities Research Institute, the lab will serve as an interdisciplinary hub for research and innovation, providing an "experimental site for pushing the boundaries of connected learning."

"Connected learning happens when someone is pursuing a personal interest with the support of peers, mentors and caring adults, and in ways that open up opportunities for them," a CLL statement explained. "It differs from technology and institution-centered approaches to educational technology in being people-first, prioritizing student interests, cultural relevance, and the life of communities." The approach "brings together the learning sciences, social sciences, design, informatics and computing to develop new research frameworks, engage in pressing real-world problems, and develop and test breakthrough innovations."

Research areas at the CLL include the following, as described in a press release:

  • "Connecting Higher Education," a look at how massive open online courses and digital learning changes the landscape of higher education, and how university faculty can bring participatory and connected methods into their teaching;
  • "Connected Learning for Informal Educators," a look at how informal educators — such as librarians, teaching artists, museum instructors, coaches and after-school providers — are champions of interest-driven learning and mentorship;
  • "Digital Equity," an effort to bring the Scratch computer programming education environment to diverse populations and gear it toward young people's interests, as well as support connected learning and digital inclusion in the Global South;
  • "Games and Participatory Learning," a push to bring the best of today's learning sciences to interactive gaming and grow the field of game-based learning by promoting cross-disciplinary and cross-sector knowledge-sharing and collaboration;
  • "Open Learning for Youth," a move toward developing more peer-to-peer and interest-driven learning that leverages the power of open networks, to investigate the learning dynamics of interest-driven online groups that support academically-relevant knowledge seeking and expertise development; and
  • "Participatory Assessment and Modeling," an initiative to rethink how learning is valued, assessed and measured by leveraging the principles of participatory learning.

"Emerging forms of personalized, networked, and game-based learning represents a massive new wave of innovation in educational technology that is already impacting millions of learners around the world," said Mimi Ito, CLL director, in a statement. "The CLL is dedicated to ensuring that these innovations are informed by robust research, and lead to positive outcomes for learners in all walks of life. The lab includes interdisciplinary networks of faculty members across the UCI campus, from informatics and education to the social sciences."

For more information, visit the Connected Learning Lab site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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