It was three decades ago back in 1985 when Linda Harasim taught the first online course when at the University of Toronto. This leadership was by design not happenstance or because someone twisted her arm to do so (as all-too-often happens). In fact, Linda spent 1983-1989 building up the field of pedagogy of online collaborative learning (OCL) before heading off to Vancouver. Who else can claim that history? I had the privilege of working with her for a bit there at Simon Fraser U (SFU) back in the fall of 1998 when on sabbatical. The research team she had assembled as CEO of the TeleLearning Network of Centre of Excellence (TL*NCE) in Canada was phenomenal. Many remain my friends today.
It was more than two decades ago when I bought her groundbreaking book, "Online Education: Perspectives on a New Environment" (1990). This book and that early online class of hers back in 1985 where, in effect, seminal moments in the field of online teaching and learning. There was no crowdsourcing back then--but indeed, Linda was our "Kickstarter" and the crowd all of us sourced around for her every movement and word that she penned. Her writings were our fuel for many a late night discussion in graduate classes in the 1990s and on into the 2000s. She was our tireless, devoted, and fearless leader at innumerable conferences, summits, and institutes...the voice that spoke with much more depth of experience and wisdom than anyone else. She was and is our online learning torchbearer, pathfinder, and pioneer.
It was 1995, when I sat next to her at the first Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) conference here in Bloomington, Indiana. Between one of the sessions, I told her how fascinating her newest book was, "Global Networks" (1993, MIT Press). This was an edited book rich with fascinating, global stories about connecting the people of this planet with new hope for accessing education in ways never before possible. It is nearly two decades later (here in the land of 2014) and most people are first appreciating and realizing those dreams about global perspectives through Web-based videoconferencing, asynchronous discussions, social media, flipped classrooms, MOOCs, etc.
During the CSCL conference back in 1995, Linda alerted me to a new book that she and 3 colleagues had just completed, "Learning Networks: A Field Guide to Teaching and Learning Online (1995, MIT Press)." This book is rich with ideas about teaching and learning online that are still highly relevant today. And she has other books like Shift Happens (yes, I said "Shift" with an "f" not...). I could go on and on but it's time to "shift" to the present book. The one you can buy here on Amazon if you like.
I was fortunate to visit Vancouver for a conference and have lunch with Linda back in May 2012 when this new book first came out. I bought 2 copies and got her to sign both. I am sure that she would sign one for you too if you visited. So why should you acquire her latest book project, Learning Theory and Online Technologies, (2012, Routledge Press). Here are 4 reasons to do so: 1. She is the only person with three decades of online learning experience (there are 1,000's of make-believe e-learning pundits, but there is only one true leader and visionary--namely, Linda Harasim); 2. Linda is an excellent writer. She can quickly spot and make sense of emerging technology trends before others do. And such visions are reflected in this book; 3. Learning theory books are too often devoid of technology related ideas and content. Yet, it is the merging of theory and online technology which offer some of the most novel and hopeful ideas for the transformation of education. We need both--nature (technology) and nurture (pedagogy and sound theory). This book is the natural extension of the field the psychology of learning. There are many old books in the field of learning theories that professors use in their master's and doctoral courses that are in need of a serious update. Why not change to one that is current like this one? 4. In effect, you get 2 books for the price of one: a learning theories book and a book about online learning technologies. And this is not a massive tome, but, instead it is very manageable is size and will fit inside a small space or compartment for a plane trip or drive to the beach. You will undoubtedly enjoy reading it over chatting away with someone sitting on the seat or on sand castle next to you.
Shift happens. It is time for the field of the psychology of learning to embrace the online learning movement and help college students, instructional designers, educators, politicians, technology leaders, and others make sense of both. This book will enable that to happen.