Emergent learning and learning ecologies in Web 2.0


  • Roy Williams Univ. Portsmouth
  • Regina Karousou University of Portsmouth
  • Jenny Mackness independent consultant




open learning, networked learning, complexity, emergence


This paper describes emergent learning and situates it within learning networks and systems and the broader learning ecology of Web 2.0. It describes the nature of emergence and emergent learning and the conditions that enable emergent, self-organised learning to occur and to flourish. Specifically, it explores whether emergent learning can be validated and self-correcting and whether it is possible to link or integrate emergent and prescribed learning. It draws on complexity theory, communities of practice, and the notion of connectivism to develop some of the foundations for an analytic framework, for enabling and managing emergent learning and networks in which agents and systems co-evolve. It then examines specific cases of learning to test and further develop the analytic framework. The paper argues that although social networking media increase the potential range and scope for emergent learning exponentially, considerable effort is required to ensure an effective balance between openness and constraint. It is possible to manage the relationship between prescriptive and emergent learning, both of which need to be part of an integrated learning ecology.

Author Biographies

Roy Williams, Univ. Portsmouth

senior lecturer, Mathematics

Regina Karousou, University of Portsmouth

researcher, Foundation Direct

Jenny Mackness, independent consultant

e-learning consultant



How to Cite

Williams, R., Karousou, R., & Mackness, J. (2011). Emergent learning and learning ecologies in Web 2.0. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(3), 39–59. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v12i3.883