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Pervasive learning doesn’t necessarily happen within a formal educational setting.  It is learning that takes place at the point of need: at a convenient time, at any time – as part of everyday life via everyday tools such as mobile devices.   

It can take a form of social learning, often occurs at a moment of need and tends to occur when a student engages with learning as a personal value, developing an approach which embeds continuous or lifelong learning. 

Pontefract (2013) defines pervasive learning as “learning at the speed of need through formal, informal and social learning modalities”. 

When a student is engaging deeply with a subject, they often find opportunities to learn in everyday life outside of the classroom. This can be enhanced by using formative and summative assessment which has them employ their academic skills in the real world.  

The growth of digital learning technologies and tools make learning possible anywhere at any time, so developing creative approaches to teaching can foreshadow student’s engagement with pervasive learning. Is it possible, for example, to set a homework which involves solving a realworld problem, or applying techniques learned in class to a grounded situation? Getting students to co-develop an online resource, perhaps through a shared document on OneDrive, may be one way for them to reflect on how their learning is going.  

A key facet of pervasive learning is that students are able to learn at their own pace. Consider a lecture, for example: some students may find it enough just to attend the lecture, while others may struggle with concepts and find appropriate materials elsewhere online which enhance their learning.  Students who are thus able to learn from a variety of different resources, including social media applications, are pervasive learners. As a teacher you can encourage an active sharing of such resources to encourage collaborative learning.  

Approaches like this create a learning environment that is interactive, where peer and teacher feedback is offered and received quickly. Feedback on resources, for example, might help students see the limitations and stop inaccuracies in material they have found online. 

Social media also allows students to learn about the subject, but via interaction with their peers they also learn about the experiences of other students approaches to learning and find new ways to approach their own learning. 

Best Practice Tips

  • Decide what do you want to achieve – real life learning activities or collaborative group work among your students. Both are examples of pervasive learning.  
  • Next consider how to integrate pervasive learning into modules where students actively work together either face to face or online.  
  • Identify which social media tools you could use to facilitate this type of learning. 
  • Post regular updates to Learn Ultra, Facebook pages or blogs. 
  • Encourage feedback to be provided via social media so students can comment on the course, share ideas, suggest improvements. 

Further Reading

Pontefract, D. (2013) Flat Army: creating a connected and engaged organization. Wiley.

The JZeroBlog.