Seamless learning environments

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Draft 1

Editors: Chee-Kit Looi and Lung-Hsiang Wong, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Contributor: .../...


In the context of TEL research the term "seamless learning", borrowed from higher education (Kuh 1996), has been promoted by the G1:1 international group:

"We see ubiquitous access to mobile, connected, personal, handhelds creating the potential for a new phase in the evolution of technology-enhanced learning, marked by a continuity of the learning experience across different environments. We term this ‘seamless learning'." (Chan et al. 2006 p.6)


"Seamless learning environment bridges private and public learning spaces where learning happens as both individual and collective efforts and across different contexts (such as in-school versus after-school, formal versus informal)." (Looi et al. 2010 p.156)

The adoption of this term in the expression "seamless learning environments", or in the synonymous expression "seamless learning spaces", acknowledges an evolution of the technology and of the educational culture at the end of the XX° century:

"... (The evolution) is characterized by ‘seamless learning spaces' and marked by continuity of the learning experience across different scenarios or contexts, and emerging from the availability of one device or more per student. By enabling learners to learn whenever they are curious and seamlessly switch between different contexts, such as between formal and informal contexts and between individual and social learning, and by extending the social spaces in which learners interact with each other, these developments, supported by theories of social learning, situated learning, and knowledge building, will influence the nature, the process and the outcomes of learning." (Chan et al. 2006 p.23)

Based on a comprehensive review of the literature, Wong (2010) identifies 10 dimensions of seamless learning:

(1) Encompassing formal and informal learning; (2) Encompassing personalized and social learning; (3) Across time; (4) Across locations; (5) Ubiquitous knowledge access (integrating context-aware learning, augmented reality learning, and ubiquitous Internet access); (6) Encompassing physical and digital worlds; (7) Combined use of multiple device types (including "stable" technologies such as desktop computers, interactive whiteboards with mobile devices); (8) Seamless switching between multiple learning tasks (such as data collection, analysis, presentation and communication). (9) Knowledge synthesis (integrating prior and new knowledge, abstract and concrete knowledge, and multi-disciplinary learning); (10) Encompassing multiple pedagogical or learning activity models.

Translation issues


Disciplinary issues

The term "seamless learning" was initially used in the research community of higher education studies without necessarily including technology as an essential component. Kuh (1996) elaborates the notion of linking students' in-class and out-of-class experiences to create seamless learning and academic success by extending it to involve off-campus experiences:

"The word seamless suggests that what was once believed to be separate, distinct parts (e.g., in-class and out-of-class, academic and non-academic; curricular and co-curricular, or on-campus and off-campus experiences) are now of one piece, bound together so as to appear whole or continuous. In seamless learning environments, students are encouraged to take advantage of learning resources that exist both inside and outside of the classroom... students are asked to use their life experiences to make meaning of material introduced in classes..." (Kuh 1996 p.136)

Focusing on integrating formal and informal learning, Kuh's (1996) exposition stimulated further relevant studies on this learning model, such as adding the dimension of learning community and the intertwining of individual and collaborative learning into the notion.

Key references

[1] Kuh, G. D. (1996). Guiding principles for creating seamless learning environments for undergraduates. College Student Development, 37(2), 135-148.

[2] Chan, T-W., Roschelle, J., Hsi, S., Kinshuk, Sharples, M., Brown, T., Patton, C., Cherniavsky, J. Pea, R., Norris, C., Soloway, S., Balacheff, N., Scardamalia, M., Dillenbourg, P., Looi, C.K., Milrad, M. & Hoppe, U. (2006). One-to-One technology-enhanced learning: An opportunity for global research collaboration. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 1(1), 3-29.

[3] Looi, C. K., Seow, P., Zhang, B., So, H. J., Chen, W-L., & Wong, L. H. (2010). Leveraging mobile technology for sustainable seamless learning: a research agenda. British Journal of Educational Technology. 41(2), 154-169.

[4] Wong, L.-H., & Looi, C.-K. (2011). What seams do we remove in mobile assisted seamless learning? A critical review of the literature]. Computers & Education, 57(4), 2364-2381, doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.06.007.

Related terms

Seamless learning, Seamless learning space, Mobile Learning, Ubiquitous Learning, Formal Learning, Informal Learning, Lifelong Learning

TEL Dictionary entries