VCSE Guidebook/Creating regional (e-)learning networks/Introduction

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6.1. Introduction

Regional studies, within the domain of business sciences in particular, have experienced a true rebirth in the past decades. They have been attached a heightened relevance and popularity after a period in which the relevance of space was negated through global and strongly simplified perspectives. The national and the international level alike are still characterised by strong regional differences, which need a lot of explanations. Moreover, the aspect of knowledge transfer and learning has been increasingly focused on the regional point of view and has been integrated into more recent regional theories. Conceptual designs of learning regions, regional systems of innovation and of innovative milieus are only some examples of new concepts that incorporate learning and knowledge transfer as regional phenomena.

“Regional” in our context does not necessarily have spatial or even administrative quality, although this chapter reflects the European perspective in terms of regional actors or regionally embedded institutions. In this context, “Regional” implies an area of interest or activity characterised by human interactions and interrelations (Ohmae, 1995, quoted in Koschatzky, 2001). This leads to the term “learning network”, which, modified according several experts (e.g. Sydow, 1992; Koschatzky, 2001 and Freeman, 1991), is a relatively loose, formal or informal system of interrelationships with the objective of mutual knowledge and resource exchange between at least three partners. But what has learning then to do with regional networks?

Learning and working in networks is vitally important, both on the European and global scale. According to recent theories, networking and learning in various forms enhances and increases the competitiveness and innovative ability of regions and actors in regions to a large extent. As Scheff puts it (2001), regional learning can be seen as a process “by means of which regional players obtain, legitimise, and communicate knowledge and information on the relationships of the region to their environment”. Learning, which is often put on the same level with knowledge and education, is regarded as process-oriented and relates to concepts such as knowledge transfer, lifelong learning, continuing education or applied research in our dimension of regional learning networks.

This chapter gives a first overview concerning local and regional (e-)learning networks. We will first look at a possible identification and classification of actor groups in local and regional learning networks. Subsequently, the role of e-learning in networks will be introduced and applied to the classification set up before. The theoretical part concludes with an overview and classification of and educational technology for (e-)learning networks. In the second part, we will take a closer look at best practice examples from the VCSE partners about their ongoing materialization and dissemination of educational activities for regional networks. After a presentation of RCEs as regional knowledge and educational networks and their potential collaboration with the VCSE, the individual experience will be summed up in general recommendations and guidelines for methods on actors’ involvement and participation.