Thursday, 15 March 2012

Social Learning

Okay, the next big thing? I've used that sentence before but this time I'm more motivated about it. Does this have something to do with recent projects? Err.. yes, but I can sense a change coming across learning.. a move towards more learner centric learning perhaps, and why not? I was teaching a few years (okay, quite a few) back when we started to look at making the learning more centred around the learner than the teacher (believe it or not quite a radical change at the time), the same thing has happened to some extent in good e-learning. So here it is, the real birth of Social Learning?
So what is social learning first and foremost? It could be a session when you grab a few mates and head down to Mrs Miggins pie shop for "brown grit and water" and talk about the advances in metaphysics, but unless you take a web-cam with you (and then we're on some dodgy ground) there's no hint of e-learning in this as an activity. Surely by social learning we just mean engaging those web 2.0 tools (don't you just love the nerdy way it makes simple tools sound impressive and out of the reach of non-techno people?), using forums and wikis and the like? Yes and no, those are in all good learning management systems after all and desperately underutilised by most organisations (another blog, another time), but mostly that still centres around the instructor or trainer. Likewise a good e-learning course may well use a pull mentality rather than a push (yep, 'nother blog) to get the learner to pull on the information they need to complete the tasks rather than force feeding them everything you assume they don't already know. Still not where I am, I'm talking the Facebook (am I allowed to say that?) of the e-learning world, e-portfolio systems with those web 2.0 tools.
Okay, that may not have had the impressive impact I was looking for as I heard (both virtually and asynchronously) the sighs. But wait, there's not only a need for learners to start to gather their own learning and records for themselves, but massive advantages for organisations in encouraging them to do this and share them. Why? Several reasons actually, but the most obvious to me is that if something (anything please!) makes ordinary people into learners that care about their learning then that's a huge positive (the WIFM effect in full force!). Furthermore, think about the real gains in certification areas where we need to ensure professional membership by counting CPD hours and all that jazz. How much easier would it be if we could start to get members to not only complete their training needed but also to pull it across (there's that word again) into their portfolio and share their accomplishments.. share it with their peers, share it with assessors and even share with friends - especially if they get to chose exactly what gets seen and by whom (remember it belongs to them!).

So get ready, this could be the next big thing in e-learning, not the death of our beloved LMS, but an enhancement and link in that will actually generate interest in what we're trying to do! Try and find an e-portfolio system that links up with your LMS (or change your LMS, give me a buzz..) or an LMS that has this feature but beware of the all encompassing mega-systems (see my last blog on talent management).

For those of you who've not yet played in this area check out Mahara (as always I'm a big fan of Open Source software, particularly when it plugs in to Moodle and Totara). For those of you who need to know more about Mrs Miggins check out Blackadder, and for those of you who need to know more about the afterlife just check out ;)

please don't actually check out after reading this blog.. I would feel really bad and somebody (not you I appreciate) might come after me seeking rewenge!