Tag Archives: social

Learning from massive open social learning

Learning from massive open social learning

There has been lots of chatter and talk over the last two years on MOOCs.  One of the challenges of MOOCs is that they lack the social interaction that traditional small campus based courses offer.

MOOC providers such as Coursera and Futurelab are recognising this and starting to build in social networking to their massive online courses.

The recent OU publication on innovating pedagogy talks about massive open social learning.

Massive open social learning brings the benefits of social networks to the people taking massive open online courses (MOOCs). It aims to exploit the ‘network effect’, which means the value of a networked experience increases as more people make use of it. The aim is to engage thousands of people in productive discussions and the creation of shared projects, so together they share experience and build on their previous knowledge. A challenge to this approach is that these learners typically only meet online and for short periods of time. Possible solutions include linking conversations with learning content, creating short-duration discussion groups made up of learners who are currently online, and enabling learners to review each other’s assignments. Other techniques, drawn from social media and gaming, include building links by following other learners, rating discussion comments, and competing with others to answer quizzes and take on learning challenges.

When developing online learning, the lesson we can take from MOOCs and as outlined in the OU report is the importance of adding online social elements to courses. We need to ensure that these social aspects are as much a part of the learning journey as the content and the activities.

An expectation that these social elements will “just happen” is a flawed approach, and as with other aspects of the learning design, the social components of an online course must be thought about, designed and delivered in a similar way to the learning and assessment components.

Activities can be designed to motivate participants to engage with each other and create social networks within those taking part. Obviously with a large number of learners (such as you find in MOOCs) you will probably find this easier. With smaller cohorts it will be significantly more difficult.

It can also help embedding aspects of the course into existing social networking services and tools, but it is useful to audit which of these tools, if any, the participants actually use external networks.

Social aspects of learning are important to many learners and that is one of many reasons why learners choose to attend a programme of study at a physical location such as a college. The social aspects of an online course are not a replacement for face to face social interaction, but are for many learners an important aspect of an online course and will help support and motivate them as they go through the online course.

Image Credit: Empty by Shaylor

Social awkwardness

I am sure if you ask a lot of people why they attend conferences, in addition to the keynotes and sessions, one aspect that will come out is the networking and social aspects of the conference. Those moments over coffee where you discuss the omissions and errors in the previous presentation; or the conference dinner where you reminisce over past conferences and nostalgically reminding the person sitting opposite that they aren’t like they use to be; pr at the reception where you think there’s going to be something to eat only to find a few nibbles and a cheap white wine, resulting in a desperate attempt to find someone who didn’t eat before they came to the reception so you have a companion for dinner; or at the organised social event, where you turn up to find everyone else has gone off to FAULTY or something like that and there’s just you and that guy who has an ego the size of the Blackpool Tower who you have been avoiding all conference, and now he has you cornered….

Conferences are more than the sum of the presentations, the networking and social side can turn a conference from an interesting experience to an event to remember.

This November, JISC will be running another of their excellent conferences (and yes once more I am the conference blogger) and unlike other conferences this one is online.

So isn’t all this social and networking all lost with an online conference, I hear you cry!

Well in a way, yes! And in a way, no!

As you might expect the social side of an online conference is different from a face to face conference. But it is still there, and it is still possible to socialise and network. At previous JISC Online Conferences we have had a virtual conference dinner in Second Life, there have been lots of discussions over coffee in the social cafe area of the conference and the instant messaging component ensures that networking not only can happen, but does happen.

Just because a conference is online doesn’t automatically mean that it will be an individual isolationary affair. On the contrary it can as a social experience as you want it to be.

If you are a researcher, institutional manager or practitioner involved in technology-enhanced learning and teaching, Innovating e-Learning 2010 will be of interest to you. Delegates from further and higher education and from overseas are welcome. Proceedings take place in an asynchronous virtual environment which can be accessed wherever and whenever is convenient to you.

Find out more about the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2010 Online Conference.