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The future of learning is social?

May 16th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

In the stream of tweets passing by on the top of my screen I noticed a link to a article called ‘The end of Formal Learning Content’ by Juliette Denny on the elearningindustry.com web site.

“Since formal learning content takes up so much time, and is often hit-and-miss, what would happen if we got rid of it completely? Is it possible to have a content-free learning program?”, asks Juliette.

She goes on to say the first casualities of such a change would be training managers. But “a new post of ‘training facilitator’ has just opened up. Although it has similarities to the dusty old ‘training manager’ role, the purpose is quite different. Instead of trying to make people learn, it’s the training facilitator’s job to let people learn. Rather than prescribe a rigid structure, it’ll be up to them to create the right environment and focus on keeping the learners engaged.”

Juliette points to small learning bites for what would still be formal learning but user generated content, discussion and interchange on a social learning platform as the answer for the future.

Nothing wrong with any of this. However, I think it underestimates the degree of culture change and the amount of work in organising social learning. In the EmployID project we have been experimenting with social learning and in particular with the role of participants as learning facilitators themselves. The evaluation results are pretty impressive, especially as people who say they never liked ‘traditional elearning’ but love our courses. But promoting the discourse required for social learning takes some considerable effort. We have been using different MOOC platforms (albeit with limited numbers – the largest had around 400 signed up. The MOOC platforms do not really support social learning and we are casting around for an alternative. And if we were to get truly massive numbers participating, I thing we would need some numbers of moderators to properly support learners.

So I am heartened that the elearning industry is recognising the potential of social learning – if only in a blog article. But I think there is more work to be done in understanding how such learning can be facilitated.

 

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