The concept of social learning refers to the capacity for a group of individuals to engage with each other, for the purpose of shared understanding. Understanding the importance of social learning, can help us develop better online courses. Using a good learning management system that enables learners to effectively interact with each other is the foundation for a social learning network.
Around 500BC, great Chinese thinker and social philosopher, Confucius, highlighted the value of practical and experiential learning:
Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand.
Here’s some points to consider:
- How many learners will participate in the learning network?
- What social tools will be used?
- Who will facilitate and moderate the social learning?
- What will be the basic requirements from the learners’ perspective?
With social learning, the dynamic among the online participants will be a different one to a traditional face-to-face setting: teachers can be learners, learners can be teachers, teachers and learners can work with their peers. In a truly collaborative environment, we can all be teachers and learners. Bear in mind, certain protocols for communication should be observed for the use of forums, blogs, wikis, chat, messaging and so forth. To help encourage appropriate use of online social tools, we recommend you consider the formulation of Acceptable User Guidelines.
Benefits of of social learning include:
1. Learners are empowered to communicate with their peers;
2. Ideas are more openly exchanged;
3. Topics of interest are more readily discussed by the group;
4. Content sharing is easier.
In terms of minimum technical requirements to be involved with social learning online, learners require at least basic computing skills and a computer or laptop connected to broadband Internet.
In conclusion, social learning can be an engaging, collaborative and rewarding experience. By contrast, learning in isolation can be very lonely and challenging for all concerned. Social learning is a practical approach to value-added 21st century education. After all, we are social creatures, so it follows that our learning should be natural, engaging and fun. If you haven’t already, we suggest you check out our Webinar recording: Getting Social with Moodle.