I remember someone once telling me that by the mid 1960’s, seven eighths of all the science that had ever been discovered had been done so since the end of the Second World War. If that is the case, then I expect that the figure now is well over 95%.
The figures, of course, reflect the astonishing rate of change over the last 60 years and those changes are mirrored in the field of learning. After centuries of traditional “classroom-style” learning, it has taken elearning a mere 30 years to establish itself as a genuine alternative and to corner a respectable share of the overall learning market.
But “social learning” has probably taken less than 30 months to “arrive”. Social learning has in fact been around for a long time. It’s just that in my days at school, it was called “cheating” and was actively (and sometimes painfully) discouraged. Nowadays “collaboration”, “working together” and “team projects” are standard practice both in schools and colleges and in the workplace.
I think it’s important to distinguish between “social learning” and “social media learning”. Whilst social media platforms have no doubt encouraged the development of social learning, they are by no means the raison d’etre. An effective team meeting can be just as valuable a social learning experience as a session surfing the web.
So does this mean that social learning will replace elearning? I don’t believe that will be the case, but it does represent both a challenge and an opportunity for elearning developers. The new generation of learners, “Generation C” (Connected Communicators and Collaborators) will not respond to “traditional” elearning courses. They will be seeking interactivity and the ability to share with friends and fellow learners, preferably on a mobile device
I feel that elearning advocates are ideally placed to respond to this opportunity, but will they do so or will they just stay in their comfort zones?
At MindLeaders we have already started on this journey. Learners taking our Functional Skills programmes can interact directly with their online tutor via an ePortfolio and we are currently trialling the use of Yammer as a dedicated learning community. We are also actively investigating technologies and social platforms which can be embedded within our elearning programmes and which will enable our learners to interact with each other and with their tutors.
I believe the most important point we need to take on board is that social learning isn’t a “concept” which may or may not take flight in the next decade. It is happening now (and you only have to look at how your children are learning to recognise that fact). I’m genuinely excited by the opportunity and will provide progress updates in future posts.