Happy New Year Everyone…
May 2010 be an Open, Social, Connected year for us all!

Things have been busy here on the SocialLearn project since the summer, and since we’d been hoping for a Q4 public beta launch, it’s about time we gave you an update.

John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler: Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0We’ve been pondering long and hard what it means to tune social media spaces for learning. We’ve been building prototypes, and seeing what makes and breaks the user experience. And believe me, along with some very positive responses from our 1000+ early beta test users, we also heard loud and clear when we didn’t get that experience right! So, lots of detailed design work to tune.

We’ve also been presenting the motivation and design concepts for this work to all sorts of audiences from education and government, to business and foundations, plus a few public forums. We’ve been  getting an overwhelmingly consistent message: As we contemplate an education system, and workplace learning, deemed by most thought leaders as increasingly not fit-for-purpose in the 21st Century, the SocialLearn team has made some significant steps forward in its thinking and design.

None of the team has ever presented anything that had so positive a response. But the ultimate irony, in an open social world, would be to think we can navigate these rapids alone.

Meanwhile the world has not stood still… more and more people have been tuning into learning of all hues as one of the compelling, untapped applications for the participatory, large scale conversations that the social-semantic web enables, which is exciting to see. Oh, and the planet went into financial meltdown, which has hit us as hard as many other institutions.

So… even as we get a grip on the design challenges, the sands are shifting under our feet. We’re therefore about to transition out of our strategic “exploratory project” status within the OU as follows:open

  1. We’re moving from operating as a confidential business project, to an open source, open architecture, open partnership modus operandi. In forthcoming posts we’ll share how we’re thinking about the challenges and opportunities, and invite your participation.
  2. One area of focus up until now was to explore whether the project could generate new revenue streams. This is no longer a current priority, so we’re not seeking to create a joint venture with commercial partners.
  3. Internally, we’re building a light, agile, responsive space to be rolled out for use initially by OU communities (students, staff, alumni). Once it’s proved its worth, we’ll then open it up to informal learners outside the OU.
  4. In parallel, in order to take the work to the next level we’re also seeking external R&D funding and, as a result, will be engaging in-depth with external partners and their communities, to shape the user experience to their particular needs.

social-learning-circleWhat we’re also saying, of course, is that we’re not about to throw open the doors to a public site, as originally envisaged. Sorry to disappoint, but it’s an uncertain design space we’re in here, and we’re not there yet.

The next phase is going to be the most interesting, and we’ll keep you posted 🙂

Image sources:

John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler: Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0

Joel Greenberg on Code, Community & Commerce for Open Social Learning at Open Social Learning 2009 [Twitter archive]


Pioneers of Change‘s work on Dialogue and Learning: a social, relational, conversational, transformative and liberational Learning Circle, South Africa. [Twine photo]