SocialLearn: Now Available to the World

With the changes in the Higher Education landscape there has been a recent emergence in ‘social learning’ – informal learning taking place on social platforms and within online communities.

Users connect with OER (Open Education Resources) made freely available from across the web and collate for a holistic subject view for self-education.

The content and the learner’s interaction with it is then socialised through peer review and online collaboration, in some cases remixing the original content by factoring in new content for repurpose it for personal use. It is this ability to remix content to individual needs that puts the user at the centre of their own learning.

With the increase in the use of third party social media/networking platforms across the web, and subsequently the world, the ability to learn and collaborate with others (whether friends or absolute strangers) is now a reality.

The Open University has been at the forefront of creating multi-platform learning opportunities through the development and co-ordination of the University’s public-facing content on television, radio, iTunes U, and YouTube, culminating in the online hub of OpenLearn, through which the OU distributes free learning materials.

These channels enable the OU to reach a wide, global audience and are designed to open up informal learning for anyone who wants to learn, whatever their educational needs and experience.

SocialLearn now takes this revolution one step further, as The Open University’s new experimental online learning space has been launched as an early beta release.

SocialLearn provides an effectual learning space that gives users an effectual learning space to give users the control of what and how they learn, and with whom, by harnessing the power of the web and the energy of social networking, going beyond the realms of just OU content to the OER content of the world.

SocialLearn is open to anyone and is entirely free.

The platform is aimed at those who want to advance their personal learning no matter what the subject and will continue to develop as the community grows.

Learners can benefit from a wealth of learning tools to give structure to personal learning journeys with key features of SocialLearn including:

  • Learning paths – user-generated ‘playlists’ of learning resources provide step-by-step guides to help explain ideas and help people progress in their informal studies
  • A virtual “backpack” enables users to bookmark, comment and rate any website they visit, and import materials back into their own SocialLearn portal – creating a personalised ‘scrapbook’ of learning materials from across the web
  • Social networking tools such as status updates, friends and follow, ratings, and the ability to create groups of like-minded learners
  • Experimental learning recommendations personalise the experience and guide users towards relevant content and people across the web

The Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean said: “The rise and rise of informal, personal learning continues today with SocialLearn, a very exciting new development from the OU.

“This free website combines the very best open educational resources and social networking tools, and offers the great potential that comes from people connecting and sharing learning materials.

“It is a point of pride for me that the Open University is spearheading this new kind of collaborative space,” he said.

To find out more about SocialLearn log on at www.open.edu/sociallearn

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lights, Camera, Help!

Hello SocialLearners!

You may have thought this blog had gone quiet, but the activities in the SocialLearn office have been far from it! So, I have snatched a few minutes out of my diary to blog about our latest update.

Following on from the creation of the Help section and the blog post ‘Help Text Hasn’t Killed the Video Star‘, forces were well and truly joined and more videos have been created and now hot off the editing machines and straight in YouTube.

The latest How-To videos (in no particular order) are *drum roll*:

So if video guides are your thing, then sit back, dim the lights, and view at your pleasure (all previously biscuit and popcorn related snacks are entirely optional)

Happy SocialLearning!

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Going…Going…Going LIVE!!!

Hi everyone!

Just a quick little post to say that it gives me great pleasure to announce that SocialLearn is now LIVE!

SocialLearn is an experimental online learning space on an early release. The latest evolution in virtual learning, SocialLearn combines social networking, Open University and wider web resources and user-generated content to support informal learners.

Developed in response to feedback about the need for informal learning spaces, SocialLearn is open to anyone and entirely free.

The platform is aimed at those who want to advance their personal learning, no matter what subject, and will continue to develop as the community grows. Key features of SocialLearn include:

  • Learning Paths – user-generated ‘playlists’ of learning resources provide step-by-step guides to help explain  ideas and help people progress in their informal studies
  • A virtual ‘backpack’ enables users to bookmark, comment and rate any website they visit, and import materials back into their own SocialLearn portal – creating a personalised ‘scrapbook’ of learning materials from across the web.
  • Social networking tools such as status updates, friends and followers, ratings and the ability to create communities of like-minded learners
  • Experimental learning recommendations personalise the experience and guide users towards relevant content and people across the web.

Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Martin Bean, said:

”The rapid rise of informal personal learning continues today with SocialLearn, a very exciting new development from the OU. This free platform combines the very best open educational resources and social networking tools, and offers the great potential that comes from people connecting and sharing learning materials. It is a  point of pride for me that The Open University is spearheading this new kind of collaborative space”

We, in the SocialLearn office, would love to hear about your experiences and feedback of our beta platform, so please email us at SocialLearn@open.ac.uk

Happy SocialLearning!!

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Operation Opinion Onboard

Though it has been a little quiet on the blog front for the past few weeks, the team have been exceptionally busy bees here, in the SocialLearn office.

We have been taking into account all the fantastic feedback that you, the SocialLearners, have been providing.

Your feedback has been carefully collated and catalogued, to produce a set of themes that we have addressed in turn. So we holed ourselves up in our meeting room, with only a whiteboard and our collective grey matter for company. As a result we have been frantically tapping away on our keyboards to get the upgrade to you as soon as possible.

The improvements we are making are:

  • Clearer layout and display of Learning Paths and Collections
  • Fully integrated Recommendation Engine
  • New post-login homepage displaying the most popular Collections as voted by you, the SocialLearners
  • Removal of drop down tabs in the banner menu, making it even quicker and easier for you to find what you are interested in
  • Increased detail in People Search

We think the results are great (well, we would wouldn’t we!) in improving and simplifying the design even further.

The SocialLearn upgrade will be rolled out in a matter of days, so stay tuned!!

Happy SocialLearning!

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Help Text Hasn’t Killed the Video Star

Here in the SocialLearn office, we all know and respect the individualism of our SocialLearners.

Some of you boldly go where no learner has gone before, jumping head first into SocialLearn’s features, learning and adapting as you go. Some have posted questions into the SocialLearn community, and others have been investigating the support available in the Help.

For those using the Help section, we have considered individualism there too! (We are thoughtful like that). So, Help is divided up into:

  • Quick Start
  • What is…?
  • How To…
  • FAQ’s

There is also a link in the Support tab with the email address (SocialLearn@open.ac.uk for you inquisitive souls) that will ping your correspondence directly into the very heart of the SocialLearn office, where you might even get a reply from yours truly. You lucky things.

What has all this text malarkey got to do with videos I hear you say? (I have excellent hearing). Well, Julie in the team has joined forces with Luke from the OU’s AV Department and Natalie (also officially known as ‘The Voice of The OU’ – you may recognise her dulcet tones) to produce a series of How-To videos for your viewing pleasure.

Hot out of the cutting room are:

So, if How-To videos are your thing, check them out on the login page or in the Quick Start section in Help.

All you need to do now is, sit back, put your feet up, dunk your biscuit (I personally find hobnobs are best suited for this task – though other biscuits are available) or pop your corn, and enter into the cinematic world of SocialLearn.

More videos will be released and online soon, so stay tuned.

Happy SocialLearning!

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here Comes the Science Bit

You may think that SocialLearn is the work of a mad genius, and you would be right.

SocialLearn has been created in the development labs at KMi (Knowledge Media Institute) here at The Open University.

KMi was established in 1995 to be at the forefront of research and development in the field of knowledge media. You can find more about KMi by following this little link….here.

The research team in the SocialLearn office have been squirreling away, burning the midnight oil, to devise a platform that would enrich the learning experience for all of our SocialLearners.

If you want to read more about the science behind SocialLearn, check out our research blog

Research blog

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coming Soon To A Community Near You

The SocialLearn office is a hive of activity so  we can soon launch Communities into SocialLearn.

No more wandering around alone in social spaces, instead you will soon be able to post your Thoughts, Questions, Paths, Events, Tasks and Collections directly into the communities that you are a member of!

Meet and network with people in communities that are of like-minded learning interests, share learning collated from across the web, to develop your learning and the learning of others further.

SocialLearn will keep you posted about this impending feature release, in the meantime you can add friends and followers to Collections, transforming them into private groups. Collections can also be shared publicly by selecting the ‘Everyone’ option.

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Behind The Scenes: New Features Added

You may think that now the site is live, that we in the SocialLearn office are just sitting around doing nothing. But this is not the case! Oh no! Instead we have been working away on the fantastic feedback you all have been posting in the Feedback and Issues & Bugs Collections, in addition to creating new features to aid your social learning journey.

This week we have been working on creating and releasing, not one, not two, but three new features:

Profile Wizard

Now when logging into SocialLearn, users are faced with two options; to start exploring, or to complete your personal profile. The Profile Wizard takes you through step-by-step each of the stages of filling in your profile. Once completed, remember to select the tick box so the wizard doesn’t remind you again to fill out your profile, and then start exploring!! (Or, if impatient to explore, there is always time to fill out your profile later, the world is your learning oyster).

Tag Words

Been pondering about how best to present your profile? Then fear not! Tag words have now been added to help you to select the most suitable words and phrases for your learning interests. This not only helps friends and followers to learn more about your interests, but will assist the Recommendation Engine (due for feature release in May), to help make intelligent recommendations to expand your learning horizon.

Related Topics in Creation of Content

When creating content, whether that be; Thought, Question, Path, Event, Task, or Collection, you now have the option to ‘select related topics’ (below the share options). This helps to categorise your content even further, helping other SocialLearners to find it (if publicly shared), and the Recommendation Engine to kick into action and display further learning based on the topics that you have selected.

Hope you all enjoy the new features, looking forward to hearing your feedback and stay tuned for more to come!

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We Need You!

As SocialLearn edges ever closer to being made available to students and alumni (Monday 16 April, for those in eager anticipation), we in the SocialLearn office are on the hunt for the best moderators that the web has to offer.

We are looking for people to join the SocialLearn team, who are excited by online learning, social networking platforms and mingling with people. It’s not all just admin stuff like moderating topics and flagging up content, but about growing, engaging, and inputting into a community, feeding back ideas and suggestions to the Online Communities and Web Development Manager (aka Hannah), to take forward with you.

So the search is on for those with a creative yet diplomatic personality, who can remain cool at all times, with fantastic interpersonal skills, a team player, can pick up new tools quickly and have an understanding of online community platforms – if this sounds like you, and you wish to volunteer your services as a SocialLearn Guide then email us at SocialLearn@open.ac.uk and tell us why we need you!

We look forward to hearing from you

Hannah

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dawn of a New Era

It’s been a busy few months in the office here at The Open University. The team have been working away on creating a new BETA site called SocialLearn for you all to explore.

The Open University already provides a range of online learning systems and tools which support our registered students in qualification or credit based, formal learning (e.g. our Moodle Virtual Learning Environment, OUSA Forums, Elluminate, etc.).

We are now making available a new, optional service called SocialLearn.   This provides additional online support to complement that already provided for formal, qualifications or credit based study. It can be used by anyone, with an interest in any subject, anywhere in the world.

By harnessing the power of the web and the energy of social networking, SocialLearn users benefit from the wealth of learning tools, such as the Backpack, making sense of the vast range of online educational resources, giving structure to their personal learning journey whilst sharing with others in the vibrant and diverse community of peers, academics, and mentors whether openly or within the confines of a Community. Learners can not only utilise core social networking features such as creating their own profile and building their network, but also by peer reviewing websites, materials and Learning Paths.

SocialLearn helps to develop learning experiences by providing intelligent recommendations based on learning patterns and needs, so there are no limits to where Learning Paths can take the learner. SocialLearn won’t confine users to the desktop either, as it can be fully accessed by smartphones and tablet devices.

As part of a year-long trial, OU Students (along with others) will have the option of trying out SocialLearn as a complementary tool to existing online services, to build on their networks related to their interests. It is offered as a ‘value add’ option, not a replacement for the fully supported tools and other features in their existing communities (StudentHome and OUSA Forums). The Apps available will allow users to share their academic discoveries as well as creating a structure, via the Recommendation Engine, of their external research to complement their learning.

SocialLearn will be made available to students and alumni from the 16 April 2012 as a BETA environment to explore the effectiveness of informal learning on a social platform. As an optional service, released only as a BETA it will not have help desk support but there will be introductory videos, FAQs and we hope lots of active community members keen to help new comers. It will be made more widely available (to the world) in June 2012.

The SocialLearn team are also looking for feedback from learners on their use of the platform; please email any feedback to SocialLearn@open.ac.uk

So why not try SocialLearn, what we like to think of as the latest evolution in powerful learning spaces, giving you control by harnessing the energy of the web and social networking.

Hannah

Hannah Gore                                                                                                                              Online Communities and Web Development Manager                                              SocialLearn

SocialLearn Website

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment